Archive for August, 2008

How to Save on College Textbooks

Aug 31st, 2008

How to Save on College Textbooks
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, David H. LewisA student I know recently priced this semester's textbooks at the university bookstore at over $600. Since most online colleges are still using traditional textbooks, your costs may be comparable.

If you're looking for a way to save, check out my About.com article: How to Get Your Textbooks for Cheap or Free.

Here's a blurb:

"Textbooks can cost a small fortune. It seems that every year the required texts get heavier and the prices get higher. According to one study, the average student will pay almost $1,000 for books during a single year. An undergraduate student may end up paying up to $4,000 on books before he or she receives a degree. Unfortunately, distance learners don't always escape this fate. While some online schools offer a virtual curriculum, free of charge, the majority of online colleges still require their students to purchase traditional textbooks with hefty price tags. Books for one or two classes could total in the hundreds. However, showing a little shopping savvy could save you a significant amount of cash."

Don't go straight to your online college bookstore without considering your other options first. If you know where to look, it's possible to save hundreds on your course materials.

Online Learning Socialization

Aug 31st, 2008

Online Learning Socialization
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, Image# 6680981

Some critics complain that online learners miss out on the socialization provided by traditional schools. This is probably true in some respects. However, new research from the North American Council for Online Learning shows that online schools offer unique socializing opportunities that aren't always available in brick-and-mortar classes.

Here's a blurb from their latest report:

"Online schools, in contrast, often put significant resources into creating ways to foster appropriate
social interaction. This effort stems in part from the concern that students may otherwise be
isolated, but it also builds on the recognition that the online environment is a natural way for
Millennial students to interact, and that the Internet allows for student-student interactions across
geographical boundaries that transcend the possibilities within physical schools. In many ways online
programs offer socialization opportunities that go beyond what most traditional schools can provide,
whether it is taking part in a discussion with students from another country, or meeting students
from across their state on a field trip or science competition. In addition, the online environment
eliminates, or greatly reduces, issues that may create social friction, such as appearance, gender,
age, ethnicity, physical disabilities, academic progress (e.g., at-risk or drop out students) or socioeconomic
status."

Check out their website to read the full study, Promising Practices in Online Learning: Socialization in Online Programs.

How to Ace Your First Week of Online Classes

Aug 31st, 2008

How to Ace Your First Week of Online Classes
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, George Pchemyan
Many online students are beginning a new semester this coming week. If you're wondering how to make this year your best yet, take a look at my article: The 10 Most Important Things You Can Do During Your First Week in an Online Class.

Here's a blurb:

"The first week in an online class can be a little disorienting. New students must learn to navigate a virtual "classroom," interact with their peers and professors without actually seeing them face-to-face, and balance their assignments with their everyday lives. These ten tips can help you succeed in your online class from the moment you begin."

Online learning can be intimidating to the new student. But, with a little know-how, it's easy to get the hang of learning outside the traditional classroom.

Does Your Online College Care What You Do During Off Hours?

Aug 31st, 2008

Does Your Online College Care What You Do During Off Hours?
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, Guillermo Perales Gonzalez

The Universities Weblog recently published an interesting post discussing colleges that require certain behavior from their students – even in their personal lives.

Online college students should be aware that some virtual programs also mandate that students meet their standards, no matter where they are.

The virtual degree completion program at BYU, for example, requires that students follow a strict honor code. Here's a few of the standards that they have to agree to:

"BYU faculty, staff, and students should avoid swearing in speech and writing; coarse expressions derived from profanity; displaying of pictures, posters, and other forms of expressions which are crude or suggestive; and expressions that depend upon allusions to crudity for effect…

Any consumption of alcohol, in any form, is a breach of the Honor Code. The following are examples of serious noncompliant behavior related to alcohol use:

* Being present where alcohol is being consumed by others
* Personal consumption of alcohol socially or as a consequence of alcoholism
* Furnishing alcohol to others
* Having alcohol in one's apartment"

If you're worried about how your online college's policies may affect your personal life, check out their honor code. This is especially true if you're enrolled in a religious institution.

Two Thirds of Colleges Now Use Green Technology

Aug 31st, 2008

Two Thirds of Colleges Now Use Green Technology
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, Image# 5555379

A recent study found that two thirds of colleges are currently using some type of environmentally friendly technology, such as the implementation of online classes.

Green.TMCnet.com reports:

"Based on the findings of a recent study by the member schools of the Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education (ACUTA), two-thirds of colleges and universities are leveraging green technologies to save energy and aid the environment.

