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And the Best Colleges for Adults Going Back To College Are…
September 23rd, 2015

best colleges for adults going back to schoolIf you’re a nontraditional aspiring student — meaning you didn’t just graduate high school — you might be interested to know that there’s a new college ranking system created just for you. Best College Reviews recently released its Top 50 Colleges for Adults Going Back to College list, and it’s based on factors that you care about at this stage in your life, rather than who’s got the most school spirit or best frat houses. (more…)

Get 12 Steps Closer to Earning a Degree in ’12
January 9th, 2012

You don’t need to wait any longer. Plan to end the year with your college degree, or to be closer than you were at the start of 2012. To give you some help, here are 12 ways to get closer to earning a college degree in 2012.

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Landing a Job Before Graduation
November 23rd, 2011

Graduation is both exciting and nerve wracking. Oftentimes, graduate school is an extension of being able to get an education without having to become a “real” person. But not all of us can be professional students forever. We need to get jobs. And with companies continuing to lay off employees and in hiring freezes, what can we do to ensure we’re not left out on the street, even with a plethora of degrees?

A recent survey was conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) on 5,312 students at 156 graduate schools both domestically and internationally. The 2011 Global Management Education Graduate Survey shows that new MBAs have been lining up jobs even before graduation. It found that the majority of these business students (about 54 percent) had at least one job offer before they walked to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance.” This number increased significantly from 2010, when only 32 percent had job offers.

In addition, the survey reports that those who are in full-time MBA programs expected to increase their salary by 59 percent, compared to their pre-MBA job. And this comes within an unpredictable economy. This type of increase is huge and a reason that business school on the graduate level is worth looking into. The fact that 92 percent of students rated the value of their education as outstanding, excellent, or good is a huge testament to the satisfaction and worth of business programs.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that the business field will continue to grow about as fast as, if not faster than, the average of all occupations through the year 2016. Some of these professions within the business field include accountants, auditors, investment bankers, etc. And those who have master’s degrees have a better chance of getting the top-coveted and top-paying positions.

The 2011 Global Management Education Graduate Survey certainly proves that students taking an MBA program are satisfied, have better job opportunities, and have the ability to make more money. By searching for the perfect business school, you too can become one of the top professionals in the business field in uncertain economic times.

How Zombies Can Teach You About College
November 9th, 2011

The living dead seem to be taking over some college campuses, with students participating in games like Humans Vs Zombies (HvZ) and even Zombie Walks that raise money for good causes.

Sure, you may not need to know how to survive a zombie attack, like the folks in “The Walking Dead,” but we found ways that zombies can actually teach you about college. It may even help your education come alive!

1. Have a one-track mind.
All zombies want are brains. They’ll do anything to get yours. If you have the same mentality, but focused on your degree, you’ll get through school without distractions and with your brain intact.

2. Pick up those feet.
If you find yourself shuffling, unmotivated to get to class, realize you may be falling into the zombie mode.

3. Take care of your body.
Even while in college, don’t ignore your health. One unsettling thing about zombies is the fact that they’re bloody, with scars and wounds that never heal. Their skin is rotting, and hair and nails are falling out. A shower every now and again, and some clean clothes can take away your inner zombie.

Even though your lack of sleep may have you feeling like a zombie, a little money may help you feel more alive. Enter to win $2,500 by sharing your story of how education can help you come alive!

~Lori Johnston

(Image courtesy of Chris Harvey/Shutterstock.com)

Top Five Myths About Online Learning
September 15th, 2011

If history shows anything, it’s that new ways of doing things often bring about myths and misconceptions. That’s true for e-learning.

You may enter into an online program or class with ideas – either from your experience in the classroom or talking to other online students – that you quickly may discover are untrue. Those misconceptions could impact your success as an online student.

We’ve uncovered the truth behind five popular online learning myths.

