WSU Brings Classroom to Students With Online Certification in American Indian Studies

wsu-online.blogspot.comWashington State University is now offering an online program in American Indian Studies that leads to certification.
Washington State University is now offering an online program in American Indian Studies that leads to certification.



Washington State University is now offering an online program in American Indian Studies that leads to certification. This will provide an opportunity for those living away from campus to expand their education and enhance their opportunities for future employment.

Michael Holloman
Michael Holloman

Michael Holloman, Colville/Coeur d’Alene, heads up the American Indian Studies program at WSU. He talked of the advantages in having an online certification program, not only for Native people but also for others who work with reservations and tribes in a variety of ways.

He acknowledges that attrition rates are often high for Native students. “Our familial ties are enormous, sometimes exceeding our own personal interests.” An online program would help alleviate that problem by offering a certificate program for those who choose to remain at home rather than attending a college. The certification program is identical to a minor in American Indian Studies in terms of courses required and class hours.

The requirement for certification is that students take nine hours (three classes) of core courses plus another nine hours of elective work.

Holloman said that in the four years he’s been at WSU he’s only had two people pursue a certificate, “Mainly because people involved in our program are taking it for a minor. Now that we have the certificate online, that’s for non-degree seeking students. Anyone who wants to apply to a global campus is able to apply and take course work.” He also noted that in the two weeks over the holidays he’d received “at least 20 calls from area codes all throughout the west.”

Josiah Pinkham works in the cultural resource program for the Nez Perce Tribe. “I think it will be helpful because we have tribal members here that lack the resources, either time or financial, to go to the WSU campus. It’s definitely a helpful thing.” He added that he is interested himself, even though he has a bachelor’s degree but hopes to one day receive advanced degrees. “I think the online certificate would be a great way to kind of get me back in the groove.”

Pinkham has had overlapping work experiences with Holloman, “and it’s always been positive. He has set up a pretty vast network in the Pacific Northwest and also in Washington, D.C. He’s a well connected man.”

Pinkham also commented on the value for non-Native people taking the class. “One of the things growing clear is a need for people who are educated (about tribal culture) in working with tribes. There is a growing need and people are responding with requests for cultural awareness training.”

Frequently this interaction concerns environmental subjects. Avista Utilitiesis one such company and has interactions with all the Upper Columbia tribes. Toni Pessemier serves as American Indian Relations Advisor for the company and she pointed out values in having some of their employees sign up for an online class. “Having the ability to understand and appreciate and work effectively with individuals or their organizations is important to their jobs and roles at Avista. If they had a certificate or background in American Indian Studies, such as the program at WSU, it really helps create that experience or background they could bring to their job in our company. It helps them to do their job better.”

Holloman pointed out that industry employees can frequently get their course work paid for them by the company. Employees from various companies have expressed to him in the past a wish to have access to such an online course.

He isn’t aware of other schools offering online certification, saying they haven’t found them in their research but acknowledges there might be others.

“The dream is that this is the first step of a larger online degree program. It doesn’t mean we won’t offer the certificate, which we will. Maybe down the road WSU will have an online major in American Indian Studies and will definitely have a larger offering.”

For more information about the American Indian Studies Program at WSU, contact Michael Holloman at 509-335-0449 or michaelholoman@wsu.eduor check out the Global Campus websiteto see all the university’s offerings. The specific American Indian Studies Program page can be found here.



Washington Ballot Measure Targets Online Gun Sales

By Austin Jenkins, Northwest News Network

This November, Washington voters will decide whether to require background checks for person-to-person gun sales.

Initiative 594 would close what gun control advocates used to call the “gun show loophole.” But these days, much of the unregulated gun trade is happening online.

‘It isn’t going to change anything



Aman More is a gun enthusiast who collects guns as a hobby. He won’t say exactly how many he owns. But when he buys or sells a firearm, he doesn’t necessarily go to a gun store. He’s just as likely to go online to a website like ARMSLIST — a kind of Craigslist for guns.

More said the on-line marketplace is great for finding hard to find guns.

