Spring Fever for Distance Learning Students

Springtime is always difficult for students whether they attend at a traditional campus or an are in a Distance Learning program. The urge to give in to spring fever is right there. Sunny days beckon and travel plans or just outdoor activities around home can be a strong pull. Distance learning and other school may have a typical spring break period but even if not, every minute not spent in real-time course activities is temptation. How can you use your spring fever to recharge without derailing your school plans?

If you are still a High School student and just preparing for college as soon as you graduate, this is particularly tough. You may be excited about college, but you also feel that freedom from school days so close. Your friends may be taking spring vacations or just catching a warm day to tan!  This is also a critical time for most seniors in High School. Acceptance letters from colleges may have arrived or be about to arrive. If your grades drop at such a crucial point, it can affect your potential acceptance or financial aid options, so it’s best to keep that in mind even if you take some downtime.

If you are enrolled in a current e-learning program, this time of the year may remind you that some of your exams are close, papers may be due and the pressure of all of it might be catching up with you. If you are behind in an area or two or aren’t doing well in a course, it can make you feel like you desperately need a break but can’t take one. There are solutions for all students feeling the change of seasons.

It doesn’t matter if you are a high school senior or a senior at your distance learning university since all students can feel these pressures. Consider some strategies you can utilize to make the most of your time and still get a little rest. Spend some time thinking about what kind of activities put you in a good mood. Sunshine is important, and those of us that spend a lot of time at a desk can actually feel a form of depression or experience drops in vitamin D and just feel under the weather. If you can think of something you like to do outside that also cheers you up, go ahead and make a plan for it, but just be moderate. If you are caught up on your classes and your grades are good, make a plan to get out and have a good time. If you are the party type, a little partying isn’t going to hurt, but take care about overdoing the time in the sun or excessive alcohol consumption since both can leave you dehydrated and feeling worse instead of better. If you do need some catch up time for school, still plan some time outside or a party, but just make it a day or two instead of all of whatever break you may have.

You might be able to utilize some time off to work with a tutor for a few hours if you are weak in a particular subject. Studying up for entrance exams for a day or two is great for the high school student wanting to get ahead. If you are in a distance learning program, take a little time to review the course plan or syllabus and make sure you are on track. You may realize you are in better shape than you thought, or you may notice a deadline that is coming up fast. You can plan for the best approach to get things done before you return for the rest of your spring coursework. You want to return rested and recharged, but also not feeling as much pressure as you might have before your mental spring cleaning!

A Guide to Studying for Finals in Your Distance Learning Program

If your teacher provided a study guide, be sure to make use of it since they’ve given you a fantastic start to knowing exactly what you’ll see on your tests.  If you haven’t been given a study guide or plan, make one for yourself!  Go over the course materials you’ve been given, look through past assignments and exams and take note of what you needed to learn, what you did well on and what you needed to improve on.  The process of creating your study plan will also serve as a form of study all on it’s own.

Most distance learnings schools using a CMS will have a chat room or bulletin board for students. Check to see if a study group or review session will be offered there.  If not but you have contact with some fellow students, set up your own Skype call or chat to go over the materials for the exam. Studying with others can really help.

Don’t wait until the last minute to start your studies!  You might be able to pull off an overnight cram and just get everything stuffed in your head.  Even if you do, you’ll lose most of the information.  Your brain is wired for repetition, not cramming.  Cramming puts the info in your short term memory, but you may forget too much before exam time.  Perhaps you’ll ace it anyway, but you surely won’t recall the material for future classes and jobs.  It just doesn’t pay to take shortcuts.

If you’ve been going over your textbook like crazy and have reviewed your past assignments and are just sick of looking at them, consider taking a break.  Don’t just go plop in front of Netflix.  Check out an e-book that is on something related to your course but that actually looks interesting. Spend some time just reading and you’ll absorb new information and create new mental connections.

Feel like you just can’t read another word?  That’s OK!  If you really have to get some Netflix or Amazon video time, look for a documentary or even a movie that is closely related to your studies.  You might get just the rest you need without wandering away from the topic altogether.

Do take REAL breaks too.  We don’t mean to suggest that you should study non-stop.  Your memory will actually work better if you don’t.  If you have really been putting in the effort and feel that you are on your way, take a solid break.  Go do something totally different that stimulates you in a different way.  Exercise and sports are great for refreshing mind and body.

