Tag Archive | "online education"

Students Think They're Ready For The Real World; Employers, Not So Much

college-to-career-prepBy Capital Flows

Many of today’s college students are stunningly ill-prepared for the professional world. What’s worse, they don’t even realize it.

A survey from the Association of American Colleges and Universities finds that about 70% of college students think they possess the critical thinking skills needed to succeed in the workplace. Employers, on the other hand, are far less optimistic. Less than a third think newly minted college grads are ready for the real world.

There’s good reason for this divide. Employers increasingly value skills that often aren’t taught on the average college campus. And most students are completely unaware of employer demands because they fail to plan for life outside the academic bubble.

Many employers have stopped putting so much stock in academic achievements alone

Colleges need to repair this disconnect. The global job market is only getting more competitive. Faculty and administrators must make sure students develop the aptitudes that can actually secure them long-term, satisfying employment.

Consider soft skills like teamwork and collaboration. While 60% of college students think they excel here, just 40% of employers agree. When it comes to the quality and speed of their decision-making, student confidence is twice as high as employers’.

At the same time, many employers have stopped putting so much stock in academic achievements alone. In fact, a recent survey from the research firm Millennial Branding found that only 2% of employers consider GPA the most important factor when evaluating job applications.

These discrepancies are exacerbated by the fact that many students fail to take advantage of the opportunities provided by school administrators to acquire professional skills.

Fortunately, there are ways to improve student career readiness.

Colleges can adjust their curricula to better simulate real-world working conditions

For starters, colleges can adjust their curricula to better simulate real-world working conditions. For example, most jobs don’t require the sort of sustained, independent work it takes to finish a term paper; collaboration is quite common. That’s why Purdue University lends some of its business students out to local small businesses to act as consultants. Professors in all academic programs should look for similar opportunities.

Leadership matters, too. Only micromanagers provide employees with minute-by-minute orders. At most offices, workers are expected to identify employer needs on their own, adapt accordingly, and guide colleagues when appropriate. Given that, American University has launched a public affairs leadership program, which challenges students to identify a social ill and try to resolve it.

Career service programs also have a role to play in prepping students for life after college. Administrators should focus on increasing the number of internships available, expanding the variety of participating employers, and allowing students to accrue credit from all manner of part-time professional opportunities.

Notably, Alma College in Michigan has installed a forward-looking careers services program that provides students $2,500 grants toward off-campus internships, fellowships or research.

Narrowing the gap between what the average student learns and what the average employer demands

Here at New York Institute of Technology, we provide extensive professional development opportunities. And the skills our students acquire translate into real job opportunities. Fully 87% of our graduates are employed in their chosen field within six months of commencement. Nationally, only around 55% of college grads secure full-time jobs before the six-month mark.

Most recently, we started an urban administration course that introduces students to the inner-workings of city governments and non-profits through traditional classroom instruction–and then empowers them to see those dynamics first-hand with a local community service project. This program isn’t simply aimed at exposing students to these fields. It also actively cultivates the problem-solving skills relevant employers demand.

American institutions of higher education need to narrow the gap between what the average student learns and what the average employer demands. If not, future generations of graduates are going to find themselves locked out of the job market and deprived of the chance to find meaning and purpose in work.

Watch on Forbes:

This article was written by Capital Flows from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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4 Debt Management Tips for Active Students

debt-management-tips_webBy Ryan Laspina
Senior Specialist, Red Flags and External Reviews at APUS

Unfortunately, living in debt is a common scenario for many people these days. It is nearly impossible to pay for large purchases like a house, car, and an education up front. For some, taking out loans is the best way to make those purchases happen. Just because you have outstanding debts does not mean you cannot attend college, as there are tips and tricks to help you successfully manage all of your debts while attending school.

Here are some of my tips for managing debt while attending school:

  1. Attack your smallest debts first.
    For example, if you have a mortgage, car loan, pending school loans, and a credit card bill, your credit card bill will probably be the smallest of the four. Try to pay that off faster than the other loans. Allocate any extra money you may have to paying off the credit card, and once that is completely paid off you can attack the next smallest debt. This will make paying your school loans more manageable.
  2. Try to find alternative ways to pay for college, such as scholarships and grants.
    There are many scholarships available, but they have to be found. Consult with your financial aid advisor at your school for some resources and guidance. If you are eligible for the Pell Grant, you should absolutely take advantage of it because it does not need to be paid back at a later date.
  3. Keep in mind that student loans have different options than other loans.
    It is possible to defer payments through forbearance. It is also possible to be set up with a manageable payment plan, such as an Income-Based Repayment plan. While taking out more loans than you can handle should not be encouraged, remember that student loans are somewhat different from other loans. Also, it is hard to place a price on education, so if you are successful in college your reward should quickly outweigh the debt incurred.
  4. Try to consolidate similar loans into one larger loan if possible.
    This works especially well for school loans. If you can consolidate your school loans into one larger loan, you will only have to make a payment to one or two servicers per month. While it will not really save you any money, it does have a psychological advantage because you will get less individual bills every month.

