The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Category: Faces of GPS (page 1 of 2)

“What’s an instructional designer?”

By Lance Eaton

That’s always the first question I get when I tell people that I am an instructional designer (an ID for those of us “in the know”).

It all started when I was 6 years old, and my dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I peered up into his face and said with an earnest seriousness that no child should muster, “I want to be an instructional designer.”

Ok, that’s a lie. In my career as an instructional designer, I’ve never met anyone who wanted to become one when they grew up. In fact, many of them, like me, stumbled onto this career and realized they’d come into their calling — and that people would pay them to do something they rather enjoy!

Probably a year before I became an ID, I couldn’t tell you what an ID was. “Ummm…they design instruction?” In 2011, I was teaching full-time as a part-time instructor (or as I called it, the adjunct shuffle), patching together 6-8 courses a semester at six different institutions. Technology was my saving grace in that it helped me implement different and interesting projects without completely losing my mind (or my students’ papers). As a result of some of that work, I was soon asked to present on how I was using blogs, social media and other technology to enhance learning. When an ID position opened up at North Shore Community College, I was encouraged to apply given my skill set both with teaching and learning with technology, but also for my ability to effectively explain this work to colleagues. The rest is, as they say, history (ok, there’s a few more pieces to it, but this is the abbreviated blog-version!).

Helping instructors think about technology and pedagogy is the essence of instructional design. Eventually, I developed a succinct answer to the question above: “I work with instructors to develop online and hybrid courses or utilize other technology in pedagogically sound ways that maximizes learning and minimizes frustration for learners and instructors as much as possible.”

But even that description often needs further explanation. In comparison to the physical classroom, online instructors and students are thousands of hours behind when it comes to experience. Instructors have vast quantities of implicit knowledge about what works and doesn’t work in the physical classroom as a result of their own education, their teaching experience, and disciplinary expertise. However, that implicit knowledge needs to be made explicit in the online environment so that both instructor and student can succeed. This is where IDs come in; helping instructors figure out exactly how they can be effective in this new learning environment. It’s a rewarding opportunity — I get to meet different instructors with unique approaches to teaching and learning that I am then able to share with other instructors for consideration as they make their journeys into the online learning experience.

So with that, I’d like to say that I’m really excited to land at Brandeis GPS with some amazing colleagues and fantastic instructors. I look forward to learning and growing, which, as quintessential life-long learners, is something ID folk love to do.

Lance Eaton is an instructional designer at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies. His previous work includes working at North Community College and Regis College as instructional designer. He is currently working on his PhD in Higher Education from University of Massachusetts, Boston.

Countdown to Commencement: (Re)Meet Kara Wasnewsky, Brandeis GPS Commencement Student Speaker

In 2015, Brandeis GPS profiled Kara Wasnewsky (Noonan), a student in our instructional design graduate program. Two years later, we are thrilled to announce that Kara has been selected as this year’s student commencement speaker. We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Kara about her journey and how her experience in the MS in Instructional Design and Technology has influenced her career path.

When she started the part-time, online graduate program, Kara was an Associate Media Producer at Pearson looking for a master’s degree that “provided the ideal integration of edtech and instructional design.” We checked back in with Kara recently and to hear her reflections on her experience in the IDT, the impact it had on her career, and advice she has for future students.

A more strategic role

A year after Kara began the program, she was promoted to a learning tool strategist. Now, instead of working on media components that go into larger products, she creates more complex learning tools that can be used within a product or on their own. Working on instructional videos and other learning tools, Kara explained to us how her video production methods have evolved even further as she continued the program.

“I learned to utilize visuals and narration to create an effective learning experience. When designing instructional videos you must be cautious of cognitive overload. I have been much more deliberate about the decisions I make for the visuals used in the videos I produce. I make sure that the visuals enhance the concept that is being discussed in the video, rather than just being there to decorate the screen.”

Kara also noted that the most rewarding outcome of the program for her is the confidence she has gained. “With the knowledge and skills gained through the Brandeis program, I have become much more confident in my ideas. I speak up much more on the projects I work on because I know what will be most beneficial for the learner and can back up my ideas with science.” Building on her new skills gained through her master’s degree, Kara hope to one day transition to an instructional designer at a college or university, working closely with instructors and immediately track the impact of the learning experiences they create.

Learning from peers

While in the IDT program, Kara was able to learn from her classmates, not just her instructors. She noted this as a valuable part of her learning experience.

