Hello October!

The best month of the year is finally here, and to mark the arrival of October and the countdown to my favorite holiday, I’ve resurrected my annual Tumblr blog, “31 Days Til Halloween.”

I missed a few days last October, for various reasons, but I’m determined to full the calendar this year. You can follow at 31daystilHalloween.tumblr.com. Tonight it begins with Sam from Trick r Treat, which is on HBO Now (and my television) right now.

sam trick r treat happy halloween

Online vs. Traditional Learning

Online learning isn’t for everyone, but it has its advantages. In this article for Ashford University’s blog, Forward Thinking, I talked to our AVP and Editor-In-Chief of Learning Resources about the evolution of the university’s online platform, Constellation, what could improve the experience for students, and what he sees for the future of the industry.

Read How Technology Turns Online Learning ‘Cons’ Into ‘Pros’ on Forward Thinking.

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This will be a podcast long remembered

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Early on in Now Playing Podcast’s Star Wars review, creator and host Arnie Carvalho is asked whether he thinks George Lucas’ legacy blockbuster is the best film ever made. It’s a question that deserves more than a simple yes or no, and the answer is just one of many revelations listeners can expect throughout the podcast’s 11-episode retrospective series, which began Tuesday and will continue past the release of December’s The Force Awakens.

The retrospective is poised to be the biggest in Now Playing Podcast history, not only because of its cultural relevance, but because the show is breaking from a long-held preference not to review the franchise. Carvalho touches on this in the first few minutes while discussing the backbiting that exists with the Star Wars community, and how it discouraged him wanting to talk about the films outside of sister podcast Star Wars Action News.

Longtime listeners who have been demanding these reviews for years will relish these “inside baseball” chats, while casual Star Wars fans will enjoy the sparks of childhood nostalgia as Carvalho and fellow hosts Stuart Atkinson and Jakob Brewster navigate the Star Wars universe. Atkinson, the only one of trio who is not a hardcore fan, has a wonderful moment early on in which he relays his limited Star Wars knowledge in a jumbled paragraph that may enrage some die-hard jedi. It will be interesting to hear his take when the hosts review the non-theatrical entries in the saga.

Like all Now Playing Podcast retrospectives, this one will hit the high, low, and forgotten entries in the Star Wars franchise, including TV movies Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure and the Star Wars Holiday Special. I’ve only seen clips of the Holiday Special on YouTube, but I remember those Ewok films (Caravan of Courage is followed by Battle for Endor, starring Wilford Brimley!).

And that’s always been the appeal of Now Playing Podcast retrospectives. Every discussion stirs a recollection of your childhood movie-going experiences, while pointing out the “gee whiz” moments you might have missed in a way that’s more inclusive than any Blu-ray bonus feature or Easter Egg infographic. This show has a way of connecting with you, whether you’re the kid who snuck into a theater to see Friday the 13th or if you waited in a line around the block for Indy’s Last Crusade, Now Playing Podcast always makes you part of the conversation.

The next few months should be fun.

The perfect score

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Brian Habel earned a 4.0 GPA at Ashford University.

Recently I was reading a story about an Ashford University graduate (a National Guardsman) who earned a 4.0 GPA while he was deployed overseas. At graduation, he talked about how he did it, and I reached out to Ashford University’s Readiness Advisor team to see what kind of advice they could offer.

I compiled their answers in this story, 4 Tips for Achieving a 4.0 GPA.

Catching Up

It’s always great to get a win at work. One of my early goals when I joined my new company was to publish five days per week on our blog. We’re finally at that point, and I wanted to share some of the content that I’ve been working on.

1) From an interview with our AVP and Editor-In-Chief of Learning Resources, here’s a look at Ashford University’s online platform, how content is created, how it stays relevant, and the advantages it gives students. –> Five Questions About Constellation.

2) Here is a Q&A with an assistant professor, discussing the university’s Health Information Management degree.

