Book by Curtis J. Bonk & Ke Zhang
Review by Ashley Vikander
Office of Student Services
University of California, Irvine

Don’t have the time to brainstorm with students, colleagues and technology support staff on how to incorporate web content into your advising services? Bonk and Zhang do this for you in  Empowering Online Learning, 100+ Activities for Reading, Reflecting, Displaying, and Doing (2008).  Grounded in leading work on learning styles and phases, the authors’  “Read, Reflect, Display and Do R2D2” model (p. 1) of learning guides the content and structure of the book.  Research on information processing and cognition by Ausubel, Averill, Bandura, Fleming and Mills, Jonassen, Kolb, McCarthy  and others guide the readers in their review of the on-line activities presented.     

The four primary sections reflect various learning phases related to learning styles and highlight suitable on-line activities. Each section introduces the specific phase of learning, outlining the learning styles that align particularly well with the activities.  A few examples of activities for advising setting include:

• Reading (verbal/auditory): On-line Scavenger Hunt (p.26) to help students become familiar with school resources and policies.
• Reflecting (reflective/observational): On-line Role Play Reflections (p.98) might be helpful in helping students approach faculty or prepare for advising appointments
• Displaying (visual): Videostreamed Lectures and Presentations (p. 54) combined with reflection activities can be used for orientations, working with special populations, at-risk students, recruitment or any other topic your office presents on.
• Doing (hands-on): Video Scenario Learning (p. 201) might be used to show scenarios that are commonly encountered in the course of being a student from procedural and policy aspects and conflicts the students may run into.  

The strength of the book is its design as quick reference tool. Advisors and directors can think about their advising objectives (Martin, H 2007) or syllabus, and then use the indexes or Table 1.3, Learning Activities in Each Phase of R2D2 (p.10) for ideas on incorporating suitable on-line activities. The content is a quick stab at ideas have worked and brief tips about how the activity might be incorporated into teaching and or training. Each activity is rated on five indexes for “instructional consideration”: risk, time, cost, learner-centered and duration of learning activity. What is not included is detailed information about implementation, timing, the development and maintenance of the activities, and graphical examples that may make implementation easier. The authors include an extensive bibliography and list of web links, examples, and resources (p.264) for advisors to explore and evaluate for use in their advising efforts.  

Several activities and resources are discipline specific; however with creative thinking and many of these can be incorporated into your advising activities. Couple this tool with thoughtful instructional design, such as that suggested in Conquering content: a step-by-step guide to online course design, and you have a solid base to begin enhancing on-line learning for your advisees. Once implemented, the activities can enhance 24/7 access and empower the students as learners to meet advising objectives (Martin H, 2007).


Martin, H.  (2007) Constructing Learning Objectives for Academic Advising. Retrieved -December 11,2 008- from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/Learning-outcomes.htm)

Smith, R. M. (2008). Conquering the content: A step-by-step guide to online course design. Jossey-Bass guides to online teaching and learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 

Empowering Online Learning: 100+ Activities for Reading, Reflecting, Displaying, & Doing. (2008). Book by Curtis J. Bonk & Ke Zhang. Review by Ashley Vikander. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 320 pp. Price $40.00. ISBN # 978-0-7879-8804-3
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