“I picked this M6 Scout, it’s an over-under. It’s a 22 over 410 that is damn near impossible to find at a gun shop,” Mone said. “So because of ARMSLIST I could find it and find it at a good deal.”

Because More bought this rifle from another individual, no background check was required. Initiative 594 on Washington’s November ballot would change that. If it passes, individuals would have to go to a federally-licensed firearms dealer and pay that person to conduct a background check on the buyer.

More is firmly opposed to I-594. He wants to keep person-to-person gun sales unregulated.

“Making it harder for people like us to access firearms isn’t going to change anything,” he said. “You look at places like Chicago where it’s damn near impossible to get a firearm and the crime rate is insane over there.”

An unregulated market?

But sponsors of I-594 argue criminals are “flocking” to the online marketplace. They point to a recent report by the gun control group Everytown For Gun Safety. It identified 81 people in Washington who posted online ads seeking to buy a gun. The report determined 8 of those 81 were barred from possessing a gun because of a previous conviction.

Zach Silk, campaign manager for I-594, said that report indicates 10 percent of online buyers are prohibited from owning a gun.

“I would suggest that that’s too high a number and we can do more to reduce that,” Silk said. “One of the ways to do that is to make sure that rather than this being a private market that’s completely unregulated, let’s bring those people into the light of day and put them in a dealership.”

By dealership he means a licensed gun dealer. The Everytown For Gun Safety findings have not been independently verified. But the organization said it passed along its findings to law enforcement. Court records indicate federal agents periodically monitor on-line gun listings. And federal prosecutors have charged people for illegal Internet sales.

In Seattle, the U.S. Attorney is currently prosecuting a convicted felon who allegedly arranged to buy and sell guns on Facebook. In 2012, a Washington man was sentenced to prison for illegally selling a gun on ARMSLIST to a Canadian citizen. That buyer then used the gun to murder a woman he had dated.

A dueling measure: I-591

“I have concerns about online gun sales as well,” said Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation in Bellevue. He also read the report by Everytown For Gun Safety, but he had a different takeaway



Gottlieb said it shows the vast majority of online gun shoppers are not criminals.

“Now if we want to talk about to figure out how to stop those small numbers, I’ll sit down and talk with you,” he said. “But when you want to stop and infringe on everybody else’s rights, that’s the problem.”

Last year, Gottlieb worked behind the scenes with Washington lawmakers on compromise background check legislation. But that effort failed. This year he’s leading the campaign for a dueling gun measure on Washington’s November ballot. Initiative 591 would prohibit the state from adopting a more rigorous background check requirement.

‘Most of them are just gun enthusiasts’

More said that whenever he trades guns on ARMSLIST he takes precautions. He fills out a bill of sale and copies down the buyer’s driver’s license number. He prefers to sell to buyers with a concealed pistol license.

“Of all of the people that I’ve met on ARMSLIST, I haven’t one person come up that didn’t have the paperwork, that didn’t have a CPL,” Mone said. “Most of them are just gun enthusiasts.”

As for the pistol he recently listed on ARMSLIST, More said he sold it – to a candidate for Congress.

But he won’t reveal the name.

Education Chasing The Elusive ‘Quality’ In Online Education

You can learn jazz appreciation from a computer. But you'll never learn how to be cool like Miles Davis.Getty Images, Hulton Archive
You can learn jazz appreciation from a computer. But you’ll never learn how to be cool like Miles Davis.
Getty Images, Hulton Archive



Jeff Hellmer is an accomplished jazz pianist who has taught music at the University of Texas at Austin for 27 years. He thinks of himself as more than a teacher, though: “What I would like to do with my teaching is be an ambassador for jazz.”

This past spring, in what’s become an increasingly common move, he brought his ambassadorship to a wider audience. He turned his popular introductory course, Jazz Appreciation, into a free 10-week online course.

It’s open to anyone on through a company called edX, and 19,000 people signed up.

