Online Collaboration in Virtual Classrooms

College is a social experience, through and through. Though your journey to graduation is very much your own, most of your time on campus is spent engaging in real-world interactions, collaboration, and group work. In fact, educational studies performed at Vanderbilt showed a direct correlation between collaborative learning and a higher level of understanding in students.

The question is: What if your learning isn’t happening inside a classroom at all this year? The COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing, leaving universities with a tough decision to make, namely whether students will return to campus or continue with online classes. Even if your school opens its campus, there’s a strong chance that a portion of your courses with be digital. However, online classes will require the same level of group work, even without meeting in-person. Before your college semester kicks off, let’s review a few important tips for collaborating across virtual classes.


Explore the Course Software 

When classes start, students can expect overview of the curriculum, a week-by-week schedule of relevant assignments, and usually some specific instructions for success. The same is certainly true in digital classrooms, but a wrinkle is added when new software is involved.

There’s a good chance your college already has Blackboard or another familiar online hub where professors can post assignments, offer additional materials, calculate grades, and generally keep the virtual work by students all in one, set place. But this software also is where the conversations and discussions live. You might use forums, shared docs, or web chat, all depending on your teacher’s preferences. Take some time before coursework gets underway to navigate around and make note of where all relevant work lives online.


Engage in Online Discussions

In-class discussions are a great form of collaborative learning, as they allow students to talk through their understanding of topics under the guidance of an instructor. However, when that same discussion is happening in a chat room or open forum, the academic experience can feel unnatural and even leave students disengaged with the process. But just like in front of your peers in college, the only way to get better is simply to trust yourself and try.

If class discussions are held in messaging platforms like Slack, or a course-specific web forum, it’s important to ensure your messages do not send the wrong impression. If you’ve ever felt attacked in a Facebook comment section, you know how easily tone can be misconstrued, or used purposely to insult others. Virtual classrooms should be a safe space for discussion, so do not use vulgar or insulting terms. Remember, these are new classmates, and your conversations will only get easier as you become acquainted online.


Prepare for Group Projects Online

Love them or hate them, group projects are a regular part of college courses. These collaborative efforts can be highly contentious, specifically when certain group members don’t pull their own weight. Vickie Cook, executive director of the Center for Teaching, Learning & Service at the University of Illinois at Springfield, agrees. “Group projects can be really great, and they can be a disaster. The most important thing is that they have a purpose,” she said.

Completing group projects in online classes can be even more trying because you’re unable to meet and discuss in-person. That’s why succeeding in group work during online classes requires careful planning and organization to enable everyone to complete their part. First, choose a leader for the group. This person should assemble and organize all the work, set meeting times, and maintain momentum for the project. From there, establish all tasks that need to be accomplished, and then try to align each of those with group members’ individual strengths. Also, it would help to use a preferred method of communication, whether that’s through Facebook Messenger, Skype, Gchat, or text messaging; keeping all discussions in one place will help with organization and record-keeping.


Make Virtual Learning Feel Just Like Real Life

The possibility of no in-person classes for the 2020-2021 school year is truly disappointing. However, virtual classrooms can still provide you with knowledge and insights from talented professors and peers at your college. It will take some adjustment, but by staying positive and trusting the instructors, you can get the most out of this year of college.






The AKPsi Operations Plan

Dear Brothers,

Re: Academic year 20-21 plans and programs


First, we’d like to express our well wishes to you and your families as we all continue to collectively navigate the Covid-19 outbreak.

For the AKPsi volunteer leadership and the professional staff, our challenge has been to determine a path ahead for our fraternity in this uncertainty.  Although this letter is somewhat lengthy, it sets a course for the fall academic term, provides transparency on several aspects, and outlines the resources available to achieve the plan. Several perspectives have been heard throughout the process, including those who represent the management team, the fraternity professional staff, current students, and the fraternity board of directors.

The main concern is our members health and well-being. With the coronavirus situation, there are many campuses being closed, or partially closed, and there will be a significant number of students who decide to forego the semester and wait until the situation starts to normalize.

Related to our focus for this semester, and perhaps the entire school year, AKPsi experience for most students will be virtual.  This will make it difficult for many chapters to keep brothers engaged and potentially impacts many chapters ability to survive.

Especially in times of uncertainly and crisis, it’s an opportunity for local chapters to rely more on the “AKPsi” to provide more resources and programs – to provide local brothers with reasons to stay engaged and to provide local chapter officers with tools for operational continuity. (“AKPsi” in this context is what many may sometimes call “international” or “national.”  “AKPsi” is the whole organization, including the vast network of volunteers and the professional staff.)

