Pre-Conference Schedule and Workshop Descriptions
April 12, 2018

During 30 years of attending workshops, I’ve not spent a more informative, enjoyable, beneficial time than this pre-conference. Time flew. I wasn’t ready to leave. Thank you for the shot in the arm! –Kathy Tyndall, Wake Technical Community College, NC


All Pre-Conference workshops have FIVE things in common:
1) Schedule: 9:00 to 4:30 on April 12, 2018
2) Location: Doubletree Hilton Anaheim-Orange County (conference hotel)
3) Limited Enrollment: Please register early to get the session of your choice
4) The rich experience of working closely with other highly motivated college educators
5) You will leave with practical strategies you can implement immediately with your students


7:00am-8:45am Pre-Conference Check-in and Hosted Hot Breakfast Buffet
9:00am-4:30pm Pre-Conference Workshops
12:00pm-1:15pm Hosted Lunch Buffet
4:00pm-6:00pm Early conference check-in (for everyone)
6:00pm-8:00pm On Course Ambassador’s Dinner (invitation only)


Click below to see descriptions of the six Pre-Conference Workshops in 2017. The descriptions for the 2018 Pre-Conference are coming soon.

Option 1: 1-Day On Course Workshop

OPTION 1: The 1-Day On Course Workshop

If you’re new to On Course, this full-day workshop will provide a foundation to help you get even greater value from your experience at the On Course National Conference. If you’ve already attended the On Course I Workshop (and even the On Course II Workshop), you’ll get a great review of On Course Principles plus a whole new batch of empowering learner-centered strategies to add to your 1-day tool box. If you are interested in experiencing innovative strategies that engage and empower learners across the curriculum, this is the session for you! Led by an On Course facilitator, this is the same 1-day On Course Workshop presented on college and university campuses across North America!

The 1-Day Workshop
Identifying eight qualities that distinguish students who are successful in college from those who struggle.
Defining the characteristics of learner-centered education, exploring the evidence from educational neuroscience and classroom research, and experiencing learner-centered structures and strategies that lead to deep and lasting learning.
Exploring learner-centered strategies that empower students to become responsible, motivated and effective learners who thrive in a learner-centered environment, helping them reach more of their potential in higher education…and beyond.
Developing specific plans to implement one or more of the nearly 100 learner-centered strategies provided in the workshop as well as learning about extensive On Course resources for supporting ongoing efforts after the workshop to improve student learning, academic success and retention.

Option 2: Increasing Student Motivation

OPTION 2: Increasing Student Motivation

A lack of student motivation has long been the bane of higher education. It not only reduces student learning, it diminishes teacher enthusiasm as well. According to Edward Deci, author of Why We Do What We Do, we can’t motivate our students to do anything; however, we can create the conditions that encourage them to discover their own motivation. In this session, designed for educators across the curriculum, we will examine research-based theories and experience proven techniques that promote self-motivation in students. Best of all, participants will leave with ready-to-use strategies for creating a learning environment that empowers students to motivate themselves.

This workshop will be led by Mark McBride. Mark has taught at Eastern Florida State College (formally Brevard Community College) since 1994. He has as a B.A. in literature (University of North Florida), an M.A. in English (University of Florida), and doctorial work in Composition and Rhetoric (Florida State University). His early instructional emphasis was composition and creative writing; however, since 2004 he has taught—and now coordinates—Eastern Florida’s Success Strategies for College and Life course. In 2008, Mark was honored with Brevard Community College’s Distinguished Educator of the Year award and a NISOD Teaching Excellence Award. He has been a regular contributor to the On Course Newsletter, he is a presenter at the On Course national conferences, and he is an On Course facilitator.

Option 3: Who’s in Charge? – Empowering Students to Take Responsibility for Their Own Learning

OPTION 3: Who’s in Charge? - Empowering Students to Take Responsibility for Their Own Learning

Most educators agree that we want students to take more responsibility for their own education. However, the moment students enter a class, we hand them a detailed syllabus informing them of required texts and materials, assignments and due dates, and a list of classroom policies and procedures (No late work! No exceptions!). Students leave their first session believing that the instructor is in charge of making all the choices related to their learning and that they are just along for the ride. In this interactive workshop, you will learn strategies for engaging students and empowering them to take more responsibility for their learning from the very first day of class. Instructors from all content areas will learn how to create a “promise syllabus,” give students a voice through “feedback cards,” design and use NQA (No Questions Asked) coupons effectively, and add to your toolbox a host of other strategies that put the reins of learning into the hands of the students.

This workshop will be led by Eileen Zamora. Eileen is Professor Emerita at Southwestern College, CA, and has worked with learners and leaders from diverse cultural, socioeconomic, religious, linguistic, and generational backgrounds for more than 30 years. She has taught English composition, literature, journalism, English as a Foreign Language, and college success skills to students from a wide range of levels, including: middle school, high school, adult school, US Navy Recruit Training Command, and higher education. Eileen is currently an educational consultant/trainer and an On Course facilitator.

