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Posts from the ‘Online Learning’ Category

4 Ways to Collaborate in the Virtual Classroom

Since its beginning, online education has been criticized for its struggle to facilitate quality collaboration in the virtual classroom. In an effort to combat its critics, pioneers in the industry have tried almost anything – from required learning teams, to the adoption of discussion thread posts and conference calls, and even overhauled learning management systems.

As history tells us, holding students accountable for participation in a collaborative environment has proven to be a difficult task in the online classroom, but thanks to a few recent social trends it’s becoming easier with each click of the mouse. Whether you’re an instructor searching for ways to help engage your virtual students or a student trying to make a group project assignment work, consider trying one of these options to create a more pleasant online collaboration experience!

Document Sharing

If you’ve worked in an online group setting, you know that one of the most difficult tasks you face is combining every document submitted in to one “master” document. Good news! You can get rid of that headache by choosing one of these easy document sharing methods.

Google Docs

Google Docs simplifies the task of updating a running master document by allowing your entire group to access and make changes to the same document. Just log in to your Google Drive, open the desired document, make your changes and save for the group to see. If your students or classmates are concerned about access, rest assured – it’s free when you sign up for a Google account!

Evernote

If you’re looking for something a little more mobile-friendly, try Evernote. You can share documents, download the mobile app for on-the-go viewing, and even make lists of items still needed for project completion. Just share with your group members to ensure you’re all  on the same page. The basic account is free, but you can choose to pay for an upgrade that unleashes a whole list of sharing possibilities!

Face-to-Face Time

Google+ Hangouts

If you’re looking for a little face time with your document sharing, try hosting a Google+ Hangout!  Invite everyone in your group to a video conference call to discuss your changes to documents in Google Docs, talk through questions you have about topics in class, and work together to make your final product the best it can be. The best part is it’s free! If you’re interested, sign up for a Google account (also free) and you’re good to go!

iMeet

Do you take your studies on the go? iMeet can help you stay connected with your classmates or students wherever you may be. You can connect with up to 15 people at once, share documents, take notes and chat with attendees all from your computer, smartphone or tablet. This one’s not free, but the features are well worth the cost!

Trends in K-12 Education: Online Continuing Teacher Education

With each passing year, standards for student achievement in K-12 classrooms across the country continue to rise. Most recently, the wide-spread adoption of Common Core State Standards has forced a new focus on student achievement and application of real world knowledge and skills. In an effort to help students exceed these expectations and succeed in the classroom, proactive educators must seek continuing education that can be immediately translated in to the classroom.

With this goal in mind, online degrees and certificate programs have quickly become the solution. “Choosing between a certificate program and degree program should really be tied to the student’s goals,” says Dr. Karen Ferguson, Assistant Dean for Northcentral University’s School of Education.

Dr. Karen Ferguson -  Assistant Dean, School of Education

Dr. Karen Ferguson – Assistant Dean, School of Education

“A degree program will provide students with both a breadth and a depth of information in their chosen area.  A certificate, on the other hand, tends to be very focused and specific.  Students should choose between the two based on their personal goals and professional requirements.”

In today’s competitive market for online education, fewer requirements, a completion date that is often as short as a few months, and a lower cost for total tuition have given certificate programs the edge – for now.

“Certificate options demonstrate to your school leadership that you are dedicated to continuous improvement and learning,” explains Dr. Ferguson.  “Often, certificates are a nice addition because students can learn focused content that may not have been offered at the time they earned their degree.”

For example, earning an education certificate in early childhood education, e-learning or education leadership would serve almost any educator well. While these specializations are common among online schools, NCU’s School of Education has taken specialized to a higher degree by becoming hyper-focused on the needs of teachers across the country attempting to adapt to the Common Core State Standards requirements.

“NCU offers certificates in a number of areas, all of which will support our students’ goals.  One of our recent additions is the Mathematics Excellence in the Common Core post-baccalaureate certificate.  This unique certification in education is designed specifically to help educators who are currently teaching mathematics to implement the Common Core State Standards,” says Dr. Ferguson.

Whether completing a degree program for advancement or a certificate program for added knowledge, online continuing teacher education is now the go-to solution for educators looking to prepare their students for success. For more information on all of NCU’s Title IV funded certificate and degree programs, visit www.ncu.edu.

5 Tips from Academic Advisors on Achieving Academic Success

At Northcentral University, the role of our Academic Advisors is not just administrative. Our advisors strive to be supportive and encouraging of our students, advocating for their success.  NCU’s Academic Advisors direct students to academic resources and especially in the online environment, act as consistent point of contact to help students navigate the University’s policies, procedures and various departments.