In order to better assist local chapters and student brothers, there are several items being rolled out or adjusted for this semester (and perhaps the entire school year):

  1. Brotherhood Unbounded – several programs and events to assist you in getting the most of your AKPsi membership through unique opportunities you can only access through AKPsi.
  2. Chapter Operations Resources
  3. Policy and Procedure Adjustments

The sections below will explain each item in more detail:

  1. Brotherhood Unbounded

AKPsi will be providing several new offerings to students for this academic year, thus reducing the burden on the local student chapter officers to deliver professional development opportunities in an ever-changing environment.

Many of these programs will be focused on the current challenges students are facing — stress management, career planning, time management, and include the following:

  • The Birkman Survey – access to the comprehensive tool utilized by many executive search firms to identify work styles, preferences, team dynamics, and stress behaviors. You will gain insight into the ways you process information, solve problems, manage stress, and work with others.
  • Birkman Small Groups – AKPsi will have dozens of volunteers and staff trained to lead small groups (groups will be based upon your ‘profile.’ (e.g., are you a second-year student looking for an internship, are you a 4th year student soon to be graduated, etc.). Groups will meet virtually but can also meet in-person if permitted.
  • Institute of Business Leadership – a virtual leadership development conference with speakers and panelists. Because the in-person PBLI will not be planned for this year, we will hold two virtual conferences.  The registration fee for these events will be free for dues-paying members.
  • Fraternity-wide virtual keynotes – one-hour Q&A with executives and leaders in business and other professions – the current plan is for these to be monthly events. The registration fee for these events will be free for dues-paying members.
  • The MyAKPsi app — available in the Apple and Google Play stores – provides access to the functions above through any handheld device. (More information on MyAKPsi is below.)
  • Principled Business Leadership Certificates – to be rolled out in MyAKPsi later this year, the certificates will be awarded to members as they achieve milestones along their principled business leadership journey through our Brotherhood Unbounded programs.
  1. Chapter Operations Resources

The Management Team and the professional staff have been working on many tools and resources to assist chapter officers:

  • Virtual Chapter Operations Guide – A comprehensive guide providing student officers with the tools to plan for virtual operations. This guide can be found in the Knowledge Base in MyAKPsi
  • MyAKPsi Groups – Do you want to grow your network? In MyAKPsi, each chapter has a “group” for all members, including alumni and students. This gives generations of AKPsi brothers the opportunity to connect for mentorship, job-related opportunities, etc.
  • Groups also give you the opportunity to contact any AKPsi member (as long as they have registered in MyAKPsi) in any industry in any location in the world.
  • Knowledge Base – A library of professional development and chapter management resources.
  • Volunteer Central – Chapters can find volunteers who are willing to serve as speakers, panelists, judges, etc. Volunteers can sign up to serve in a variety of roles to advise students or other alumni.
  • Events – Local chapter events can now be organized and managed via MyAKPsi, including local chapter meetings (virtual or otherwise).
  • New MyAKPsi app – as mentioned above, this will give additional access to resources and opportunities for networking
  1. Policy, Procedure, and Operational Adjustments

This semester will be a challenge for student brothers and student chapters overall.  In addition to the items mentioned above, a comprehensive review of policies, procedures, and operations has been conducted.  There will be several changes for this term (and perhaps the year):