1. You don’t have to work as hard.

If you think online learning is easier than learning in a traditional classroom, you’ll be surprised to find that’s not the case. The format may be different, but you still will be required to do extensive reading, and hours of homework and exam preparation. Here’s a good guideline from Eastern Iowa Community Colleges: Expect to spend six to nine hours per week in a online course worth three credit hours, in a variety of ways, including participating in online discussions and completing readings and other assignments. You will have due dates and deadlines, but the plus is that you can do them at any hour of the day. Since you aren’t required to physically be in class (although some online courses do have attendance policies), you’ll be putting your time-management skills to use to get everything done.

2. You may be able to cheat and not get caught.

Online students don’t have a professor physically watching over them as they complete the assignment, but schools have savvy systems in place to catch virtual cheaters. According to Franklin University: Statistics show that cheating is no more prevalent in an online environment than in an on-campus environment. E-learners do and need to show the same commitment to academic honesty as students in a traditional class on campus.

3. Your online degree will be viewed as less valuable.

Employers recognize – and many appreciate – that learning online is a part of the education process. The flexibility of an online degree is a big reason why about 5 million people are learning online. Showing that you completed an accredited online program should not make you less qualified for a job than a student who has a degree from a traditional program. But if this is something you’re concerned about, see if the online program offers the same curriculum as the traditional classroom program. Most do, and they are held to the same standards as on-campus programs.

4. You won’t have interaction with classmates or the professors.

Sure, you may be hundreds of thousands of miles away from your peers or professor, but the virtual world provides plenty of opportunities to interact with and learn from them. You won’t be anonymous and even can get personal attention from a professor. There’s online chat, video conferencing, discussion boards, and other tools offered by the school. Plus with e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, you’ll be just a quick key stokes away from a conversation. And some programs blend time in a traditional classroom with online learning, so there are opportunities to meet classmates and your professor in person.

5. You will learn about computers and tech skills in an online class.

Don’t expect your professor to spend time on basic computer or Internet skills. Be prepared to work virtually, so you may need to take courses from a local computer store or business or online before the course begins, to make sure you have the basic knowledge about accessing the Internet, using e-mail and web browsers, and creating documents such as spreadsheets. If your class will use specific software or blogs, your instructor should go over those, but otherwise, the course time will be spent learning about your subject, not technology. Also, don’t expect computer problems or lack of tech skills to be an acceptable excuse for not completing an assignment.

Those are just a few of the myths about online learning. What other types of misconceptions have you or your friends had about being an e-learner?

-Lori Johnston

How Back-To-School Season Differs For Online Students
August 12th, 2011

Backpack. Nope.

Parking pass. Nope.

Mini-fridge for the dorm room. Nope.

Online students typically don’t need the must-haves that traditional students have on their back-to-school checklists. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to prepare for online learning.

Your back-to-school preparations will help you succeed in the virtual world and make the best of the flexibility of being an online student.

Online learners need to consider four major things before starting the semester: space, technology, availability, and resources, says Martha Snyder, associate professor of technology in education at the Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Space: Traditional students have physical spaces on campus to study, such as the library or student commons, Snyder says. But online learners need to plan for space. Especially if you have a family, find an uncluttered spot for you to dedicate to your studies (hint: the kitchen table is probably not the best location).

Technology: Your back-to-school shopping list may include a new computer, printer, word processing software, flash drives, and other tools. Look to see what your school recommends. Also, make sure you know how to use the learning management system, such as Blackboard or Moodle, before the class begins, or else you may get frustrated or fall behind.

Update your virus protection, delete old files or programs, and back up essential documents, says Susan Colaric, assistant vice president for instructional technology at Saint Leo University in Florida. Why? She says a computer that is running fast, free of viruses, and doesn’t crash will make completing assignments more worry-free.

Already stressed or dreading the upcoming semester? Consider buying a “skin” to dress up your laptop or a shirt or coffee mug with the school logo, which can give you an emotional lift for starting the new year, Colaric says.

Availability: You aren’t required to be on campus at a certain time, but you still need to plan when you are going to focus on your classroom. Snyder says a rule of thumb is to set aside 10 hours a week for every three hours of class.

Resources: Find out now what type of online resources your school offers and when they are available. That could include an online librarian, tech support, and virtual tutoring.