After many years of being privy to how students learn best, what works, and what holds them back, our Academic Advisors now present the Top 5 Tips that successful students use to complete their programs successfully:

Time Management: Students often report their biggest struggle is making time for school work. Balancing academic obligations with family, work and professional obligations can be difficult. If adequate time is not set aside for assignment completion, students can fall behind quickly. Managing time effectively is one way to show your commitment to the program and honor your professional goals.

Utilization of Resources: Many of our most successful students understand the importance of seeking a variety of diverse perspectives. Taking advantage of tutoring, peer and instructor feedback, and APA and library resources will ensure students are up-to-date on requirements, and ultimately make them more confident about their work. For doctoral students this is especially important because of the nature of the dissertation phase where there is much more back and forth between editing and revision.  The ability to incorporate feedback and synthesize information and insight from a wide variety of sources is something that successful students take the time to learn and do well.

Proactive Communication: Successful students communicate proactively and seek assistance as early as possible when experiencing difficulty with the academic process.  They do not wait very long for a response before reaching out in another way or seeking confirmation that an initial communication has been received. Academic Advisors and your instructors should be informed if extenuating circumstances are preventing you from submitting assignments in a timely manner. In this way, successful students work to resolve problems while they are manageable and before problems begin to snowball.

Professional Application:  Successful students often have a professional context in which to apply their learning that works to their advantage. Students who are passionate about their subject and who concentrate on networking and building a professional name for themselves while still in school will feel even more confident when approaching graduation and professional application.  At the same time, professional networking and experience in the real world application of a course of study facilitates a student’s ability to complete high quality coursework.  Successful students look early and often toward their ultimate professional goals and how the topics they research or the concepts they study will enhance their understanding and assist them in their professional life.

Confidence: Advocating for oneself can portray a student in a positive and confident way.  Our most successful students are able to communicate succinctly and considerately when defending their theories, coursework and desire to fully understand feedback or policy.  It is not uncommon for advisors to hear a student express concern that being assertive to self-advocate might lead to negative repercussions.  In fact, the result is just the opposite when critique and questioning of rationale is articulated respectfully and with a confidence to acknowledge any misunderstanding.

Time Management Exercise: Calendar Blocking

So, what exactly is calendar blocking? Put simply, it’s reserving blocks of time on your calendar for specific tasks. This exercise can help you save time, get well-organized and become a more productive version of your current self.

If this sounds like something you might benefit from, you’re right! Set aside some time to follow the steps below and get the process started for yourself, you’ll reap the benefits faster than you think.

Getting Started

First, select your calendar tool. Using Microsoft Outlook is ideal, but a simple day planner or desk calendar can work, too! When choosing your calendar tool, keep in mind that a weekly view is best. You’ll need ample room for writing in as many details about your day as possible!

Next, make a list of commitments you have in the coming weeks. A few things that may appear on your list are:

  • Work
  • Exercise
  • Study Time
  • Family Gatherings
  • Date Night
  • Extracurricular Activities
  • Doctor Appointments
  • Birthdays, Holidays and Important Occasions
  • Carpool Reminders
  • Car Care Appointments (oil changes, break checks, etc.)
  • Cleaning & Laundry

Take the time to prioritize the commitments you have on your list. For example, work and study time would be high priorities, while extracurricular activities might fall on the lower end. This exercise will help in in the next step – building your calendar.

Building Your Calendar

Once you’ve brainstormed and prioritized your list, it’s time to put it all on your calendar. Start with the most important commitments such as work, doctor appointments and study time. Then, make your way down the list of priorities.

Remember that it’s important to know the difference between a flexible commitment and a mandatory commitment when you’re glancing at your time management tool in the future. To help with this, Outlook users can assign a specific color to each prioritization, while day planner users might grab a box of highlighters in assorted colors.

Here’s a look at what an effective blocked Outlook calendar might resemble.

Calendar Blocking

Making it Work

Anyone can color in areas of a daily calendar to make it look pretty and efficient, but making your calendar blocks effective is more difficult. Here’s how you can make it work.

“I’m having trouble sticking to the allotted time in my blocks!”

If you have a watch, use it! Or, try using the stopwatch on your phone to ensure you move on to your next task on time. In order for calendar blocking to be effective, you must hold yourself to these time limits.

“I blocked this time and I don’t remember why!”