Option 4: Enhancing Lifelong Learning: Strategies from the Art and Science of Learning

OPTION 4: Enhancing Lifelong Learning: Strategies from the Art and Science of Learning

Being an effective lifelong learner requires both effective cognitive and non-cognitive strategies. In this interactive session, we’ll explore the latest research and findings in the science of learning, as well as key soft skills that effective learners use to stay the course. Participants will leave armed with specific learning strategies they can teach to students. This session is ideal for all faculty members—especially instructors of introductory courses and student success/FYE—as well as educators charged with enhancing student learning, such as academic coaches, Trio personnel, counselors, and learning center staff.

This workshop will be led by Skip Downing, founder of On Course Workshops and author of On Course: Strategies for Success in College and in Life, the #1 student success text in North America. Dr. Downing has earned degrees from Princeton University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Santa Monica, and Carnegie Mellon University. He holds advanced degrees in both English and counseling psychology. He was Professor of English at Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) for 32 years. In addition to his role as an academic instructor, Dr. Downing created and coordinated BCCC’s Student Success and Learning Community Programs. These programs teach students how to apply proven strategies of success to achieve their full potential in college and in life. The College Success Program resulted in a significant increase in both student academic success and retention. Skip’s teaching, writing, and consulting are all guided by his belief that the greatest mission of any educational institution is empowering its students to live rich, personally fulfilling lives.

Option 5: Improving Self-Management Strategies

OPTION 5: Improving Self-Management Strategies

Students often face challenges in achieving their goals because they struggle with managing their time effectively. They may procrastinate, focus on lower priorities, lose important assignments and fail to stay on track. There are numerous apps and tools for self-management, as well as important research on setting and achieving goals and staying focused and organized. This session is designed for educators teaching any discipline, and will present research, resources, and awareness strategies to bring back to the classroom or a student success program.

This workshop will be led by Jonathan Brennan. He has facilitated student success workshops for faculty from colleges and universities across North America for the last two decades. Dr. Brennan is a researcher in best practices in student success, holds a BA and an MA in English, an MA in Counseling Psychology, a PhD in Ethnic Studies (UC Berkeley), an EdD in Educational Leadership and Change (Fielding Graduate University), and also consults as an Effectiveness and Leadership Coach. Since 2006, he has served as Chair of the On Course National Conference. Dr. Brennan is a faculty member (and former chair) of the English Department at Mission College in Santa Clara, California. He was voted Faculty of the Year at Mission College in 1999-2000, and was awarded a NISOD Teaching Excellence Award. In April, 2005, he was awarded the Stanback-Stroud Diversity award from the California State Academic Senate, and in 2008 was awarded the California State Hayward Award for Excellence in Education. His publications include two books on Mixed Race and Black Indian Literature from Stanford Press and University of Illinois Press, and a student success textbook for high school students,

Option 6: Harnessing the Power and Potential of Interdependence

OPTION 6: Harnessing the Power and Potential of Interdependence

Research and life experience bear witness to the essential role that interdependence plays in student success. Students who develop healthy, mutually respectful and supportive relationships, and who are able to ask for help in a positive, responsible way benefit both personally and academically. Yet developing this essential quality is not always easy for students as the notion of collaborative learning may be perceived as uncomfortable and/or undesirable. Join us as we share, explore and experience practical and positive ways to create classroom and campus environments that help students develop the interpersonal skills and attitudes needed to thrive in college and in the workplace. In addition to group experiences that underscore accountability, cooperation and mutual respect, we will also address the importance of understanding how cultural identities can affect students’ attitudes and beliefs around interdependence. And lastly, enjoy the energy and excitement that comes from learning together within a collaborative community.

This workshop will be led by Robin Middleton and LuAnn Wood. Robin was a faculty member at Jamestown Community College for more than 30 years. As a counselor in the Counseling and Career Development Center, she provided personal, academic, and career counseling, coordinated Academic Advisement and taught in the Developmental Studies program. She was deeply involved with the college’s Student Responsibility Initiative, offering workshops for both faculty and staff as JCC took on the challenge of creating a culture of responsibility using On Course principles to help students become more engaged, responsible, and successful learners. She holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Connecticut. Robin is an educational consultant/trainer and an On Course facilitator.

LuAnn Wood is Chair of the Reading and Student Success Department at Century College, White Bear Lake, Minnesota. In addition to teaching and department head duties, she is also one of the college’s Student Success Coordinators, as well as a National S.E.E.D (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) facilitator and an On Course facilitator. Professor Wood’s areas of expertise include developmental reading, college level critical reading and thinking, student success, study skills, teacher education and equity. She has taught undergraduate students in education at the University of River Falls and graduate students taking the On Course class, Strategies for Empowering Students to Become Active, Responsible Learners offered online by the University of Wisconsin, Platteville.


The pre-conference workshop offered so many valuable and insightful suggestions for actively engaging students in their education. It is wonderful and well worth taking the extra day. I cannot wait to get the rest of the faculty and staff at my college on board.–Valerie Pilmaier, University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan, WI