Online college is no longer the future. It’s here. According to the Sloan Consortium, more than one-third of all U.S. college students now take at least one course online for credit. That’s 7 million students last year alone. Meanwhile, on platforms like edX (over 2 million users) and Coursera (over 8 million users), people from every country in the world are taking free versions of college courses.

And Starbucks just announced that it will offer over 100,000 employees the chance to take college classes online from Arizona State University.

The news from Starbucks, amid this dramatic expansion of online learning, has reignited a long-running debate about the quality of what’s being offered.

In other words, can 19,000 students, watching a video of Jeff Hellmer on their computer screens, ever hope to learn as much – or learn as well – as the students who’ve sat in a classroom right in front of him for all those years?

To answer that, we need to define and measure “quality” in online education. Which is tricky, because we don’t have a great definition of quality in face-to-face education.

Fortunes—not to mention the education that millions of students will receive —ride in the balance.

The Problem

There’s reason to be cautious.

A meta-analysis by the U.S. Department of Education in 2010 showed that students performed modestly better in courses with some online component.

However, a more recent study from Columbia University, focusing specifically on community college students, shows that college students are more likely to withdraw from online courses, that they score lower in these courses when they do finish, and that those who begin college with online courses are less likely to persist and complete their degrees.

The study also found that online courses tend to widen the achievement gap: African-Americans, and those with lower previous grades, do worse in an online environment.

The Columbia researchers, as well as other critics, argue that the reason students so often fail in these classes is because of the way the instruction is designed.

Most online courses, including Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, consist of video snippets of lectures, readings, and multiple-choice quizzes. There’s usually some kind of online forum or discussion page for students to talk over the concepts presented in the course.

Basically, it’s copying the traditional classroom lecture format into the online realm.

The main strength of this approach as that it can be done almost free. That’s exactly what gets people so excited about online education in general, and MOOCs in particular.

Anant Agarwal, the founder of edX, likewise, told me in a recent interview that giving millions around the world of people access to higher education is a key goal of the initiative, which is backed by MIT and Harvard. He makes a comparison to basic infrastructure. “We are building free broad gauge railroad around the world,” he says. “You can think of the content as the carriages.”

The metaphor—comparing the distribution of knowledge with the distribution of, say, coal or sugar—is one that troubles many critics of educational technology.

“Is education content delivery? Is it the same as putting resources online?” asks Audrey Watters, an author and blogger. “We’re starting to frame teaching and learning in terms of language we use to talk about the web and media: ‘content delivery platforms’ and ‘learning management systems.’ “

Instead of the oft-maligned “factory model” of education, she says, what you end up with instead is a “cubicle model”—one person with a laptop, shoveling in information.

Adaptive Learning

There are attempts to use new technology to make online learning more interactive. Some of these efforts show promise – especially in the area of reaching remedial students.

At the University of Texas, Jeff Hellmer partnered with a company called Cerego to translate some of the material he covers in the jazz course into a set of what are often called “adaptive learning” items.

Andrew Smith Lewis, cofounder of Cerego, calls his company’s technology “flashcards on steroids.”

Hellmer created 180 items covering historical facts, technical elements of jazz music, and music clips where the student would have to listen and name the title, artist, and era.

For example, a picture of Art Blakely requires a student to identify the ‘Hard Bop,” era. Or they listen to a snippet of ‘Kind of Blue’ and must answer ‘Miles Davis.’ As you go through the set, the system is predicting how well you know each item, based on how many times you’ve seen it, how recently you’ve seen it, and how often you’ve seen it.

(Here is the full set if you want to test yourself).

Cerego uses an artificial intelligence algorithm, based in part on the science of memory, to decide which item to show you next, and when to show you the same item again. The goal is that you memorize them in an optimal amount of time. The program is also designed to get students to retain the information longer than with traditional methods. You have to identify each item correctly multiple times instead of just cramming to get it right one day on one quiz.

A central feature of adaptive learning is that it varies the presentation of content according to the user’s responses.

The secret sauce of this system? It’s kind of fun, like a video game.