Living in debt is stressful, but it is also commonplace in today’s world. Most adults have some debt that they are responsible for, and there are many that have multiple debts. This does not mean that you should hold off on your educational pursuits. Fiscally responsible individuals pay off their debts, and using some of the above tips and tricks may make paying off your debts a little more manageable.

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Social Engagement Options for the Online Learner


AMU mascot, Valor (left) and APU mascot, Jake (right).

Vlog with Cindy Aitken
Senior Manager, Community Engagement at American Public University

Balancing your lifelong goals with your work and family responsibilities means exploring every possibility, and online education provides an ideal solution for thousands of working adults worldwide. And while you’re using your computer or mobile device to interact daily in the virtual classroom, the fact is, the online learning model and feeling like you’re part of a tangible community aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, when you join a quality online university, you become a part of a community of learners that may include your professor down the street to a classmate on the other side of the world.

At APU and AMU, there are a number of programs designed to keep students connected and engaged with their university community. In this vlog, Cindy shares her insights on the community events at the university, the Ambassador Program, university social channels, and she talks about school spirit in the online environment.

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Suggestions for Success: What to Know Before You Begin Your Program

success-tips-online-learnersBy Melanie Dougherty
Academic Advisor at American Public University

Congratulations! You’ve taken a big step in starting your education. Whether you’re pursuing an associate, bachelor’s, or a master’s degree, I want to tell you what an exciting journey you have ahead of you. Are you scratching your head wondering where to begin? Well, don’t! Here are some suggestions for starting out in your degree program.

First, you need to invest in yourself. As you prepare to embark on this new journey, be prepared to encounter new ideas and new challenges. Take this time to discover new passions, to learn more about yourself, and to prepare for a future doing something that you love. Don’t jump into this program without knowing what you want to get out of it! You should write down some small goals that you want to achieve at different points in your program and in your life. Seeing these goals written out can remind you of how to invest in yourself both academically and personally.

Read the full story

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How to Personalize Your Online Learning Time

personalizing-online-learning-experienceBy J. Mason
Online Learning Tips Editor

Being an online learner doesn’t mean you have to spend all of your time learning alone. There are a few ways to insert peer interaction into your studies. For some it’s as simple as finding a public wifi spot so you can work with the buzz of people around you. Other students need a real-time connection to other students. This way you get the collegiate experience even when you can’t see all the other people learning around you.

Read the full story

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The Secret to Getting a Job After College: Pick a University That Offers Experiential Learning

hands-on-educationBy Amy Rees Anderson

The approach of most higher education institutions is completely backwards today. Rather than first year college students picking their classes based on their goal of a specific dream job, they end up picking classes based on what the University deems to be generally required, the classes their friends are signing up for, and what time a class would require them to get out of bed in the morning.

Students spend their first few years of college taking “General Education” required classes which they are told will be useful to them in any job they choose – things like social sciences, art and music, literature, history, foreign language, and math (’cause all of those are really necessary for every job that exists…right?). Then, after they have suffered through a few years of classes on several topics they will never, and I do mean ever use again in their life, they finally get to start picking classes in the area they think they might have an interest in. Now keep in mind that at this point they typically still have had little to no education on the actual jobs that exist in each industry, nor what those jobs entail doing day to day, nor have they been exposed to actually see people working in those jobs firsthand. Nonetheless they must choose one so they can spend a few more years taking classes on their chosen area of interest until they graduate with a degree, at which point they go out into the world only to discover that either their understanding of what jobs existed was way off, or they get a job and find out they hate doing it. And all of that for the mere price of four years college tuition and housing. Awesome!

No…not awesome at all.

When asking our High School and early University Students what they want to be when they grow up, the overwhelming answer is, “I don’t know”, because they honestly don’t know! But whose fault is that? We ask our young people to decide what they want to be when they grow up but we give them almost nothing in the way of educating and exposing them to their options.

For example, if you were to poll high school and first-year college students nationwide and ask them what actual jobs exist in the field of “Marketing” I would venture to guess that the majority of them have absolutely no idea. Why? Because no one has taught them. Sure, they are taught that the field of Marketing exists, but they are never taught what actual jobs exist in that field, nor what each jobs day-to-day duties would entail, nor are they taught what specific skills they will need to learn in order to obtain one of those jobs.

Let’s take another example such as the field of Software Development. Students are taught that they can become a computer programmer, but students aren’t taught about all the other jobs that exist in that field – such as doing User-Interface Design where you design and draw screens for what a software program will look like, or a Spec Writer who is tasked with writing the specifications for how the software should flow and what each button should do when pushed. Perhaps if we were to spend time teaching about these additional jobs in the Software Development field we might even entice more of our young ladies to get interested in pursuing this field. In my own experience of running a software company, I found that women often exceled more than men did in the creative and user-experience based aspects of software development, yet we struggled to find women who had gone into this field because at a young age it was never really presented to them as one of the options to consider.