Cut down on the parties as the time draws closer.  It’s not so much the parties themselves that will nail you, it’s the lack of sleep.  To have the best recall possible and not waste your study time, you need restful sleep.  At least a few days before exams, get into bed a bit earlier or sleep a little late if you have that luxury.  Get rested up however you need to before exam day.

Tips for Those Considering an Online MBA Program

Is an online MBA really the best option for you?  Sometimes people choose to go online vs onsite for the wrong reasons and this affects their results.  Consider the things that make an online program best for you.  Are you capable of being self-disciplined at home? Can you complete assignments without others reminding you and asking for the work on time?  Are you good with managing deadlines on your own and do you work well with both self-imposed and external deadlines? If these are true, an online MBA might work well.

Applying to online MBA programs requires just as much preparation and effort as applying for an onsite school, so you don’t want to assume an online program will automatically be easier.  Your test scores, essays, letters of recommendation and transcripts will be considered in a similar way.  Make sure you are ready before even starting the application process.

If you are just brushing up on your skills or working toward doing your current job better, which program you choose can be more about finding the right program for you regardless of other factors.  If you need to seek new employment with an MBA, you will want to check into an institution is properly accredited.  For those looking for a solid future getting jobs with an MBA, the school should be accredited by one or both of the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Accreditation on a regional basis is important as well, so find out what is common at on-site schools where you live and compare it to the online school you are interested in.

If you’re going to be staying in your position as a full time employee and moving through an online MBA program this may give you added options.  Sometimes it means that a person going for an online MBA may be able to pay for school out of pocket which reduces financial risk.   Your employer might also be willing to pay for all or part of your education costs.  If not, financing is available for online schools as well, but if this is part of your plan you need to know more before making a choice.

Check on the school’s financial options and financial history. An institution’s loan default rate is the rate at which students repay their debt.  The loan default rate will help you determine how successful students were at finding solid and gainful employment after graduating from that school.

Online students are often balancing work and family with their education, so they need to plan to set aside enough time to do an MBA application well.  Emphasize your professional experience when applying.  Many students seeking an online MBA have already worked in a business-related field and will increase the chances of being accepted by a good school.

It’s important to determine which program best fits your needs. MBA programs are very popular now and there are many programs to choose from.  Finding a program that can accommodate your schedule and finances shouldn’t be too difficult, but you want the one that works best for you.

The Information Market: Factors in Success for Distance Education Providers

This week we are shifting once more to talk about the other side of the e-learning industry.  What about those who provide distance education courses?  How should they plan for success?  Information is one of the hottest things to sell in 2017.

Some students who take a few courses online from sites like Udemy or YouTube catch on, and even the students are finding ways to focus on their own skills and teach what they know to others.  Information and educational resources can be taught by anyone with expertise, whether you go at it via the sales of an e-book, Kindle Direct Publishing, sites as mentioned above, or on your own website.

Companies can develop major websites to deliver hot content in higher quantity to ordinary students or to employers who need their staff to become better trained.  We mentioned in a recent article that there are many benefits for employers who use distance education to train their staff. So, what if you are already involved in offering e-learning yourself and want to scale up?  What if you are just at the beginning and want to try selling information?  How can you position yourself for Success?  This article is for you.

1.) One thing we know is that it’s common for students at all levels to start an e-learning project (one class or several at once) and then fail to complete it.  Surveys have revealed that the reasons for this may include computer anxiety, inflexible coursework, information provided too quickly or in excess, difficulty using the e-learning tools, and dissatisfaction with the usefulness of the content.  If you are planning to offer content or improve your current offerings, you may want to look at these factors and make sure that you aren’t adding to your failure rate for any of these reasons.

2.) What do learners want?  It’s more than just resolving the issues mentioned above.  Studies show that those attracted to e-learning want many of the same things.  High quality content, navigability, some availability for self-pacing, design that is easy on the eyes, and content that makes them feel engaged.  For students to be motivated, the content cannot be too dry or just become a wall of text to read in slides.  Offer great visuals in both stills and video, interactive content, and easy navigation.  Update your content to make sure it is on the cutting edge.