  • Chapter Minimum Expectations have been changed to reflect the current campus environment and the challenges of coronavirus – the expectations are designed to assist chapters in creating their goals for engagement and sustainability. Resources are provided for the chapters to achieve these goals (see sections above – Virtual Chapter Operations Guide).
  • Flexible payment plans – AKPsi will not charge late fees for chapters for billing through Nov. 30, 2020. This gives the chapters the flexibility to spread out member dues payments over 4 months (Aug-Nov, ~$15-20/month for insurance, dues, fees)
  • LOA-Extreme Hardship – many brothers are struggling financially, so even with the program opportunities coming this fall, there will be those who do not have the time or money to participate. Update your rosters as soon as you can in order to ensure billing is accurate. Please note your RD ask that any requests for LOA-Extreme Hardship include if it is due to Covid-19.
  • The professional fraternity staff costs have been reduced by 20-25% compared to last year, temporarily reducing expenses
  • In-person events and meetings will be substantially decreased, temporarily reducing cost for planning, facility, meal, and travel. This includes PBLI.  We will not plan PBLI for this year.  Instead, the Institute for Business Leadership will provide opportunities for brothers to connect with speakers and panelists in a virtual format.
  • The registration cost for the Institute for Business Leadership and the Virtual keynotes will be free for dues-paying members. Although ‘going virtual’ may imply the events can be conducted without costs, it is still necessary to budget for speaker, staffing, curriculum, & technology costs for these events; therefore, there will be a registration fee for any non-dues paying member.
  • Insurance and related expenses – The HC staff manages several insurance policies for the organization, including policies that protect chapters from embezzlement, provide liability coverage for student chapter officers and volunteers if an incident occurs outside of their control, and several other polices for events, governance, the HC building, and the Member Accident Protection Plan. These coverages must be maintained and managed. The current insurance charge is $30/student (annual), which is paid in the fall. For this year, we have negotiated a reduction of $3/student, which will temporarily lower the cost to $27.
  • Student member dues are currently $60 per semester per person. For the fall semester, member dues will be reduced by 10%, to $54 per person. 
  • The Convention Savings Plan was to be increased to $350 this term. That increase will be suspended for the fall semester. The Plan will remain $250 for fall term.  If the Convention currently planned for August 2021 is postponed, the pool will be suspended entirely for the 2021 winter/spring term.

Overall Fraternity Impact & Outlook

The reduction in dues and fees and the subsequent offering of additional programs and resources represent an investment in you and your chapters. The changes above will result in an overall budget shortfall for the organization of $700,000 for this fiscal year.

This budget also includes a budgeted reduction in pledges of 20% compared to last year.  The overall pledge goal for this year is 6,100 compared to 7,500 in FY20, which heightens the importance of every chapter making a good faith effort to attempt virtual recruitment.

Because local chapter activities will be limited, it’s even more critical for AKPsi to provide the activities and experiences at the fraternity-wide level to provide brothers with the opportunities to continue their principled business leadership journey.

It would help decrease overall budget deficit for the organization if each chapter would make a good faith effort to utilize the Virtual Chapter Operations guide in order to keep AKPsi active on campus and to recruit potential members. 

From a programming and networking perspective, the vast opportunities in AKPsi are not replicated by any other student business organization in the US or beyond.

We are brothers because of our long line of commitment others have shown throughout the years. The challenges of Covid-19 are real, but we will remain the oldest and largest fraternal business network in the world for generations to come. Being part of something bigger than ourselves is what has drawn many of us to AKPsi from the beginning.

Finally, please see below a break-down (in a ‘typical’ year) of dues and fees.  Although the table below accounts for specific items, there are many other general activities dues and fees enable AKPsi to do:

  • To continue developing and delivering new business leadership development opportunities for AKPsi members.
  • To more broadly, through programs and communication, further the tenets of principled business leadership.
  • To maintain the organization as a professional entity with 501c7 non-profit status – legal, fiscal, regulatory.
  • To provide the infrastructure for chapters to be rejuvenated or restarted when circumstances cause a temporary ceasing of operations on a specific campus.
  • To actively manage the AKPsi brand as a symbol of integrity, longevity, and continuity.

Membership Dues and Fees- contributed to AKPsi by members – Cost Breakdown of Dues (student member dues and insurance) in a ‘Typical Year’ (from official audit documents)

The information below provides the percent breakdown of costs and a summary of the cost items in each category.  The categories and costs are examined and validated by an independent auditor, in compliance with the oversight set up by the AKPsi Board of Directions.

(The audit for 2020 (fiscal year) will not be completed until later this year; however, for FY19, the functional expenses were distributed within the following categories.)

Member Dues  $            60
Insurance (only charged in the fall semester)  $            30
Convention Savings Plan*  $              5
Total Dues & Fee per Student Member  $            95
* Convention Savings Plan = $350/semester, Avg Chap Size of 71
Fraternity Expenses Breakdown FY 19 Dues
Member Services
(ex: awards, certificates, membership database and technology – Salesforce, etc)
32.2%  $       30.57
PBLI, PAFAC, and Other Meetings
(ex: meeting space rental, meals, travel, material, A/V, technology-related costs, the Diary, insurance, etc)
32.1%  $       30.47
Volunteer Services
(ex: meeting space rental, meals, travel, material, A/V, curriculum design, technology-related costs, insurance, etc)
10.2%  $         9.68
(ex: training for students, volunteers, & staff, incl. materials, curriculum design, dev., delivery, and assessment, partner fees, etc)
11.1%  $       10.63
Management and General
(ex: accounting, audit, legal, insurance, facilities, technology infrastructure, consultants, agents, CPAs, attorney, etc)
14.4%  $       13.67
Total $3.7M  $       95.02

Overall budget shortfall for the organization of $700,000 for this fiscal year (FY21).

