Archive for April, 2008

Is a Bachelor’s Degree Worth the Cost?

Apr 30th, 2008

Is a Bachelor's Degree Worth the Cost?
© jenn_jenn

Ask just about any high school counselor and you'll be told that earning a bachelor's degree is always worth it. However, sometimes students get themselves in over their heads – spending too much time, effort, and money on a degree that won't get them as far as they imagine. A recent Chronicle opinion piece by Marty Nemko gives us a much needed reality check:

"…Even those high-school students who are fully qualified to attend college are increasingly unlikely to derive enough benefit to justify the often six-figure cost and four to six years (or more) it takes to graduate. Research suggests that more than 40 percent of freshmen at four-year institutions do not graduate in six years. Colleges trumpet the statistic that, over their lifetimes, college graduates earn more than nongraduates, but that's terribly misleading. You could lock the collegebound in a closet for four years, and they'd still go on to earn more than the pool of non-collegebound – they're brighter, more motivated, and have better family connections.

Also, the past advantage of college graduates in the job market is eroding. Ever more students attend college at the same time as ever more employers are automating and sending offshore ever more professional jobs, and hiring part-time workers. Many college graduates are forced to take some very nonprofessional positions, such as driving a truck or tending bar"

Does this mean you should skip college and go straight into the workforce? Of course not. However, I do believe that students should thoroughly consider their options before applying to college. Enrolling in the most expensive online school and earning a BA in the humanities may land you $100,000 in debt with a $29,000 a year job. Attending college can be an extremely worthwhile experience, but it's wise to fully consider the costs.

Distributed Learning in the Defense Department: Rule of Thirds

Apr 30th, 2008

Distributed Learning in the Defense Department: Rule of Thirds
© soldiersmediacenter

According to a recent press release, a Defense Department online course is completed every seven seconds. Their Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative has grown significantly in the past decade.

Following to the "rule of thirds" they've been able to save time and money by switching to the online class format:

"You can save money by a third, and then either improve performance by a third or reduce time by a third – either one, but not both," Mr. Wisher said.

The Defense acquisition University at Fort Belvoir, Va., for example, spent $500,000 to convert its traditional defense acquisition course to a self-paced course offered through ADL. Instead of spending nine days in a resident course, plus two travel days getting to and from Fort Belvoir, students take a 25-hour online course "on their time, when they can do it," Mr. Jesukiewicz said.

The conversion offered other payoffs, too, he said. The course can now accommodate 14,000 to 15,000 students a year, not the previous 3,000. And it's cheaper for the Defense Department to maintain the course – $1.5 million a year vs. $6 million for traditional training.

Mr. Wisher doesn't predict any end to traditional resident military training, but said ADL offers a promising alternative or addition."

It's encouraging that many institutions are able to provide online training at a reduced cost. However, saving time and money should not be the ultimate goals of educational programs. Hopefully everyone will keep this in mind as online training programs grow.

Taking Online Classes During Summer Term

Apr 29th, 2008

Taking Online Classes During Summer Term
© hbushra

Many traditional students take online classes during the summer. Studying online can be a great way to squeeze a few extra credits in or retake failed courses, all without having to step foot on a campus. My latest About.com article shows you how to make the most of summer term online. Here's a blurb:

"Taking online classes during the summer can help you fit school into your vacation schedule. As a traditional student, your school probably has a strict policy regarding transfer credits…

Read your college's transfer policy. Your college's credit transfer policy will probably be found in the college catalog. This is a thick book that you received when you first registered for courses (not to be confused with the class schedule printed each semester). After reading the transfer policy for yourself, schedule an appointment with an academic counselor. He or she can help you understand the policy and answer any questions. Your college may require that you get course approval ahead of time or that your online courses are taken through an accredited school."

Check out the full article for step-by-step directions for transferring online credits to a traditional college.

Memorization Tricks

Apr 28th, 2008

Memorization Tricks
© desi.italy

Online students are often bombarded with information from textbooks, websites, chat sessions, and multimedia lectures. It can be difficult to remember what's important. MSN Encarta recently published an article that describes some of the best scientific memory tricks. Here's a blurb:

"Biologically speaking, we actually have two kinds of memory: short-term memory and long-term memory. Think of them as the front room and the back room.

The front room is what we're actively dealing with at any given moment. Call it consciousness. This room is small: Only seven or eight items fit in there at a given time, and nothing can stay in there for more than a few seconds. The back room is a warehouse. For all practical purposes, it's infinitely large. Incredibly enough, everything we ever learn or experience gets stored in long-term memory, and once it's there, it's there for life.

The question is, once a piece of information goes into that dusty back room where trillions of items are already stored, how do you find it again when you need it?"

Check out the full article to learn the twelve strategies that answer this question.

High School Students Enroll in Online College Classes

Apr 27th, 2008

High School Students Enroll in Online College Classes
© Wrote

A growing number of high school students are taking online college classes to test the waters and earn university-level credit. RedOrbit reports:

"…About a dozen PVHS students, and about 150 juniors and seniors from 90 of the state's 140 high schools…take UMaine college courses via the Internet each semester, said Jim Patterson, coordinator of the university's Academ-e program.