3.)  If you are offering a large amount of content, choose the right platform.  For a single person wanting to offer a single course, a monetized YouTube video or a platform to sell content may be plenty to start with.  For someone wanting to scale up, there are many types of software and Content Management Systems to consider.  There are now new e-learning platforms on the market.  Choose the one that is the right price for you or choose an open-source platform.  Choose one that is made to handle the type and quantity of content you have.  If you plan to continue to scale up, make sure the platform will do it.

There is plenty of room in the infopreneur industry for the existing providers to grow and new ones to come in.  There is opportunity for students to become teachers.  There is a hunger for distance education in the information age.  Take advantage of it, and try these ideas to increase your success rate.  If you have something to teach but haven’t tried it yet, you might be interested in another article on getting involved in the teaching side of the industry.  Have ideas to add? Let us know in the comments.

5 Tips to Enhance Your Staff Performance with Distance Education

Keeping your staff up on the latest technologies and innovations for your industry has never been so important. Access to instant information on the information highway has made clients, employers and employees more knowledgeable and expectations are high for business to keep their work force up to date on what is happened in individual industries. How can you use e-earning to keep your own employees in the know and at high performance levels?

1.) Get Tailor Made Options for Your Organization
With eLearning, an organization can really tailor the educational programs to its needs. For instance, if the organization needs to concentrate on advertising for one group of workers and focus on help desk skills for another, it should be possible. This is entirely possible by choosing one or more distance education sites to create a curriculum for your entire staff or the employee groups that need improvement.  Before you get started, do a tech check to make sure your staff has what it needs to start moving forward in Distance Learning.

2.) Distance Education is Adaptable
There was a time when employers might require certain employees to attention a tradition school or an adult learning program on site. An instructor would come in and try to cram in information over a few hours or days and allow employees to improve their skills, update or earn certifications or just be on the cutting edge. The cost of programs like these can be high, employees have to miss work, and the programs are rarely adaptable. With distance learning, you can have employees enroll in a course that applies to the need, the employer gives the employees some opportunity to learn during regular downtime and everything can be adjusted as needed. The cost is also generally much less and refunds are usually available if the school doesn’t deliver well or the employee isn’t able to attend at the planned time.

3.) Getting More for Less
With traditional programs, a 7 day course might be needed to deliver content to students with everyone working at the pace of the slowest learner. The course might be made up of primarily written content, primarily lecture, mostly video or another learning delivery method. With e-learning a student can go at the pace that is best for them. Some of your staff may only need two days of training to get something while another might need the full 7, but pace can be self-adjusted. A student who does better with visual learning might be able to choose a video course while a student who learns much faster with audio can get lectures delivered in podcasts or pre-recorded digital audio. Everything can be packed in according to the needs of employer/employee and teacher/learner.

4.) Competition in the Business World
The business world can be very competitive today and individual employees often feel a desire to compete with one another for the top position. It was be cutthroat and not ideal for morale. Instead, inviting rivalry via competitive learning can be fun and still get the vital data to staff. Gamification is on the rise in eLearning and allows the employee students to compete with each other for digital and/or physical rewards according to the needs of the employer.

5.) New Waves in Disseminating Information
Some employers have become rigid about sending employees to routine weekly or monthly meetings to update them on advancements in the field, company news, changes in client requirements or whatever fits the company. Employees tend to hate these kind of meetings. They can be costly with a need to provide refreshments or meals and staff have to leave their workstations. Some companies are using Content Management Systems used for distance learning to replace the traditional meeting. This is a newer idea, but may become the norm in time.

How to Stay Motivated in School This Year

Distance learning requires a lot of commitment, motivation, time management and staying connected with your classmates and instructors if you will succeed. You also must set aside some time of the day where you tune your mind to actually do your class work, a quiet place in the house.

One of the key reasons people turn to online schools is the flexibility and convenience that they provide. You can work from home and you can complete your work at anytime, making your education fit into your life. Don’t forget that the cost of your online education is important as well. An online degree is almost always going to be significantly cheaper than a traditional on-campus program.  That doesn’t mean it will always be easy to stay motivated.