According to the surveys findings, universities are taking these steps by launching initiatives like distance learning and online education programs to reduce the need for students and faculty to commute and to reduce the amount of energy used to run their schools. Sixty five percent of those surveyed said their schools are buying new equipment and instituting these polices."

Lately, there's been quite a bit of discussion of online learning as a green practice. Will this lead to the use of paperless textbooks? Will more colleges make online learning mandatory rather that a convenient option? It will be interesting to see how this concept develops.

Student Loan Crisis?

Aug 28th, 2008

Student Loan Crisis?
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, Amanda Rohde

Some students have found it difficult to secure loans for the coming semester. Although federal loans are still available, many private lenders are pulling back on their student loan offerings.

Recently, NPR's All Things Considered broadcast the story of two Pennsylvania students who struggled to find loans all summer. They report:

"Marlo Johnson and emmanuel Garcia are top students, who would be the first in their families to go to college. Their frantic search for money to pay for tuition has become an all-too common ordeal for many poor and middle-class students and their families."

Even when students do find loans, they often pay much higher interest rates than the graduates of a few years ago.

If you plan on attending a virtual program any time soon, be sure to check your financial aid and loan options with a counselor at your chosen school.

How to Design a Study Schedule That Works

Aug 28th, 2008

How to Design a Study Schedule That Works
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, Bart Coenders

Learning how to set a personal schedule is one of the most difficult challenges online learners face. Many virtual colleges have lax deadlines, allowing students the flexibility to learn at their own pace. However, when faced with work routines, family obligations, and other obstacles, far too many students fail to complete their coursework all together.

Pick the Brain recently published a useful article called How to Stay Productive When You Make Your Own Schedule. They explain:

"Studying for exams, freelance contracts or working on bigger projects can mean freedom with your schedule. But it can also mean procrastination, stress from deadlines and an organizing nightmare. Working on your own schedule can be easier. However, there are more ways to waste your time if you aren't being paid by the hour…

Whenever you start a new project, start taking classes again, or simply run into a block of flexible work time, you will need to set up a schedule. A good schedule is one that accomplishes the work you need to do and you actually stick to it. Unfortunately many people forget the second step and make impossible schedules that would require a machine to follow."

If personal scheduling is a challenge for you, take a look at the full article for a handful of useful tips.

Best Web Applications for College Students

Aug 27th, 2008

Best Web Applications for College Students
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, Image# 3000132

ReadWriteWeb recently published a very helpful list of 10 web applications for college students.

Here's what they have to say about it:

"For a lot of college students, the new semester is just around the corner. Last year, we created a long list of great Web 2.0 tools that we thought would be helpful for college students.

But given how fast things develop on the web, we thought we would revisit this topic again this year and look at some of the most useful Web 2.0 tools that have the potential to help students do better in school, collaborate with their fellow students, and save them time."

If you're interested in no-cost note taking programs, document creators, bibliography generators, or organizers, the list is definitely worth a look.

Kindle Creator to Target College Students

Aug 27th, 2008

Kindle Creator to Target College Students
© jaydenlove

According to some reports, Amazon.com plans to market its new version of the Kindle to college students.

Seattle PI reports:

"Amazon is working on a new version of the Kindle, and sees a big opportunity to market its e-book reader to college students, McAdams Wright Ragen analyst Tim Bueneman said Friday in an e-mailed note based on meetings with management.

"There are already several new, improved versions of the Kindle in the works," he wrote. "But AMZN has no plans, however, for an MP3 music audio version. We guess the new version will have improved interface operating controls. This has been an issue with some buyers."

Hopefully, the new version of Kindle will come with a discounted price as well. The device has a lot of potential for on-the-go online learners. But, the current price tag of $359 is prohibitive for many student buyers.

Kindergarten: Too Young for Online Learning?

Aug 27th, 2008

Kindergarten: Too Young for Online Learning?
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, Ekaterina Monakhova

Are five year olds too young for online learning? Not according to the Virtual Kindergarten program in one Pennsylvania school district. Their students augment traditional learning methods with computer lessons.

The Journal reports:

"The virtual school includes interactive lessons to augment literacy, numeracy, technology, and science standards, as well as individual lessons that cater to a specific child's needs. Lessons during the 2007-2008 school year included a dinosaur counting game, story reading, and number counting practice. The site provides links to other online resources for the activities that students and their parents participate in."

I'm a big fan of technology. But, sometimes I think our youngest students benefit more from human interaction, reading, and "real world" activities than from software suites.