Are you having trouble remembering what you’re supposed to be doing during your “Work” block today? Next time, include as many details as possible for each block. If you have a list or summary of items to complete, you’re more likely to stay on task.

“I gave myself too much time!”

If you find yourself completing tasks before the allotted time has expired, adjust your calendar! You may not realize how efficient you are at cleaning the bathroom or completing your reading assignment. The good news is now you have extra free time!

Tips on Effective Communication for Online Students

One of the most difficult skills for online students to perfect is communication in the virtual classroom. From emails to instructors to discussion posts and final papers, the online student communicates almost entirely in the written word.  For those weighing a few options for advancing their education, this can be an intimidating realization. Whether you’re already an online student or are pondering the possibility of becoming one, help yourself form a few great habits by browsing the tips below.

Be Professional

This may seem like a no-brainer, but making sure there are no errors, using a proper greeting and closing, and maintaining a professional tone in all communications will help you stand above your classmates. Also, remember to proofread your submissions, no matter how insignificant the assignment, discussion post, or email might be. Your instructors will appreciate the respect given, and your classmates will admire your attention to detail. Want an added bonus? Your professional habits in the classroom are sure to carry over to the workplace!

Stick to the Academics

If you’re required to participate in threaded discussions or you’re communicating via email with your instructor, remember you’re in a classroom, not a chat room. Just because you found a little extra courage by hiding in the protective technology bubble doesn’t mean anyone wants to read details of your latest family argument, how your best friend totally stabbed you in the back, or the fact that your 2-year-old is getting an F- in potty training. In other words – stick to the academics. Your audience – no matter who that may be – will appreciate it!

Avoid the Frantic “HELP!” Emails

Having trouble with an assignment that’s due in 3 days and not sure what to do? Don’t stress out on the details for the first 2 days, and then frantically email your instructor five hours before the submission deadline. As soon as you find yourself questioning your ability to complete the assignment, reach out for help! This helps you avoid the stress while giving your instructor ample time to give you the help you need to complete the assignment successfully.

Save EVERYTHING

You’ve taken the time to craft the perfect discussion post or email, so do yourself a favor and save it somewhere! Try creating a folder on your computer or on a flash drive for every class you take – then use it. Emailing your instructor? Copy yourself and file any response you receive in your class folder. Receive some particularly awesome (or scathing) feedback on a paper? Save it. As you move along in your academic journey, you may find the advice, feedback and general support you received from your instructors helpful in future courses.

Accreditation 101: Regional vs. National

The U.S. Department of Education states that “the goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.” That sounds great, but how do you know which accreditation – regional or national – is best? Honestly, it’s not a question of which accreditation is best, but which accreditation best suits your needs.

Whether you’re looking for a traditional ground campus experience or searching for the right online program to give you the flexibility you need for your busy schedule, understanding accreditation and how it can impact your future is a must. Take a few minutes to expand your knowledge and become well-prepared for the great college search.

What is accreditation?

Let’s start with the basics. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to accredit is “to recognize [an educational institution] as maintaining standards that qualify the graduates for admission to higher or more specialized institutions or for professional practice.” Applying for accreditation from any organization is completely voluntary, which means that by choosing an accredited school, you’re choosing a school whose curriculum has been evaluated by peers in academia to ensure a quality learning experience.

In the United States, there are two kinds of institutional accreditation – regional and national.

What is regional accreditation?

Regional accreditation is granted to each institution by one of six organizations that focus mainly on academia and research-related areas of study.  Each organization focuses on a specific region in the United States, hence the name regional accreditation.

What is national accreditation?

National accreditation is granted by independent organizations that focus largely on career-oriented areas of study. Each organization focuses on accrediting schools that align with their organizational goals, no matter where they may be, rather than focusing on a geographical location.

Which is best for me?

For those still struggling to make sure they’re taking the right path, take a moment to really evaluate your future goals. As you do so, keep the following advice in mind.

  • If you’re planning on transferring credits to another school or pursuing further education in the future, your best bet is to stick with a regionally accredited institution.
  • If you’re looking for a trade-specific skill set that will serve as your last degree or as an addition to a degree you’ve already completed, a nationally accredited institution might be right for you.

How to Feng Shui Your Study Space

One of the most important tasks for students that are new to the online platform is finding an effective study space, but the work isn’t over once you’ve found it. Whether it’s an entire room or the corner of your kitchen, the next step is to make it the most effective space you can.

If you’re struggling to figure out where to start, seeking the direction of the Chinese art of feng shui is a good first step. You never know, maintaining positive energy through proper feng shui techniques might just be the trick to sailing through your degree program with flying colors! Browse the suggestions below to get started on the path toward study harmony.