We might do a great job of teaching students how to add one plus one, but we fail miserably when it comes to helping them understand why knowing how to add those numbers matters to their life, and how they could possibly apply that specific knowledge to be able to make a living for themselves someday.

If we truly want to affect change in our educational system the High Schools and Universities must flip their approach:

First, during High School students need to be taught about the real-life jobs that exist in each industry. Then, as a basic requirement for the first year at every College, students need to be given opportunities to have exposure to the jobs that they think they would have an interest in so they can see firsthand what doing that job everyday would look like before we expect them to make a determination of what they want to be when they grow up.

Universities need to make experiential learning the very first General Education Required Class for every student during their first year of college. Doing so will give students a vision of their future and get them excited about a specific field of study right out of the gate. They will also have a better understanding of what classes to choose in order to learn those actual skills needed to get into the particular job they want. Just imagine the difference it would make in the lives and future of our young people, as well as the difference it would make for all the prospective employers looking to hire them when they graduate.

According to a McKinsey study fewer than half of employers today feel that new graduates are adequately prepared for entry-level positions. Employers need higher education institutions to both deepen the relevance of their curriculum as well as do more to prepare their graduates for the working world. Part of preparing the graduates for the working world is helping them learn the skills most in demand today which are problem solving, teamwork and communication (see survey findings). Each of these skills is best learned through the hands-on experience gained through experiential learning opportunities.

Employers play a crucial role in the success of these programs which develop their future workforce. Employers must actively partner with Universities to offer internships and project opportunities for the students. Through these programs Employers get first pick of future candidates, and the success of these programs is shown (see previous Forbes article) by the fact that more than half of companies with 100 or more employees end up offering full-time jobs to their interns.

No doubt the future of higher education is going to belong to those institutions who provide students experiential learning opportunities first and foremost. One example of such an institution is Knod. Graham Doxey, who founded Neumont University, a project-based learning experience, is taking experiential learning one step further with a program based wholly online. Knod not only provides an immersive, hands-on experience for students, but also the relationships to build a career and livelihood – all while earning a bachelor’s degree. Knod focuses on the experiences, not the theories. Students sharpen their experience chops by working with real companies on real projects as part of their learning, not as a tangential activity.

The most memorable and valuable experiences of our formative years don’t happen in the classroom – it is in doing that we learn our greatest lessons and ultimately reap our greatest rewards.

~Amy Rees Anderson (follow my daily blogs at www.amyreesanderson.com/blog )

This article was written by Amy Rees Anderson from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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Research Papers, Proposals, and Studies: Understanding the Difference

online-research-tipsBy Dr. Ron Wallace
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice at American Military University

The intent of a research paper is to report the findings of existing research that have been conducted on a specific topic. The writer assumes the role of a researcher from the perspective of identifying and reporting what has already been discovered about a specific topic.

The writer of a research paper may summarize, synthesize, and/or evaluate what has been reported in existing research. When thinking about Bloom’s Taxonomy and the different levels of learning, the type of analysis that is expected of a student writing a research paper is often driven by whether the student is at the undergraduate or graduate level.

In this video I will review the differences between a research paper, research proposal, and research study. In many of the courses I teach this appears to be an area of confusion for students. The information that I’m presenting below should useful in understanding the differences between these three key areas.

Looking for scholarly resources? See my video on, “Scholarly Sources: Finding the Reliable vs Unreliable.”

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What Would You Say About Online Education?

exploring-online-schoolBy Dr. Oliver Hedgepeth
Program Director, Government Contracts and Acquisition at American Public University

What would you tell your mom, or even the waitress serving you lunch, about what you like about being an online student?

One student, we will call Elizabeth, says, “I enjoy the collaboration and interaction with the other students. It is amazing to me how students build such a strong connection with each other in an online environment. When I first started the program I never imagined the program would be so rewarding and filled with challenges and rigor in the coursework. \It may be an online program but the rigor and level of critical and analytically thinking is necessary just as it is in a traditional classroom.”

We could say that online education allows us to eliminate borders and connect students, faculty, and staff from around the world in one place for one common purpose. We could say our professors are experts in their field that bring the real-world to the classroom. They have the academic credentials and are professionals, which makes for an exciting and enjoyable classroom.

Is that enough?

To truly understand what online education is about, look to the APUS mission.

To provide quality higher education with emphasis on educating the nation’s military and public service communities by offering respected, relevant, accessible and affordable, and student-focused online programs, which prepare them for service and leadership in a diverse, global society.

The mission summarizes the full potential of attending American Public University. To get the most from your online education – and to answer questions your mom or the occasional waitress might have – understand and live the mission.

About the Author

Dr. Oliver Hedgepeth is the program director for Government Contracts and Acquisition at American Public University (APU). He is the former program director of Reverse Logistics Management and Transportation and Logistics Management. Prior to joining APU, Dr. Hedgepeth was a tenured associate professor of Logistics and chair of the Logistics Department at the University of Alaska Anchorage. His book, RFID Metrics, was published in 2007 by CRC Press and is in revision.

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