“Fellow students are really key to these online courses, since a lot of our understanding comes from the sharing of ideas between us. My classmates came from various roles in higher ed, k-12 and corporate training. I work in a corporate environment, but I create learning experiences for undergraduate students, so I really took a lot away from the variety of backgrounds.

Reading the interpretations of a concept from these different perspectives helped me to understand it in new ways. Without the diversity of the class, I would have just interpreted things as I understood them through the context of my experience working at an academic publisher. I would not have uncovered the nuances with how things can be applied in different settings. It really made for some interesting discussions.”

As a creator of online learning tools, Kara is a proponent of the benefits of the online classroom, and thinks that the greatest benefit of this learning style is the opportunity for thoughtful reflection.

“In a face-to-face course discussions happen spur of the moment, so it is difficult to really have rich discussions. I was always quiet in classes, so I rarely even participated in discussions. In the online courses at Brandeis you are required to post weekly to a discussion board and to comment on two posts of your peers. The posts that are made are always very thoughtful, since the student has time think about what they are going to post before they do.”

A note to future students

Kara advises future students to “think about what your personal goals are for obtaining the degree and make sure that you get everything you can out of the program. Many of the projects that will be completed in the program can be tailored to your specific interests, so if you identify those interests early you will have an impressive portfolio of work that is in line with your personal goals.”

Kara certainly followed her own advice and we look forward to hearing about her future accomplishments. Congratulations Kara and the entire class of 2017!

This year’s 2017 commencement ceremony will take place on Sunday, May 21, at 8 a.m. Follow #GPSclassof2017 to be part of the celebration!

Brandeis GPS announces new Information Security Leadership program chair

GPS recently named Joseph (Joe) Dalessandro as the Information Security Leadership program chair. In this new role, Dalessandro, who previously served as an instructor in the program, will recruit and mentor faculty, oversee course quality, and advise students on program and course requirements.

Joseph (Joe) Dalessandro

Joseph (Joe) Dalessandro, the newly-appointed Brandeis GPS Information Security Leadership program chair.

Dalessandro was selected for his extensive experience in information security, technology audit, and risk and people management. After graduating cum laude with an MS in Information Security from Norwich University, Dalessandro spent four years in Australia as the Head of Internal Audit for the Asia-Pacific region comprising Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan for Vanguard, the largest mutual fund company in the world.

Eventually, Dalessandro transitioned to Vanguard’s US information security team, where his role was part advisory — serving as a liaison with the firm’s Asia-Pacific offices — and part operative, performing information security risk assessments of Vanguard’s vendors and partners.

Brandeis GPS’s online Information Security Leadership program seeks to create the security leaders we need in the ever-advancing digital age. The program equips students to:

  • Develop a business case for investing in security and risk management.
  • Inform and influence senior executives to commit to obtaining and maintaining this investment.
  • Oversee the planning, acquisition and evolution of secure infrastructures.
  • Assess the impact of security policies and regulatory requirements on complex systems and organizational objectives.

We are so pleased to channel Joe’s global perspective and extensive experience into the Information Security Leadership program at Brandeis!

Brandeis GPS student to receive national award for achievements in health and information technology

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) will award GPS Health and Medical Informatics student Jill Shuemaker with the Richard P. Covert, PhD, LFHIMSS Scholarship for Management Systems, a national award recognizing her contributions to the field of health and information technology in 2016.

The award coincides with Shuemaker’s emergence as a national expert in health and medical informatics. As a registered nurse with Virginia Commonwealth University Health System, Shuemaker developed a patient-centered, analytic, teamwork-based approach that single-handedly ensures her organization’s electronic quality measure program fully meets federal regulatory requirements. She also advocates on a national level for advancing patient care through sound measurement design, implementation of quality program changes and vendor accountability.

Jill Shuemaker

Jill Shuemaker, a Brandeis GPS Health and Medical Informatics student

“HIMSS is proud to honor individuals that have made significant contributions to our mission of improving health through the use of information technology,” JoAnn W. Klinedinst, M.Ed., CPHIMS, PMP, DES, FHIMSS, vice president, professional development, HIMSS North America said in a press release. “Congratulations to all of the award and scholarship recipients for their achievements and for their skills and expertise focused on improving health and healthcare through the best use of IT.”

Shuemaker is currently enrolled in the Health and Medical Informatics graduate program at Brandeis University’s division of Graduate Professional Studies. As a part-time, fully online student, Shuemaker continues to advance her career as she works to improve and transform the healthcare industry.