Also, add these four things to your back-to-school checklist:

1. Do a trial run.

Log into the college’s system to make sure your computer has everything it needs to operate. For example, you may need both Firefox and Safari as browsers, if one has a problem opening up particular documents or files. You also might need to install updated versions of Adobe Acrobat, QuickTime, Windows Media Player, and Flash to see documents, hear audio, and watch videos

2. Set your schedule.

Use your online or phone calendar to block out times for school, and let your family members or friends know that you won’t be available during these times.

3. Review the syllabus.

The syllabus is a key way in which an online instructor will give you dates and course policies. It also will list the books, which you can purchase or download before class begins.

4. Check on employer reimbursement.

If you haven’t done this yet, find out if your company will pay for your education and get that process started. Or maybe you are entitled to GI Bill benefits to help pay for your education.

Report: Community College Students Learning Online More Likely to Fail
July 26th, 2011

When I hear someone is considering taking an online course, the first thing I want to know is if they think it’s going to be easier than learning in a college classroom.

Online learning, while convenient at times, appears to often require that student use more self-discipline to study and complete assignments and be more proactive in asking questions and showing professors virtually that you want to succeed.

A new study shows that learning online may be more challenging than a course that’s based in a classroom. The study found that community college students enrolled in online courses were more likely to fail than those in classes that require at least some face-to-face interaction.

Two researchers – Di Xu & Shanna Smith Jaggars – of the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College tracked 51,000 students enrolled at community and technical colleges in Washington from fall 2004 to spring 2009.

They looked at their success in face-to-face and online courses as well as hybrid classes that combine the two. The results: Online students had an 82 percent chance of completion; students in classroom courses had a 90 percent chance.

It’s something to consider, especially if you’re thinking of taking an online course offered by a community college. Some of the stumbling blocks, says the study, may be that low-income students learning online face technical difficulties, a sense of isolation, and limited availability of online support services.

Of course, online learning isn’t going away. Data shows that 29 percent of college students took at least one online course during fall 2009, up 21 percent from the previous year.

But what type of changes are needed in online learning to allow students reach the same level of success as they do in face to face or hybrid courses? Based on what the researchers found in Washington, here are their recommendations:

  • Schools make a more proactive effort to offer student support services, like 24-hour online technical support and reference librarian support
  • Require students to complete an assessment to determine whether an online course is a good option, before enrolling.
  • Require students complete the tutorial on how to use the online course management system, or they don’t get to take the class.

Whether you’re considering an online program through a community college or two-year or four-year public or private school, you can’t expect to breeze through as an anonymous student online. Before you enroll in an online course, consider the potential challenges to completing it with a good grade. And once the course begins, don’t give up, even if it means making sacrifices to finish.

-Lori Johnston

Schools Avoid Seeking Online Learning OK from States
July 19th, 2011

No one would argue that one of the best things about being an online student is that you don’t have to be in the same location as the school. You may be frosty in Alaska, learning from a school based in sunny Florida, or in a rural spot in Kansas taking classes from a school with a physical address in hectic New York City.

Well, the U.S. Dept. of Education wanted to require schools with online programs to gain approval in every state where students who are enrolled reside. The so-called “state authorization” rule would have required some schools to take the extra step of seeking approval from all 50 states.

The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, whose members include for-profit colleges who operate online, sued the education department regulations over this and other new requirements. A federal court in July threw out this requirement for state approval, noting that online programs were included without having enough time to review and comment on the new rule.

Schools are cheering the ruling. Administrators like those at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, said the rule would have made it more challenging to provide high-quality, cost-effective education to students by adding unnecessary costs and stifling “the institution’s ability to offer innovative, market-driven programs.” Slippery Rock’s president wrote online:

“We might have someone in Colorado studying Parks and Resource Management, or someone in Mississippi pursuing a masters in Criminology. Can you imagine the administrative nightmare of having to try to anticipate where the next online student might be living so that we could ask that state for permission for that student to take an SRU class? Scary thought.”

As a student, does it matter to you whether the school you are virtually attending gets approval to teach you from the state where you are living?

-Lori Johnston