“The mechanics of a successful game are designed to keep you in this band between boredom and frustration,” says Cerego’s Smith Lewis. “We see a nice uptick in engagement and completion.”

The thinking is that students are more likely to stick with Cerego-enhanced courses because it was a thrill to challenge themselves with the flashcard tool.

Millions of students from kindergarten through college are currently using adaptive learning software, both in online-only and blended settings.

Among the most popular are Pearson’s MyMathLab, with 10 million college students, Scholastic’s Math 180, Dreambox Learning, and Khan Academy. Math is the most common subject being taught this way, but the programs can cover any topic with a set of facts to be absorbed.

A leader in these efforts is Arizona State University, which has gone farther than any other large university to bake these concepts into online courses from the get-go.

The university has partnered with Pearson and a company called Knewton since 2011 on dozens of courses. ASU officials say they’ve had especially positive results with their developmental math courses—the exact same type of course that the Columbia University researchers found online students were doing worse in.


Quality” in online education is about more than enhancing content delivery or adding multimedia bells and whistles.

The technology makes it possible to measure student outcomes in unprecedented detail. This is affecting the way we think about quality in all of education.

There’s a wealth of data available, for example, from Jeff Hellmer’s Jazz Appreciation course.

Students on average memorized the basic facts in just 11 hours, using Cerego. And of the more than 20,000 who signed up initially, 2,370 actually passed. That’s a 12 percent pass rate—compared to the 5 percent typical for most MOOCs.

Two-thirds of those who finished did so with a grade over 90 percent. Three-fourths of students agreed that using Cerego’s adaptive learning tools helped them learn the material faster, which the company’s research shows is true in other subjects.

That level of data collection could enable schools to move beyond the traditional definition of quality in higher education, based on selectivity and scarcity. Historically, “top students” got into the most expensive colleges, and that made them “top schools.”

But most students attend public universities and community colleges that accept the vast majority of the students who apply. Therefore selectivity doesn’t apply broadly as a measure of quality. And so, colleges in this sector, with the enthusiastic support of the federal government, are developing new, data-driven measures of quality based on student outcomes, like transfer, graduation, and employment rates.

Arizona State University is a case in point. It’s a giant public institution with over 75,000 students, that accepts 90 percent of those who apply.

In recent years the university has become preoccupied with improving outcomes. Their six-year graduation rate is now at 58.7 percent, compared to a national average of 59 percent (but just 31 percent for open-admission schools like ASU). This is trending up: the number of degrees awarded has increased 60 percent since 2002.

In part, ASU is relying on technology, like an online advising system called eAdvisor, to improve student success. The system helps students navigate the university’s 290 majors and map out the courses they need to reach their goals. ASU Online launched in 2006. President Michael Crow’s vision is to grow online enrollment to 100,000 students. The recent deal with Starbucks is part of that effort.

On some key measures ASU’s current 10,000 online-only students seem to be doing worse than on-campus students: the 3-year graduation rate is just 36 percent (most online students come into the program with some college credits already, which is why they report three-year rates). This jibes with what we see in many online programs.

The Blend

In this drive to define – and achieve – “quality” in online education, as in traditional education, research points to one essential element: interaction with instructors.

It doesn’t have to be face to face. Video chats, phone calls, email and even text messages can all help students stay engaged and motivated. Group work and peer discussions are important too.

But instructor time remains the most expensive resource, and it’s often scarce and rationed, especially in the online realm.

Smith Lewis, along with other ed-tech people I talked to, framed the next generation of computer enhanced learning as a way to free up professors to do what they do best—not to replace them.

Professor Hellmer, for one, was so taken with the Cerego platform that he decided to incorporate it into his live, in-person classes, starting this summer. He sees it as a labor-saving device: the machine will handle the shoveling in of facts, while he does the cultivating of the students’ mental gardens.

“The part I’m looking forward to is spending more time discussing more complicated issues or higher-level thinking,” he said. “I’m hoping that Cerego is going to take care of that foundational learning more efficiently.”