In addition to her work as an RN, Shuemaker is a Certified Professional in Health Information Management Systems (CPHIMS) and Co-Chair of HIMSS National Quality and Safety Committee, where she interacts directly with clinicians, technical staff, and even federal officials on a routine basis.  She will officially receive her award later this month at the HIMSS annual Awards Gala in Orlando, Florida.

About Brandeis GPS

Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies division (GPS) is dedicated to bringing an exceptional graduate education experience to adult learners across the country and the world. The division’s catalog of 12 fully online, part-time master’s degrees and certificates represents today’s most innovative industries, offering students opportunities to advance in management, technology, data informatics, marketing and other fields. With small classes, a convenient and flexible approach to online learning, and faculty who are leaders in their industries, GPS fosters a community that is mindful of its students’ professional, academic and personal commitments. As a leading research university and member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, Brandeis fosters self-motivated, curious students ready to engage new experiences and global endeavors. The university is widely recognized for the excellence of its teaching, the quality and diversity of its student body and the outstanding research of its faculty.

GPS student wins big at Brandeis Innovation’s SPARKTank competition

Brandeis Bioinformatics student Donald Son and his team of entrepreneurs took third place in last Sunday’s university-wide SPARKTank competition, an annual live-pitch event hosted by Brandeis Innovation.

Competing against 12 other groups seeking seed funding to bring their startups to market, Son’s team received $10,000 to further their work on Green Herb Analytics (HerbDx). The California-based facility uses analytical chemistry, software integration and medicinal cannabinoid biology to provide quality assurance lab testing and ensure that the product entering the market is safe for human consumption. The startup also seeks to establish an innovative, cutting-edge brand with affordable prices.

While Son himself does not use cannabis, he has a personal connection to unregulated supplements and medicines and their impact on public health.

“I take herbs to manage my chronic fatigue syndrome and was initially concerned about what I was putting into my body,” said Son. “During my own research, I came across cannabis just as it was being voted on for recreational use in California. I felt the need to ensure the safety of this product to the consumer.”

HerbDx plans to put its seed funding toward a small lab space, a mass spectrometer to optimize pesticide testing, and to advance production and marketing efforts. Outreach efforts will include an increased digital and social media presence, partnerships with special interest groups, and visibility at trade shows and conferences.

About SPARKTank
SPARKTank is a live pitch event where Brandeis entrepreneurs compete for seed funding in front of a live audience. Thirteen teams comprised of Brandeis students, faculty and staff pitched their innovative ideas to a panel of industry judges with the hopes of receiving a portion of the $50,000 grant pool. The pitches included startups, technologies and entrepreneurial ventures, which demonstrated the extensive breadth of entrepreneurial spirit at Brandeis University.

Army Reservist shares his GPS experience in his own words

Faces of GPS | Steve Boardman

In 2014, I was in pursuit of a career plan for the next 20 years of my life and chose to leverage my IT experience as a software developer to shift into consulting as a business intelligence and big data analytics expert. In search of a graduate program to help propel me into that evolving field, I spent more than 100 hours researching many data science and analytics degree options.

I found the Master of Science in Strategic Analytics at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies (GPS) to be the best fit for my life situation for many reasons:

  • The core curriculum and available electives seemed to be a well-balanced mix of business application, management, and technical disciplines.
  • The industry-experienced GPS faculty was a benefit because it enhanced my learning based on my prior undergraduate experience.
  • As an Army Reservist, the ability to conduct coursework online is an essential benefit. Moreover, the 10-week terms with a significant break between them promote a good work, school, and life balance, enabling students to complete the program in only 2 and a half years,  taking one course at a time.
  • The tuition fees were lower than other competing schools, and would be covered by my Post-911 GI Bill VA benefits by 90 percent.

Since I started the Strategic Analytics program with GPS in spring 2015, I have completed seven courses toward my degree thus far and plan to graduate in the summer of 2017. Much of the knowledge that I’ve gained from the coursework has been directly applicable to my current position as an archival data systems development consultant. From what I’ve learned, I’ve been able to conduct more focused data analysis and produce more meaningful results to management, which has helped me earn their confidence and trust. As a result, I was given the lead role in spearheading my client’s business intelligence and data management strategy for analytics in September 2015. My return on investment is being realized even before completing my degree requirements.

boardman_wife_mil_formalCharging through the academic rigors of the program’s coursework and research has been achievable without a major sacrifice from family time and other activities. Living and working in Charleston, SC, with my wife and five-year-old daughter, my evenings during the week and weekends are well-balanced. Not every evening is spent doing school work, which my wife is very happy about. While taking at least one course per term, I am able to work a challenging full-time IT job, lead a platoon size unit in the Army Reserve part-time, play drums in a professional local rock band, and spend plenty of quality time with my family. I am grateful to my employer who pays for my remaining 10 percent tuition out of pocket. Now that GPS offers a 15% discount on tuition for active military and veterans, that saves my employer and the VA around $500 per course. Choosing the MS in Strategic Analytics at GPS was one of my best decisions, as it has proven to better my quality of life.