3) When you’re a working adult going to school online, you risk falling behind easily. Until I did an interview with Ashford University’s Readiness Advisor team, I had no idea the first five courses were “high risk” for students. In this article, you can read about the help available to students, why grades aren’t the only concern, and what happens after the “high risk” period. –> How Online Students Get Help Surviving Their First Weeks In School

Workplace Bullies Cannot Be Tolerated

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 8.22.06 PMThis week’s tragedy in Roanoke affects anyone who has ever worked in a newsroom – television, print, digital, it doesn’t matter. As journalists, your heart is broken because the incident hits so close to home, and you can’t let it go because you need to do your duty and bring the news to your audience.

In the coming days we’ll continue to hear about this killer’s revenge motive, and whether this could have been prevented. But there’s one point that I made on Twitter on Wednesday that I’d like to reiterate here: Please don’t let what happened in Virginia deter you from reporting hostile/toxic behavior in the workplace.

The newsroom culture can be exhilarating and insanely stressful at the same time. There are moments when we blow up at one another. Reporters, photographers, producers – everyone – will lose their temper when deadlines are looming and stories are falling apart. In my very first newsroom job I remember my anchor telling me that I would need to learn to let things go quickly, because in this business people will get angry one day, and come in the next day like nothing happened.

That’s true, and for the most part I stuck with that philosophy, never letting one bad day affect the next. That’s what makes a newsroom a family. But there’s a difference between snapping at an innocent question during a moment of stress and consistently showing disregard for your co-workers. There are people like this in every workplace. There are people who don’t let things go, and people who make threats, like this killer, according to former co-workers. There are people who will belittle others behind their backs, people who will lob personal attacks about appearances, religious beliefs, race, you name it — even with their co-workers around. These people are bullies, and their abusive behavior cannot be tolerated.

I talk about this because it’s so easy for someone who has witnessed this behavior to brush it off for any number of reasons. People will make excuses that the bully is under a lot of stress, or that he/she is a good worker and didn’t mean it. Too many times people will do nothing because they don’t want to stir the pot, or they’ve been told they have to have “thick skin” to work in their office. Sadly, in these cases, the victims often leave for new jobs, and the bully avoids punishment. I’ve seen it, and I know many people I’ve worked with have seen it too. If it happens in newsrooms, it happens in other workplaces.

On social media the Roanoke killer claimed one of the victims reported him to human resources, and The Guardian obtained memos showing former co-workers brought multiple complaints about the killer to supervisors. These people did the right thing.

If you report abusive behavior to your boss, and your boss does nothing, don’t let that be the end of it. Report it to human resources, because these incidents must be documented. Every company has a policy for dealing with toxic behavior. It doesn’t have to end in a firing, not all workplace relationships are unsalvageable; some people just need an attitude adjustment.

Here are a couple of related items that I thought could be useful and informative. The first is a story titled, “How Common Is Workplace Violence?” from NPR’s “Here and Now.”

I also think this article, “5 Types of Toxic Employees (and How to Work With Them)” is a very good read if you’re struggling to get along with a difficult co-worker.

Lastly, here is a New York Times piece titled “Virginia Shooting Spotlights Riddle of Workplace Safety,” which focuses on the difficulties of identifying problem employees in the hiring process, and what happens after they’re hired.

And to all my friends in the news business, stay safe.

Finding a Balance

Being a parent is a challenge. Being a single parent is a greater challenge. And being a single parent in school… I don’t know how they do it. I still don’t know how my mother did it. But to accomplish what she and so many other single parents have done is beyond incredible.

I wrote this blog article – “School and the Single Parent” — earlier this month for Ashford University’s Forward Thinking site and I wanted to share it here. Read on to hear from two remarkable women who finished school while raising children as single parents. One of them, in fact, was a single grandparent.

Here’s a quote from one of the women, who became pregnant while attending school:

“Many times people view single parents as not being able to do or accomplish as much as others, but I refused to fall into that stigma. The greatest feeling and my happiest moment was watching my son cheer for me as I walked across the stage to receive my degree.”

Read on…

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