About Me

My photo
I am the founder of University Training Partners, a company that designs and delivers online Lean Six Sigma and statistics training. In this blog, I hope to share my thoughts on statistics, quality assurance, and training, drawing from my 15 years of work experience in the field, eight years as a tenured professor teaching graduate statistics classes and ten years as a full-time training developer.

Thursday, January 14, 2021


Stakeholder Analysis: People > Tools

"If your improvement project fails, it won’t be because you don’t know enough math; it will be because you don’t know enough about people.” 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020


The Misadventures of an Online Instructor

Teaching online? That takes knowledge, dedication and organizational skills. Teaching online at the dining room table with kids underfoot? Now, that takes a true professional!

Ancient history

I’ve been teaching online statistics classes since 2003—ancient times, technology-wise. Back then, we augmented our pre-recorded voice-over PowerPoint presentations with live lectures that we typed out via text chat. Yes, text chat.

I am a horrible typist. I consistently type the word “the” as “teh.” Imagine me typing in multisyllabic words like “heterogeneity.” A nightmare.

A few years later, around 2006, our university’s learning platform got the ability to do live voice lectures. I resisted switching over to the new technology, though. I had always been an early adopter, so my department chair asked me what reason I had for not embracing the live voice sessions.

I told him I had four reasons.

Meet my four reasons

He smiled because he understood. My four reasons? Three girls and a boy, all under the age of 10.

Being able to teach online classes instead of in-person was a blessing for me. The college I worked for was more than an hour away from my home, and the program’s classes were held in the evenings. My husband travelled for work a lot, so I often struggled with finding childcare when I had to teach my classes in person. Online teaching allowed me to teach from home while sitting at the dining room table.

Can I have a snack?

I think most mothers will agree when I say that we moms are never more interesting to our children than when we are on a phone call or in the bathroom. Kids have a Spidey-sense that mom needs a little alone time, and they are right there making sure you don’t get it.

Teaching online graduate statistics classes was the same way. When I pulled out my laptop, it acted like a kid magnet. Telling my kids that mommy had to teach a class did no good. This was pre-Zoom. There were no students to see.

I might add that if you ever need an ego check, have children. My kids couldn’t have cared less that I had a PhD in industrial engineering and was teaching the intricacies of central composite designs to 20 students hanging on my every (poorly typed) word. No, they were not impressed. I was still Mom.

As I typed my chat lectures, I’d inevitably have a little person sitting at my feet playing with her dolls and another combing the back of my hair and styling it with Hello Kitty barrettes. Also, can I have a snack?

A perfect storm

One evening when my husband was out of town, I was typing my chat lecture with my youngest son on my lap, and one daughter standing at my elbow asking me to help her dress her Barbie. My oldest daughter was doing her math homework at the other end of the table and would ask me for help whenever she got stuck on a geometry problem. My typical Tuesday evening, pretty much.

My youngest daughter then came running into the dining room, wide-eyed and yelling that the downstairs toilet was stopped up and was now overflowing all over the bathroom floor.

You can do this, momma

I drew a deep breath and then, to buy myself time, I typed a complicated question for my class to answer.  I lifted my son off my lap, ran to the bathroom, grabbed the plunger and unclogged the toilet, got the mop and bucket from the utility room, cleaned the bathroom floor, threw on the fan to help it dry, and then coaxed Barbie’s legs into a pair of impossibly skinny jeans. As I sat down, sweat trickling down my brow, the first response from my students popped up on the chat screen. Success! They were none the wiser.

Well, that stung

A few months later, I related that story to my colleagues in a department meeting. One of the older male professors remarked that what I had done was very unprofessional. I have to admit, that comment really took the wind out of my sails. And, to this day, I have to vehemently disagree.

If I could watch four children, calculate the area of an isosceles triangle, unclog a toilet, mop the floor, and dress Barbie, all at the same time I was teaching a graduate class in experimental design without missing a beat, I regard myself as an uber-professional. I mean, teaching a grad class while sitting in a quiet office with your prepared notes and no distractions, or overflowing toilets? Honestly, how hard is that?

Check out our courses - they're very professional!

Join our mailing list to receive exclusive course discount codes and VIP access to webinars!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Writing & Publishing a Book with ASQ Quality Press - Part 3

Writing the Manuscript

Earning a book contract may give you a great sense of accomplishment, but don’t rest on your laurels for too long! Signing the final contract starts the clock ticking toward your submission deadline. You already have three chapters written from the proposal, so you do have a head start. Your detailed table of contents will now become the roadmap for your writing project.

Chances are you already have a full-time job and a family. How can you find the time to write a 200-page book while you are answering work email until 9pm and coaching soccer on weekends? Completing a project of this magnitude requires some self-reflection: knowing how and where you work best will make the writing process more efficient.

Some authors commit to writing two pages a day, every day. After a mere 100 days, they have a 200-page draft manuscript. Others research and think through their topic for months, and then sit down and binge-write over a matter of a few weeks. Which method meshes better with your work style?

Writing is a solitary activity. Will you steal away and write in a quiet corner of the town library, or will you be happier writing at the kitchen table with family life swirling around you?

Once you decide on how and where you will work, you need to gather your tools. Request the Quality Press Style Manual from your editor, and read it thoroughly. This manual gives authors direction on how to properly present abbreviations, label appendices, cite sources, present equations, number figures and tables, format footnotes, use italics, create lists, represent numbers, punctuate sentences, and present quality terms. Adhering to the style manual as you write will save you and the copy editor hours of time during the production cycle.

Buy a Chicago Manual of Style now so that you can properly cite your sources. If you are like many people of a certain age, you might not have written a bibliography since the advent of the web. The manual will help you cite web sites, articles, white papers, and books. As you research, be fanatical about recording sources at the time you read them. This will make writing the bibliography a much easier and faster task.

Your choice of font and manuscript layout is actually not very important. Quality Press has a standard font and layout template for its publications, so the final manuscript will be typeset according to these standards. In the meantime, choose a font that pleases you and double space to make your text easier to edit.

I used three levels of numbered headings in my manuscript, and had the navigation tool opened at all times so I could easily move around my document. Microsoft Word also has some time-saving and sanity-preserving features that you might not have used before. My advice is to become very familiar with the References tab! The commands on this tab allow you to insert footnotes, citations, and cross references for figures, and will automatically update them for you. For example, each figure in the manuscript must be referenced in the text by number. Using cross references automatically updates the figure numbers as figures are removed or added. There is no need to make a table of contents or a list of figures and tables in your manuscript, since these will be generated during the production process.

Give yourself enough time in the schedule to let the completed manuscript sit for a month. Then go back and start editing with fresh eyes. I also strongly suggest sending out your “final” draft to several colleagues for review at this point. Assign the reviewers specific sections of the book to proof. Otherwise, you will get a detailed proofing of the first few chapters, and then, less scrutiny as the book chapters go on, as the reviewers (and you) run out of steam. You will be amazed at how much the SMEs can catch! Incorporate their suggestions and make the corrections, and remember to thank them profusely in your acknowledgments page.

Once your manuscript has been submitted to the publisher, it will be scheduled for the three-month production cycle.

Join our mailing list to receive exclusive course discount codes and VIP access to webinars!

© 2016 Mary McShane-Vaughn