He says the Cerego content will make up “about half” of the grade in the class. Instead of taking quizzes where they might just be guessing the right answer, students will have to study until they get a certain percentage of items into the “green zone” on the Cerego system, meaning the computer is convinced they have seen, repeated, and squirreled these facts away in their brains for the long haul. And not for nothing, those are quizzes that Hellmer and his assistants no longer have to grade.

Anant Agarwal, the founder of the MOOC platform edX, sees many professors making this transition, taking something they’ve developed online back into the traditional classroom setting. Universities are repurposing their own MOOCs on campuses in a variety of ways, as well as adapting the resources produced by others.

In the end, the vision of “quality” in higher education will probably take in a little bit that’s old, and a little bit that’s new.

Track canoes online in the 2013 Canoe Journey/Paddle to Quinault

Richard Walker, Marysville Globe

Some of the traditional Native cedar canoes participating in the 2013 Paddle to Quinault can be tracked online at

The site, which is updated every 10 minutes, features the progress of canoes from the Heiltsuk and T’Sou-Ke First Nations of Canada; and the Grand Ronde, Lower Elwha, Muckleshoot, Squaxin Island, Swinomish and Warm Springs.

Approximately 100 canoes are expected to arrive at Quinault for traditional welcoming ceremonies on Aug. 1, according to Quinault Nation President Fawn Sharp. Among the participants are canoes from Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe and the Suquamish Tribe.

“It has been 24 years since [the] Paddle to Seattle first revitalized this long-held Northwest tribal tradition, and the event has gained momentum throughout the Northwest ever since,” Sharp said in a press release.

“The cedar canoe holds great meaning for tribes throughout the Northwest and western Canada,” she said. “The annual Journey reaches deep into the hearts and souls of our people — both young and old, and helps them fully realize the vitality and spiritual strength of their tribal identity, underscoring our hope for a sustainable and positive future.”

This year’s Journey is expected to draw an estimated 15,000 tribal and non-tribal visitors to the land of the Quinault. The destination is Point Grenville, a Quinault beach near Taholah, approximately 40 miles north of Ocean Shores. Canoes will be escorted by the tall ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain, recognizing the 225th anniversary of first contact between the Quinault people and the new United States of America.

Dignitaries expected to attend: Sen. Maria Cantwell, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs; and Maia Bellon, Mescalero Apache, the director of Washington state’s Department of Ecology. Also in attendance will be tribal and state officials and hereditary chiefs.

“All visitors are welcome, as is our tribal custom,” said Guy Capoeman, Paddle to Quinault coordinator.  “The Canoe Journeys have always provided a great opportunity for tribes to get together, share our thoughts, stories, traditional dance and song, and strengthen our bonds of friendship. They are a great means to teach our children about their roots, history and traditional ways. They also provide a good opportunity for non-tribal people to get to know more about us, and strengthen relations between Indian and non-Indian communities.”

This year’s Journey is significant in that it is being hosted by the home nation of Emmett Oliver, who organized the Paddle to Seattle in 1989 as part of the state’s Centennial Celebration, ushering in the modern Canoe Journey.

“The contemporary Canoe Journeys began in 1989,” Capoeman said.  “Emmett Oliver, a Quinault tribal elder, organized the Paddle to Seattle as a part of [the] Washington State Centennial ceremony, revitalizing the canoe tradition, which had been lost for many years. We now know this as the Canoe Journey. The Canoe Journey has become [a] symbol of cultural revitalization on a national and even international level. We can expect anywhere from 90 U.S. Tribes, Canadian First Nations, and even New Zealand to join the celebration. In the past, we have seen canoes from Alaska and even Hawaii join in on this event. It truly has become an amazing part of revitalized Northwest culture.”

Sharp, who is also president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and a regional vice president of the National Congress of American Indians, said the Canoe Journey creates opportunities for indigenous people members to re-learn, strengthen and reinforce their canoe traditions. Many cultural values are learned from pulling in a canoe.

“Among these are positive pride, cultural knowledge, respect, and a sense of both personal achievement and teamwork,” she said.

For more information, including site maps and schedule, go to