Steve Boardman is a software development professional with over 20 years of experience providing leadership in developing IT solutions for a variety of industries. He specializes in Enterprise Architecture (EA), Business Intelligence (BI) Strategy, Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) Implementation, Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), Systems Integration, Application Development, and Legacy System Migration.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

Don’t let writer’s block undermine your grad school application

Rebecca WeissFaces of GPS | Rebecca Weiss

When submitting your application for graduate school, the most daunting item for people I work with is the statement of goals. While our requirement is a minimum of 500 words, it is easy to get stuck on how to best articulate your goals for applying to graduate school and why you are interested in one of our programs in particular. Here are few tips that can get the words flowing:

Where to start: If you are struggling with the essay format, it may be easier to jot down bullet points to answer the questions in an outline. Once you have the basics down, you can go back and reformat.

Don’t tell us, show us: This is your place to show the committee why you are a great candidate! Give specific examples to highlight your experience and accomplishments. Don’t be afraid to share personal anecdotes about your personal journey to this master’s program.

Answer the questions: Once you write your first draft, make sure to refer back to the questions asked in the prompt. Were they answered fully?

Review and revise: Grammar, punctuation, flow and spelling are important! Have a friend or colleague read over your essay before you submit.

As always, I’m happy to answer any questions you have throughout this process! I can be reached out 781-736-3447 and rweiss@brandeis.edu

<<Start your GPS application>>

Rebecca Weiss is the Assistant Director of Admissions and Recruitment at GPS, and with her four years of experience in the office, she has a lot of great advice to offer prospective GPS students.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

Submitting academic transcripts to grad school

Rebecca WeissFaces of GPS | Rebecca Weiss

In my position as Assistant Director of Admissions and Recruitment at Brandeis GPS, I want to make your application process as smooth as possible! I am always available to answer any questions and look forward to guiding you through your application process. With our online application, you can directly upload your resume and statement of goals, and send requests for letters of recommendation right to our online system.

One item that does need to be submitted outside of the online application is your official transcript. Here’s some FAQs we often get about submitting transcripts:

Does Brandeis GPS accept electronic transcripts?

Yes! We do accept electronic transcripts, as long as they are official. This is the easiest and fastest method for both the applicant and us!

How should I send electronic transcripts?

Provide your school(s) with my email address: rweiss@brandeis.edu. I’ll then confirm with you once the documents are received.

What address should I use for paper transcripts?

These should be sent directly from the school(s) to our mailing address:

                  Brandeis University                

                  Graduate Professional Studies

                  415 South Street, MS 084

                  Waltham, MA 02453-2728

We’ll let you know when we have them!

How can I check the status of my application items?

At any time, you can login to your applicant status page once your application is submitted to see what items are pending: Login

Do I need to submit transcripts if I transferred courses?

Yes, we require official transcripts for all colleges/universities attended.

<<Start your GPS application>>

I love speaking with our applicants, so please feel free to contact me any time! Applying for a master’s degree is a big decision, so I am happy to talk you through the steps and answer any questions you have.

Rebecca Weiss is the Assistant Director of Admissions and Recruitment at GPS, and with her four years of experience in the office, she has a lot of great advice to offer prospective GPS students.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

Why your work experience can make or break your grad school application

Faces of GPS | Rebecca Weiss

Rebecca WeissWhether you’re fresh out of your undergraduate studies or have been working in your field for many years, your professional experience is an incredibly important piece of the Graduate Professional Studies application process. We ask our applicants to provide a resume (or curriculum vitae) and letter of recommendation because these documents not only help tell your story, but they show us that you have the background and expertise to excel in our programs.