Please feel free to send questions & clarifications for the items above (Brotherhood Unbounded, Chapter Operations, Policy & Procedure Adjustment, or the Fraternity Outlook) to

Again, thank you for taking the time to read the information above. With Covid-19, we hope you and your families are staying healthy and have been adjusting as well as can be expected at this time. We also hope you will continue to utilize the tools and resources AKPsi provides as a critical part of your personal life and your academic and professional careers.


In U – and I –,


Steve Hartman


Thomas Tran

Fraternity President


Anxiety and Depression Wellness Checklist

How are you?


Living with anxiety or depression isn’t easy. It’s about self-awareness, self-management, and knowing when to ask for help. Advocating for your mental health is hugely important. But even those with a long-time diagnosis will tell you that things have a way of sneaking up on you. That’s why daily check-ins with yourself are vital, because when negative thoughts or feelings start to pile up, the way back can seem like too difficult a feat.


The following is an unofficial mental health checklist for your daily routine. While this is a great way to actualize your feelings and spot trends or concerns, this is not a substitute for seeking help from mental health professionals. Use this short survey whenever you find time, but when in doubt, always consult with a doctor.


Part 1: Charting Your Anxiety and Depression Symptoms


The feelings caused by anxiety and depression come in many forms and differ greatly between individuals. They can rise and fall over the course of days or weeks, making it difficult for the person suffering through those feelings to keep track of their progress. The following two checklists are questionnaires for some of the most common symptoms associated with depression and anxiety. There are entries for today, the past week, and the past two weeks, so you can identify trends.




Depression Symptom Checklist


Mark from 1-5, with 1 being no symptoms at all.




                                                                        Today             The Last Week          Last 2 Weeks


I feel sad or pessimistic


I’m not sleeping enough

I’m sleeping more than usual.


I feel irritable and frustrated.


I am having trouble concentrating or focusing.


I have little to no appetite.


I am uninterested in my usual hobbies or friends


I have new physical pain, like headaches, back pain, or nausea.


I have feelings of self-harm or suicide


Anxiety Symptom Checklist


Mark from 1-5, with 1 being no symptoms at all.




                                                                        Today             The Last Week          Last 2 Weeks


I feel nervous or anxious.


I feel worried about more than one thing at a time.


I have new things I am worrying about today.


Feelings of anxiety and worry are always with me.


I am unable to relax or sit still without feeling worse.


I’m feeling on edge or irritable.


I have physical symptoms like



Shortness of breath,


Tingling in extremities,

Panic attacks



I feel consumed by the feeling that something bad is about to happen.


Part 2: Continuing Mentally Healthy Activities


Now that you’ve established baseline trends of anxiety and depression, it’s time to be proactive and practice self-care. Before panicking or letting negative thoughts overwhelm you, try to complete a few of these items. It might feel like a chore, but you’ll be busy distracting yourself while learning to feel comfortable, healthy, and happy.


Healthy Activities for Anxiety and Depression



Exercise for 1 hour.

Eat something, healthy if possible.

Drink a full glass of water.

Practice deep breathing.

Take a bath or long shower.

Make sure to wear comfortable and clean clothes.

Take out trash or recycling.


Clean up messes and do dishes.

Read a book for 30 minutes.

Go for a walk outside.

Play with a pet at home.

Watch a show or movie I love, even if I’ve already seen it.

Call a family member.

Call a friend or partner.

Journal my feelings or draw pictures of them.



How to Use the Anxiety and Depression Checklist


Tracking your feelings of anxiety and depression, as well as your daily activities, is a good first step toward understanding your mental health. If you have already received a diagnosis from a doctor, this can be used in conjunction with your existing treatment plan. If not, the information you fill out can be used to provide a snapshot of your ongoing mental health, as well as provide detailed information to a doctor should you ever choose to see one. Take care of yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

The Art of Coaching

Do you need a life or business coach? How do you select the best coach for you? What type of mindset is the most beneficial for a successful coaching relationship? Associate Certified Coach Halle Simpson is here to tell us all that and more as she dives deep into the art of coaching.