Desk Placement

Make sure to place your desk in an area that has wall support. In other words, your back should be to a wall and you should face the entrance of your study space. This way, you know who is coming and going, which will eliminate the distraction of that nervous feeling you get when someone walks up behind you.

Decoration

Your favorite color might be orange, but this isn’t the best color for your study space. Make sure to use calming colors such as blue or green in your area.  This relaxes the mind and allows you to focus on writing that “A” paper! If you’re having trouble selecting the right color, check out these Feng Shui color tips.

Organization

A messy study space creates a cluttered mind. To avoid this, your study space should be organized and clutter-free at all times. Make sure to keep this in mind when shopping for the proper furniture (desk, shelving, filing cabinets) for your space. Looking for a little inspiration? Check out this Pinterest page for a few creative visuals.

Motivation

To maximize your study experience, surround yourself with things that make you feel great about yourself. Whether it’s a motivational poster, a picture of your family, or the last trophy you earned in little league, positive feelings create a positive outlook for the task at hand.

Finding Your Study Space

By Kara Hawking

Seeking out the perfect study space for your needs is a great first step to ensuring your academic success! Every student is different, but keeping a few things in mind when selecting your space can help even the most reluctant scholar.

FIGURE OUT WHAT MAKES YOU TICK AND USE IT!
Use what you know about yourself to select the best setting for your success. Some students prefer complete silence, while others enjoy a little background noise. Then there are those like NCU student Carolann Carruthers Hampton (Ed.D.), who can pull it off in a room full of family! Hampton manages to combine school and family time by studying “on the couch with headphones and classical music. This way [she] can still be with [her] children!”

MAKE THE BEST OF WHAT YOU’VE GOT!
Take a look around your home and think creatively. Many students don’t have enough space in their homes to dedicate an entire room to studying, so becoming resourceful is a must. Current NCU student Lisa Stitzel Brown (M.A.Psy.) shares, “I do most of my reading in the laundry room while doing laundry.”

IF ALL ELSE FAILS, DO IT ON THE GO!
Evaluate your day for hidden down-time and take advantage of it. Almost everyone spends time waiting for food at a restaurant, sitting in a stylist’s chair, or riding in the car to work. Use this time to listen to a lecture or take a few notes (but not while driving!). This seemingly useless time adds up by the end of the week!

If you’re still struggling with finding the perfect space, keep in mind that your options are endless. As an online student, you’re not confined to the four walls of the library or lecture hall – your studies are wherever you choose to be.

5 Proven Study Techniques

BY ERIN WALSH

Recite the states in the United States alphabetically, list all the presidents of the U.S. from George Washington to the occupant of the White House (when you were in grade school), and share the date of the battles of Lexington and Concord.

For most of us, of our early education consisted of memory assignments. Personally, I never forgot the mnemonic “my very educated mother just served us nine pickles” (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto – alas poor Pluto has since been demoted from planet status).

Why? Because according to common belief, memorizing and repeating information leads to greater learning outcomes. But, it turns out that many studies, dating as far back as 1890 (that would be President Benjamin Harrison), refute this. What else has been proven not to work? Re-reading, highlighting, and our favorite, funny mnemonics.

Henry L. Roediger published an article in the Association for Psychological Science in the Public Interest entitled “Applying Cognitive Psychology to Education: Translational Educational Science,” which points out that, contrary to these studies, the practices listed above continue to be quite common.

So what has science proven really works? According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and Dr. Rebecca Adams, associate director of faculty training at NCU, there are five proven study techniques:

1. Distributed Practice is the opposite of cramming for a test. Shorter and diverse study sessions – covering several topics that are distributed over a period of time, are more successful.

2. Retrieval Practice or Testing focuses on taking practice tests. By testing yourself, you practice retrieving information that is kept in an accessible state in your brain.

3. Interleaved Practice is a form of studying that mixes up different kinds of problems or materials in one study session. Multiple associations may be formed within a single study session that can then be recalled by a variety of cues. And, because the study tasks change frequently, studying this way is more engaging and less boring.

4. Elaborative Interrogation isn’t a technique from a Law & Order episode. The technique works by explaining why a fact or concept is true. This helps students make a connection between the new information they are learning and information they have previously learned. It is a strategy that works particularly well when comprehension is the focus, and students have pre-existing knowledge of the topic.

5. Self-explanation encourages students to explain how new information is related to known information, or to verbally explain the steps followed when solving a problem.

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