You have to focus and stay feeling balanced to keep up motivation to get your degree.  Distance Education is not by any means a “a skip in the park”. Its can be even more demanding than a traditional educational setting. Distance learning takes more self-discipline, focus, and interest than your traditional learning environment.

Through weekly support sessions with a study group or mentor, and mentoring, ordinary students and those with learning disabilities can be taught self-awareness techniques that help.  By knowing what accommodations or modifications they require to learn at home, students can decide how to best approach teachers to request help if motivation begins to slow down. Student must work on communication skills to help them respond to possible obstacles in their e-learning plan.
What can you do to help yourself?

  • Make a plan or document assignment dates and refer to it 6 times a week.
  • Distance Learning has a higher dropout rate than traditional universities, simply because people cannot focus or go so long without posting assignments that they actually forget to keep up.
  • Embrace each lesson, reading assignment, and new concepts in learning.
  • Be sure to keep reminders set on your phone, computer or smart watch.
  • Communicate with teachers and other students.
  • Remind yourself on the best things about Distance Education
  • Reward yourself after every achievement.

From Learning Online to Teaching Online – Something to Consider for 2017

Massive online open courses (MOOCs) started gaining traction in 2010 and the trend has continued to grow over the years. By 2014, over 5.7 million students were enrolled in various distance learning programs . Technology has succeeded in shifting learning from the traditional classroom and students can now access both formal and informal education on the internet via various tools.

An interesting development in online learning is the relocation of learning from mainstream academic institutions. Internet users are now relying heavily on podcasts, YouTube tutorials, eBooks, webinars, boot camps, and blogs to learn new trades or hone their skills. Combined with larger schools that offer actual degrees and certifications, distance learning is clearly on the rise. This trend in e-learning has opened up an amazing opportunity for infopreneurs – you can now create and monetize courses tailored for specific audiences. As a fun New Year’s blog post, we’ll talk about how you could use the skills you’ve gain through Distance Education to become an entrepreneur offering small e-learning courses yourself! This is an angle we haven’t look at before here.

Tip 1: It Will Take Time

Even if you just graduated yourself and have plenty of knowledge, creating a good online course takes time – almost the same time it would take you to write a book. You will probably need less time if you already have a book that the course will be based on. You should therefore budget your time wisely. The hours you spend creating the e-learning resources can eventually payoff when you rollout the course.

Tip 2: Learn Some Skills

There are some important technical skills that are a must-have for you to make it as an infopreneur. This is probably why the best in this business have already taken online courses and probably earned a degree through a distance education university. There are also technical skills involved. You will probably need to use screen recording software to record some video tutorials. Before you get started, take time to understand how the screen recording software works and how best to optimize the videos captured. This is ofcourse only relevant if you are using screencasts. For talking-head videos, you may want to hire a professional to take the video and help you with editing and optimizing it.

Tip 3: Start Small

When developing an online learning course, it is always better to start small. For instance, you can start with a simple course. This will help you see how people respond to the course. Starting small also makes it possible to get some quick reviews that will help you attract more clients as you add more content to the course.

Tip 4: Market the Course

The online learning market is already crowded – but not too crowded. As long as you market your course well, you should easily carve out a niche. You can start by taking advantage of already established online learning platforms and our blog has a lot of information for those interested in getting an education via distance learning. If you are seriously about also promoting your own courses and not just using them for fun, you’ll want to maximize on your social media audience to market the course.

Tip 5: Use Feedback to Improve

You can invite friends and family to take the course and request that they give you candid feedback. Even though no one likes negative feedback, it is actually a great source of information. It will help you know what is working and what is not. Analyze the feedback you receive and use it to determine if there are some improvements you can make to the course.

Creating an online course does not in itself make you an infopreneur. You have to market your product for it to get noticed online. It is an interesting career path for those who got their own education online, though, since your point of view is clear. It helps if you have a following on social media, but you can also do some inexpensive digital media marketing. Online courses that become hits are those that solve real life problems so you may want to tailor your product to meet specific needs.

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E-Learning for Medical Students and Health Care Professional

This year at holiday time I had the chance to spend time with an old friend who is a medical doctor. We met in undergraduate school and she was struggling to save money for medical school by working 50 hours a week as a waitress while taking a full pre-med class load. We both graduated and then life happened! My friend was lined up for medical school and had been accepted, but found out that she was a few weeks pregnant. She hadn’t planned to have children until after becoming a doctor and getting a year or two of practice done. Now everything had changed.