Halle is a globally recognized Associate Certified Coach (ACC) with the International Coaching Federation, keynote speaker, trainer and author of the forthcoming Know Thyself Journal. Her passion for speaking and coaching stems from both, growing up in a household with a parent battling depression and the grit gained from a 20 year career in sales and leadership development.  In her work with executives, business owners and self-starters, Halle masterfully creates conversations that grow leaders and their businesses that they’re not getting anywhere else.  When she isn’t coaching clients or speaking on stage, Halle enjoys yoga, journaling, cooking shows, attending the Indy 500, visiting Traverse City, Michigan and walks with her Boston Terrier, Marco. 

External Links:

Connect with Halle Simpson

Halle Simpson website

International Coaching Federation

Stay Active, Stay Positive

Around the world, rates of depression and anxiety are at an all-time high. According to the World Health Organization, over 264 million people worldwide are affected by depression.  Between the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest, and economic instability, it seems like once we’ve reassured ourselves on one front, another issue comes up. Plus, over 80 percent of low- and middle-income people do not receive treatment for their depression.

While exercise is no substitute for the help of a clinical professional in severe cases, there is also evidence that a regular exercise regimen can benefit mental health. This is because exercise directly affects our brain! Here’s the science you need to know to telegraph your mind some feel-good messages, plus our favorite exercises to perform during social distancing.

How Exercise Affects the Brain

Exercise helps our brain in several ways. Psychology Today reports that even a short walk causes the production of feel-good hormones called endorphins, as well as enkephalins. These help our short-term problems seem more manageable. “The simple act of focusing on exercise can give us a break from current concerns and damaging self-talk,” writes psychologist Sarah Gingell.

In addition, observation of mice has shown researchers that exercise might cause new neurons to form in the hippocampus. This is the part of the brain that regulates emotion and supports our memory. Antidepressant medications used over time also stimulate the growth of the hippocampus. That means a habit of exercising might have a similar effect on parts of the brain as taking medicines.

Exercises that Help Depression

Aerobic exercise has been proven in studies to help with depression and mental health. Aerobics increase blood flow to the brain and stimulate the adrenal system, among other effects on the body. The Official Journal of the Association of Medicine and Psychiatry shared a literature review of many studies researching the effect of exercise on depression symptoms. One group of clinically depressed patients walked 20-40 minutes three times per week for six weeks and experienced an improvement in symptoms compared to other groups. Another study focused on cycling which significantly improved symptoms. Overall, studies support that aerobic exercise alleviates depression. Popular forms of aerobics include:

o   Walking

o   Jogging

o   Swimming

o   Cycling

o   Gardening

o   Dancing

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) shares that walking is the most popular form of exercise and it has grown more popular in recent years. Sixty percent of people attain their recommended aerobic exercise by walking for fun, or to reach a necessary destination, like work. Forty to fifty percent of people will walk to a shop, school, or church if the location is within a mile of their home.

Best Exercises During Social Distancing

What effect does social distancing have on the need for exercise? Bloomberg shared graphs of data collected by Apple, monitoring peoples’ physical activity through their devices. This data showed anywhere from a 50-80 percent decrease in the amount people walked worldwide during the first wave of the pandemic.

However, outdoor exercise isn’t only possible but encouraged during social distancing. Sunlight has major positive effects on mood and gives you necessary Vitamin D. You can still walk, jog, or ride a bike outdoors as long as you maintain 6 feet of distance between yourself and others. Essentially, try to find an isolated place to exercise.

If you will be near others or don’t know if distancing is possible, the US Department of Health and Human Services recommends a face covering. Also, don’t forget the sunscreen! Broad-spectrum sunscreen is important to protect against skin cancer, which affects five million Americans a year. It’s no good to fix one problem while causing another, right?

If you live in an urban area or don’t otherwise want to exercise outdoors, another popular exercise alternative in these times is online workout classes. Whether using YouTube to watch a free video or downloading a subscription app with daily streaming, you can still feel connected to others and get expert coaching on your fitness journey. Even household chores or a private dance party to your favorite tunes can get your heart rate up and help you feel better.

Get a Mix of Physical Activity for Healthy Mind and Body

Sources like the Mayo Clinic, Harvard Health, and Popular Science all agree that 30 minutes of moderate activity or 15 minutes of vigorous activity are needed five days a week to achieve health results. That means 150 minutes on the moderate side, or 75 on the vigorous side. It’s also important to mix aerobics with strength training to improve muscle mass.

Of course, that is just the recommended minimum. As your attitude and mindset adjust with these new habits, you might want to go even further, and that’s great. Just make sure to align your diet and rest periods with your new workouts, and you will be doing the work to banish the blues every day.