Tag Archive | "online education"

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.

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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.

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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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What Your Email Says, and Doesn't Say About You

email-personalityBy Dr. Michael S. Miller
Part-time Faculty Member, Teaching Program, School of Education at American Public University

As an online learner, you have the opportunity to develop and refine many skills. It is likely the most widely practiced, or even the most important would be developing effective communication skills. The majority, if not all of your communication in the online learning environment, is in the form of written communication. Communication takes place continuously in this environment with both your instructor and your classmates. Therefore, it is critical to make a good impression; not to mention, “More effective communication practices lead to a more effective learning process” (Venable, 2011, para. 2). Whether you are engaging in a threaded discussion forum, submitting a written assignment, or sending an email, your expression of your thoughts and ideas have much to say about you as a person.

In the online environment, it is rather easy to click ‘reply,’ type up a quick response, and hit ‘send’ without giving much thought about what you have just written (or not written). However, what most students do not realize is that your e-mail behavior has the potential to sabotage your reputation both personally and professionally. Believe it or not, when you are a student, others judge you based on your communications skills. After all, it is likely they have never heard you speak verbally. This is why there are some actions you should take to make a good impression on the people you are communicating with regularly.

For example, sharing an email address with your significant other. This tells the person receiving the email that you are likely not an independent person. Email addresses are free to obtain and easy to check. There is no reason why you would need to share an email address with anyone. Email addresses can be used for almost anything from receiving discounts at your favorite store to registering a product online. While it is fine to have an email address for these purposes, try setting up an additional inbox. It is important to use and maintain a professional email address for communicating with employers, businesses, classmates, and professors. You can control who has access to this address and will not have to sift through all of the junk mail in your other inbox.

Another idea for maintaining a professional email account is to use your real name, or some variation of it. Using something that you think may be cute or trendy, (e.g. hotblonde@mail.com) tells the receiver that you are not a very serious person. Again, it is fine to have this type of email address, but use it with your friends or something that does not require professionalism.

Something else you will want to consider is what you communicate in the email. For example, if you are sending an email to your professor, it is a good idea to begin the email by addressing him or her by name. Then, state your reason for the email and include an electronic signature with your full name. It is also a good idea to include the course number and section for which you are enrolled. It is likely that your professor teaches more than one course or even for multiple schools. Your professor could have five students named Andrea. If you send an email without these items, it appears very unprofessional and carries with it a sense of laziness.

Finally, always proofread your emails before you send them! Read and re-read them and use spell check. Remember, your writing says a great deal about the type of person sending the email. Do not forget that there is a person on the other side of your email. Much like a first impression, the emails you send allow the person on the receiving end to judge you solely based on your choice of tone, punctuation, and writing ability. You may come across as educated or illiterate, happy or irritated – it is all in the delivery!

About the Author

Dr. Michael Miller is a professor specializing in curriculum and instruction, online teaching and learning, organizational behavior, and educational leadership. Michael has a Bachelor of Science in Education, Master of Science in Instructional Design and Development, an Educational Specialist in Educational Leadership (K-12), and a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (Higher Education). His background includes elementary school teaching and administration, mentoring/training new teachers, curriculum development, online course design, and higher education administration. Currently, Michael is conducting research related to teacher preparation, critical thinking in higher education, online collaborative learning tools and processes, and effective online teaching practices through student engagement, stimulating intellectual development, and building rapport. 

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Science Labs Delivered to Your Door

mobile-science-labs-apuBy David Brashinger
Faculty Member, Natural Sciences at American Public University

How do you take a laboratory-based science course when you don’t have access to a traditional campus-based laboratory? Have the laboratory delivered to your door!

American Public University (APU) is rolling out a series of new online courses in biology, chemistry, and physics that include laboratory activities that students perform where they live. This approach combines the flexibility of distance education with the hands-on learning goals of science laboratory education.

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Accelerated Learning Through Prior Learning Assessment

PLA-Gradute-APUSBy Dr. Patricia Campbell and Kimberly Watson
Dr. Campbell is the Assistant Provost at American Public University.
Kimberly Watson is an Alternative Learning Specialist at APUS.

Universities across the nation are striving to create or expand current offerings aimed at helping students attain their degree in an expedited format. Certainly cost concerns have helped drive some of these innovations and expansions, but also underlying these approaches has been a reevaluation of just what it means to possess a college or graduate level degree.

For many years the Carnegie hour has been the foundation for how we calculate college learning. This “time in seat” approach has been called into question as many college graduates emerge from our institutions lacking critical skills, including basic reading, writing, and critical thinking. Additionally, universities realize that they do not possess a monopoly on knowledge or its dissemination and that learning can occur outside their halls.

Enter the increased focus on quasi-new approaches to higher education. From competency-based learning to accelerated bachelor’s and master’s degrees to prior learning assessment models, universities are advancing alternative approaches to college level learning. Although most of these approaches are not new, universities are creating, reviving, or expanding these alternative learning initiatives.

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