She still did it, but I watched her go through some incredible obstacles including being forced to defer her entrance to medical school by one year to have the baby. Today she is happy and the baby that is now her young adult daughter is contemplating veterinary school. They have new challenges now that make it difficult to manage school and life. Distance learning as related to health care is now available, delivered via the Internet and covering areas such as health technology, tele-health (e-health), tele-medicine, other types of distance learning taught by doctors and more.

There are various technologies and communication systems that make this more possible today. Higher speed internet allows for streaming or live content and allows students to sit in on their first cadaver dissections and autopsies, live surgeries, patient exams and diagnostics tool training. E-learning also provides for continuous education through the use of electronic libraries, data bases, knowledge bases, and the best new medical magazines, abstracts and other literature. Distance learning as a part of a health care education has become more common the past five years.

A distance learning option is highly variable among medical schools and appears to be more common in basic medical science coursework than in clinical education. Distance learning for doctors does not replace the traditional learning processes. It is usually used as an adjunct to in-person classroom or professional teaching and hands-on practices. Distance learning has been used as blended learning in biomedical education and probably will remain that way from some time.

Even though it is limited, the opportunities are there and the advantages are obvious. For someone like my friend who went through a pregnancy, the chances for her to have entered school earlier would have increased if e-learning had been available. She most likely could have started at the same school but started out with some of the basics and prepared through online videos.

It would have given her a way to start without the loss of time and she would have entered medical school on campus in the second year with a literal advantage over other unprepared students. Luckily, for her daughter, the possibility is real now for a veterinary science degree partially taken online.

It is an exciting time for students who want to go into health care fields. Fields such as nursing, radiology, and anesthesia are even more possible with 40-75% of coursework done online. The opportunities for MD degrees and more are slowly becoming more enhanced every day.

Distance Learning – Past and Present

Many people think of distance learning as something that has evolved in the digital age, since computers and of course the World Wide Web have made learning off-site really effective.  In truth, though, distance learning has been around for a long, long time.  Learning about the history can help you consider how this all began, how it impacted people from the past, and how you can apply the information of the past to your present day e-learning experience.

Supply and Demand

As the Americas were colonized by people from all over the globe, expansion came quickly, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries.  There was vast space and people utilized it, moving to all corners of the emerging country to establish homes, farms, ranches, businesses, and schools.  Schools for children were relatively easy to manage in those early days.  Even a few country homes had people could get together and bring their skills to the table.  One person might know music, another math, another might read and write well and another might know a lot of science.  They could partner parents, singles and children to create early home schools or small country schools no matter the size of the class.  Home schooling was also effective when necessary.

Colleges were quite a different matter.  There was quick demand for education so that those in small communities could be knowledgeable ministers, medical professionals, veterinarians, banks, accountants for various small businesses, and teachers to work in schools that were growing beyond the tiny community and home schools.  It wasn’t too difficult to get by in some areas with people that already had knowledge, but others either didn’t have enough educated folk or were lacking in areas that were very difficult to learn without some guidance.  One also has to remember that you couldn’t just go down to the library and study up on how to do basic bookkeeping or how to help a cow with birthing difficulties.  Many communities had no libraries and books were expensive and precious commodities.  So, there was demand for educated people and no way to supply it.  A husband or wife couldn’t just dash off to the nearest college that might be hours to days away.

An Idea to Solve a Problem

Colleges and other schools for adults began to realize that the need was there and it was both a necessity and a profitable venture to help.  The schools that were already teaching on-site were often focused on specific areas.  There were teaching colleges, medical schools, business schools, schools to educate ministers, chaplains and other church workers.  These educational institutions began to develop curriculum that could be sent by mail.  If sent with the ideal timing, materials could arrive in a paced way and the students could return assignments, tests and the books or pamphlets themselves so they could be re-used.