Since it began about two years ago, the program has carried about $800,000 worth of tuitioned college programming paid for by the universities, public schools and private institutions, Patterson said.

The program's goal, Patterson said, is to do as Hockridge said: to let ambitious and properly qualified high school students taste the rigors of university academia without costing themselves a dime.

"To me it's like an insurance policy," Patterson said. "Students get a sense as to what they will be needing in the fall [before enrolling in college], so they get to see what a strong college course is."

While concurrent enrollment has always been a popular option for advanced high schoolers, these online classes allow students to take college classes without the commute. Many online college classes are also available on weekends and evenings, making it easy for students to meet their high school obligations.

Open Book Exams in Online Classes

Apr 25th, 2008

Open Book Exams in Online Classes
© Baston

One major problem in online learning is the issue of testing. Without direct supervision, it is impossible to guarantee that a student is not cheating. Some online colleges solve this problem by requiring students to test under the direction of a proctor such as a librarian or other official. However, this method is often inconvenient and is not always effective (as we've seen when academically challenged college football stars get straight As in their online coursework, but fail their traditional classes). One option is open book testing.

Online professors can create timed, open book tests that are challenging and still require knowledge of the material to complete. There's no possibility of cheating, because students are allowed to use their study material. When open book exams are used, students should be be taught test-taking strategies so that everyone is on an equal playing field. A new study published in the Journal of Online Interactive Learning explains:

"This study investigated the impact of training in open book test-taking strategies on student test performance in online, timed, unproctored, open book tests. When the tutorial was required immediately before the midterm examination, the experimental group scored significantly higher than the control group. The effect size or magnitude of the difference in means was moderate. When the tutorial was completed immediately before the midterm examination but was not completed before the final examination, the experimental group's mean final examination score was higher than the control group's score, but the difference was not significant."

I'm a fan of open book testing because these exams mimic real-life work. Teachers are allowed to use dictionaries, doctors are allowed to use medial books, and lawyers are allowed to look up past case files. Rarely are employees asked to complete a task and not permitted to use reference material.

New Penn State Online Portal Targets Workforce Needs

Apr 24th, 2008

New Penn State Online Portal Targets Workforce Needs
© meyshanworld

A new Penn State web portal is designed to help adult learners find the training needed to thrive in the local workforce. The Daily Collegian reports:

"Melissa Kaye, senior editor of Penn State Outreach Magazine, said the program is different in that it focuses on local high-growth job opportunities.

"The goal is to help workers prepare for high-growth jobs in their regional economies," Kaye said.

"It's unique in that there are several national clearinghouses, but none are targeted to individual state workforce priorities," she added."

The new Penn State portal will offer information about online certificate and degree programs targeted to current state needs. The first states in the pilot program include California, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, and Colorado. More states are expected to follow after the web portal launch this summer.

The Three Types of Online Classes

Apr 23rd, 2008

The Three Types of Online Classes

Whether you like to learn independently or prefer to have face-to-face interaction with your professor, there's an online class that fits your style. KRIS TV recently published an article that discusses the three main types of online classes. Here's a blurb:

"Asynchronous Classes
Some online education programs are asynchronous. This means the instructor's teaching and the students' assignment completion do not happen simultaneously…

Synchronous Classes
Online programs can also be synchronous, with the instructor and students all "tuned in" to the class at the same time…

Hybrid Programs
Online learning also includes blended or hybrid programs. Blended classes combine online coursework with some on-campus, in-person class time, giving students the advantages of both learning environments."

Check out the full article for the pros and cons of each online class type.

Where to Earn Legitimate Life Experience Credit

Apr 22nd, 2008

Since yesterday's post about Excelsior College, several readers have asked about other life experience programs. The other two of the "big three" life experience universities are thomas edison State College and Charter Oak State College.

These are all legitimate programs with regional accreditation (the most widely accepted form of accreditation).

So, how do you tell a legitimate life experience program from a diploma mill? Look for these tell-tale signs:

1. Legitimate life experience programs are accredited. The best have regional accreditation.

2. Legitimate programs require students to prove their life experience by creating a portfolio of work or taking exams.

3. Legitimate life experience programs do not give credit for an entire degree at once. Instead, students must prove that they have the knowledge or skills required by each class.

4. Legitimate life experience programs require work. Students can't just fill out some paperwork and receive a degree in the mail. Proving their skills and filling the holes in their coursework takes time.

To learn more about these programs, take a look at: 4 Steps to Legitimate Life Experience Credit.

Excelsior: Life Experience College

Apr 21st, 2008

While most "life experience" programs are diploma mills, there are a few regionally accredited colleges that give legitimate credit to students who can prove their experience via testing or other methods. excelsior College is one of the most widely known universities to grant such credit. My latest About.com profile reviews the programs offered at Excelsior. Here's a blurb:

"Excelsior College is one of the "big three" online schools known for giving life experience credit. They have a generous credit transfer policy and create an individual degree completion plan for each student enrolled. Students at Excelsior College may get credit for their current knowledge and life experience by taking exams or completing portfolio assessments. Since much of the study required is done without direct supervision, students enrolled in Excelsior should be self motivated and able to work independently."

Check out the full Excelsior College Profile for more details.