Tips for making your resume pop

The admissions committee wants to see your work experience, skills, and strengths. Here’s how to make your resume pop:

  • Highlight your skills: Even if you haven’t been working in your field for all that long, it is important to include any skills that are relevant to the program you are applying for. For example, do you know any programming languages? Is there a particular social media tool you have a lot of personal or professional experience with?
  • Provide detail: Have you ever been told to limit your resume to a one-page maximum? We want to see your accomplishments! Don’t limit yourself because you’re afraid of taking up too much space.
  • Previous coursework: Have you recently taken a course that is relevant to your program of interest? What about a professional development course and/or training session?
  • Previous work experience: Did you take the lead on a major project at a previous job? Did you head a research project? Don’t forget to include details about your previous work experience.

If you are not sure you included everything, ask a co-worker to read your resume over and make some suggestions.

<<start your GPS application>>

Deciding who should submit your letter of recommendation

Another important part of the application process is the letter of recommendation. We ask that you submit one letter of recommendation from an employer or supervisor. Here are some tips when deciding who should write your letter:

  • Previous supervisor or boss: Did you just start a new job? Are you currently not working? Don’t worry, you can submit a letter recommendation from a previous employer or supervisor. You can address your current work situation in your statement of goals.
  • Recent graduate: Did you recently graduate? Are you still searching for a job? Ask someone who supervised you on a research project to write your letter of recommendation. Provide a letter of recommendation from a supervisor where you did an internship. If you volunteer, ask the person who oversees the volunteers to write your letter.
  • Submit two letters: Do you have a supervisor and a manager who can speak to your different skills? While only one letter is required for admission, feel free to ask them both to submit a letter of recommendation.

The admissions committee understands that we have a diverse group of applicants. Our applicants range from recent graduates to those who are many years into their career. The most important part of the recommendation letter is that it is written by someone who has supervised you or seen you work as part of a team.

As a reminder, the deadline to apply for the spring term is Dec. 13. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about the application process. I also encourage you to reach out to Christie Barone if you have a specific question about your program of interest. You can find all our contact information here.

Rebecca Weiss is the Assistant Director of Admissions and Recruitment at GPS, and with her four years of experience in the office, she has a lot of great advice to offer prospective GPS students.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

Meet the newest GPS faculty

Faces of GPS | Introduction to New Faculty Members

We’re excited to introduce you to some of the newer faces of GPS. These leaders in their field come with years of experience inside the classroom and beyond. Their industry expertise and connections make them ideal mentors for GPS students. Get to know Dr. Patt Steiner, Erin Meredith Bazzell, and Debra Michalides below!

Dr. Patt Steiner: Organizational Leadership and Decision Making

13BA57F5B923FD882AD41E8196BE656CECFAC43Dr. Patt Steiner brings over 20 years of experience to the business community with specializations in leadership, strategic planning, organization and process improvement, and employee advocacy. She has been a guest speaker for many organizations including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), The Small Business Administration, The Honolulu Chamber of Commerce, Boston University, The Society for Software Quality, and Cornell University. Among other accomplishments, Patt holds a degree in Music Performance, and has performed with the Boston Pops, the Florida Symphony, the Oakland (CA) Symphony, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Dr. Steiner completed her doctoral work in Leadership at Northeastern University.

Erin Meredith Bazzell: Digital Marketing Strategy

A7070D1BFD1BBCFE268F17651E2EC60970CD928Erin Meredith Bazzell, MBA, is the Global Marketing Communication Leader for Cummins Filtration, a Cummins Inc. business unit. She leads a team in the corporate office in Nashville, TN, as well as teams in seven other countries globally. In her 10+ years in the marketing field, she has honed her skills in the medical, education, retail and manufacturing fields. She is an active member in her local chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA) and also teaches undergraduate marketing courses at Southern New Hampshire University. Meredith received a BA in Mass Communications & Marketing from Auburn University and her MBA from Bethel University.

Debra Michalides: Prototyping and Evaluation

8C9CA6CC774FBE249FE0B36BB0C32AD8F82E6F2Debra Michalides is a User Experience Design Consultant and adjunct professor with a decade of designing enterprise level products and services for diverse industries such as retail, legal services, medical and educational publishing for clients such as Lowes, Allstate, Cengage Learning and Wolters Kluwer. Her approach to design has been described as bringing clarity to chaos aligning different product ideas from many perspectives into one cohesive product vision. Debra received her undergraduate BFA in Graphic Design from The Art Institute of Boston and her MFA in Design and Technology from Parsons School of Design.

We wish our newest faculty a warm welcome and look forward to the experience and dedication they bring to GPS!

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

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