The First Ones

Europe already had some successful mail-order courses and some of those were for vocational and teacher training while others focused on teaching English, Spanish, French, German, etc.  In the United States, one institution in Maryland was Strayer’s Business College and they began to develop mail-order correspondence courses to teach women how to write, spell, compose business letters and keep financial records.  This helped to supply businesses with secretaries and payroll help and women were able to find meaningful work if they were single, widowed or in difficult circumstances.  It seems a bit archaic to modern readers to think that these schools were for women, but the fact was that it didn’t seem abnormal to most people of the time.  Another school in New York state had a correspondence program for ministers and Sunday school teachers.  Gradually more schools with more programs followed suit.  Today Strayer’s Business College is Strayer University where men and women go to learn anything they wish.  One can look to Strayer among many others and thank them for promoting the idea of distance learning so we would have what we have today.

Modern Day

With the digital age, especially at the beginning of the 21st century, more than 50% of colleges and universities offered some form of distance learning.  Although the actual transition from mail order to other forms went on for some time starting in the 1970’s, by the 1990’s online learning was often discussed.  After the year 2000 pretty much everyone know about distance learning although it had yet to evolve into what we see online today with Content Management Systems as a routine and entire degrees offered online.

Appreciating Distance Learning

This time of the year is a harvest season in many places and is also an occasion for thinking about our gratefulness. Taking a look at distance learning programs it is easy to be grateful for the bonuses we get as students. If you are already in an online class that runs on a seasonal schedule, you might be near exam time and reap the rewards of your hard work very soon.

Being Grateful While on the Go

Distance learning makes it easy to access your courses from anywhere and at any time. If you are traveling for the holiday season while enrolled, you can still access your courses on the road. If you have spotty internet access, you can still usually do your work when you are in a good spot! With a mobile hotspot, you can even take classes sitting at the beach.

No Car or Public Transportation!

Another great thing about e-learning is how well it solves transportation problems! No commuting, no expensive parking permit, no crowded parking lots and nowhere to lug a backpack of heavy books around. It amazes me how much effort and time I wasted driving to a university and then walking from building to building. Bus passes aren’t cheap either and bus stops are often quite a hike from the place you need to be. Distance learning is so efficient and budget-friendly when it comes to transport! Of course, I did have the health benefit of biking to school when I lived close enough but I didn’t particularly enjoy rainy or hot/cold weather. Now I often sit on my recumbent bike in my living room and with a laptop tray, I can work on classes and bike in temperature-controlled comfort for as long as I wish.

Thank Goodness the Virtual Doors are Wide Open

Anyone can participate in distance learning. There are programs open to anyone, no matter what challenges you face. If you have mobility issues you can still take classes. If you are painfully shy you can enjoy a class without facing a crowd. If you feel uncomfortable in a class full of twenty-somethings because of your age, distance learning erases that issue.

Scheduling can be a Breeze

Easy scheduling is another big bonus. If you prefer to work on classes at 3 AM, you can usually do that if you choose the right school! If you want to take 2 or more classes at once, there is no worry that you might end up with multiple classes at the same time. As long as you take a self-paced course, you can take them according to your own needs.

Appreciating Distance Learning and Your Family

Taking classes without disturbing the family routine has been a tough thing for many students in traditional schools. Sometimes it’s necessary to enter school at a time when you are also about to have a new baby in the family, already have children, or are caring for a parent or grandparent at home. Even newlyweds without kids have struggles with this since you might work during the day and if one person is taking night classes, you don’t get to see each other much. When you go through an e-learning program there are always ways around all of this. You may take classes while an older child watches the others or during naptime. You may do your coursework at night after spending the evening with a spouse or the whole family. You can get up extra-early and do your studies then. It’s really up to you!

Eco-Friendly and Lightweight

Traditional schools not only often require some books that still only come in print, but it is also often necessary that you use printed materials of some kind. You may need to take notes by hand because your computer isn’t portable. Exams are sometimes given on paper or specialized exam booklets. From the syllabus to the curriculum to printouts, a lot of paper ends up getting used. With e-learning this is usually down to a minimum. It is now becoming rare to need printed books for distance learning and your e-reader or tablet will do. Online lectures can be replayed and tedious notes aren’t required. Exams, quizzes and homework are typically given online. Fewer printouts are needed since you can switch quickly from one device to another and view materials on your computer, tablet, or phone. Until you get the most important bit of paper, you are in good shape, but that diploma still looks pretty nice framed and on the wall!