Tips For Finding The Best Distance Education Program

January 4th 2011

I’m happy to have another guest article today continuing the subject of online education.  See the last article on looking for a career change.  This one is written by another reader, Rick Mulligan, who felt most people interested in self learning may also have interest in online studies and so he offered to write this great article about how to find the best resources for study.

Distance education offers a flexibility that many students need in order to work and get the education needed to move up in today’s working world. More and more people are seeking out educations outside of the traditional campus courses, and with the new advancements in distance and online education it is becoming quite a popular choice. There are schools of all different types offering degrees and certificates in almost any subject. From accredited online administrative assistant schools all the way to distance education cosmetology degrees. Online training and IT courses available can lead to rewarding careers in the technology sector. When choosing a school there are many things to consider. I will offer some tips from my own experience and from the experience of others. Sometimes choosing a school can be frightening, hopefully this information will give you a heads up and aid you in your search for the school that is right for you.

Personal Checklist

This is perhaps, to some, the most important thing when it comes to deciding on the school that suits your needs. When you are looking for schools make your own checklist of qualities and requirements that you have personally set in place for your school. Dong this is a great way to shorten your list and eliminate personal problems once you have agreed on a school. Be sure to meet your personal requirements so that when entering the school you are completely prepared for all aspects of earning your education. This is a great tool and has benefited many students in their search for a school.

The Internet

Another tool that you have that is extremely valuable when deciding on a school, is the internet. Every school will have their own personal web page. This makes researching on the internet simple and a great way to acquire information. Make sure that you research all aspects of the school. This will eliminate problems with the school and other aspects of you education. When you visit the websites of the schools that you are interested in be sure to look at the course curriculum and requirements. Also check the school’s frequently asked questions page, you can usually answer many of your own questions by reading the FAQ.

Accreditation

Be sure to ask questions concerning the schools accreditation, this is an important part of choosing the school where you will earn your education. Accreditation is assurance to you as a student, that if you were to take your education elsewhere to a new online or distances school, or to a traditional classroom based program, you will be able to transfer credits. With out accreditation from a nationally recognized accrediting organization a school will not be eligible to participate in any government student assistant programs. Meaning that you as a student will have no means of financial aid or assistance. Grants and loans will not be an option, eliminating all the financial aid opportunities that may be available to you. If your college is accredited you are allowed the same rights to admission, registration, tutoring and other services that are provided to all other college students, regardless of the means in which your education is delivered. Also, some employers may offer tuition reimbursement. Most will not pay you back if the college that you attended is not a nationally recognized, accredited school. Keep this in mind when looking for the school that is right for you. The opportunities both financially and in regards to other student services that should be provided are very beneficial, you will exclude yourself from those programs if you choose a school that is not accredited.

Financial Aid, Scholarships and Payment Plans

The amount of tuition paid is something that all students and sometimes those students family members must deal with. When choosing your school look into all of the scholarship options that are available to you. Some schools may have different projects that can be completed for scholarship money. If there are opportunities for scholarships make the most of them. This can greatly reduce or even cover the money that will need to be spent on tuition. Financial aid is another avenue which is available to students who may not have the means of paying a tuition in full. Financial aid criteria may differ a small amount between institutions and states and the requirements may vary as well. Even if you believe that you may not be eligible looking into financial aid and filling out the required paperwork can never hurt. Any little bit counts when it comes to paying for college education. Some schools may also offer payment plans which works well for students and parents alike when working towards paying off your tuition. Ask about payment plan options and the requirements to be eligible for setting up this type of payment option. Most times you will pay in monthly installments which seems to make the payment process a little more simple. Don’t exclude yourself from any of these financial options you may be eligible to exercise the use of all three.

There are many schools out there that are offering degree programs in all different types of education paths. When choosing your school keep the things that I have mentioned in mind, and keep your own personal checklist in mind as well. I hope that these tips will aid you in discovering the school that suits you best.

Success as a Student

Now that we have covered a little on choosing the institution that is right for you, lets talk a little about success as a student. Once you have your school and course picked out, you now have to begin the process of earning your education. There are many tips available to you as a student that can be greatly beneficial to your overall success as a college student, and eventually a college graduate. Here are some that have aided many students in the process of earning their educations.

Find the Studying Habits and Methods That Work For You

Every individual learns differently and should base their method of study upon that. It has actually been proven that studying in short busts, rather than studying for long periods of time, is much more effective. Try this technique and form a routine based upon how studying this way works for you. Some people may find that for them the way that they’ve always studied or been taught to study works best. This could be because it is the way you were taught or because it is the way you formed study time for yourself. Either way sticking to what works for you is always best when it comes to studying. If you have bad study habits breaking free from those can be difficult but is almost necessary if you want to succeed in your college education. Try starting to study more regularly and once again go based upon how you learn and the study method that seems to work best for you as an individual. There is plenty of helpful information online from college students just like you, who are working their way through. Sometimes talking to other students is a great way to get ideas for studying. Getting creative while studying can help make the process seem less mundane. Try having group study, personally this always worked best for me. This way you are having a bit of a social gathering, human to human feed back and more often than not, if you are one who isn’t fond of studying, there is someone in the group that can hold you accountable. This way seemed to make studying much more interesting. Having the feed back from others can help you keep focused. Whichever way seems to work best for you is probably…best for you!

Exaggerate

At cross country practice I always ran around 6 miles even though our actual meets were only 2 miles long. Same applies to other things. When you exaggerate the learning process everything that comes after seems to be a little easier. Knowledge is such a powerful tool and using it can get you many places in life. You may be learning to get the job that you’ve dreamed of your whole life. Some may be learning just because of a thirst for knowledge or an interest in a certain subject. Whatever your reasons may be remember how important knowledge is and exaggerate that with your learning and your college education. This way everything after will seem like a piece of cake. That job you wanted will be a breeze if you are well educated in your field. Same with anything else.

The opportunities that our generation has are amazing and nearly endless. With the advances in technology, distance and online education we have doors open to us that we should definitely take advantage of. Remember to explore your options and keep your personal needs in mind. Take the opportunities we have and run with them, in whatever direction you want!

Rick Mulligan is a career counsellor living in Oregon, U.S.A. When Mulligan is not working, he is spending time with his family, and advocating for distance education through online universities.

Posted by Mike King under Life | 6 Comments »

Take Back your Life: Looking for a Career Change

December 17th 2010

I have another great guest post to share this week on the topic of career change. The article is written by Olivia McHenery. I’m happy to see her using a concept from three signs of a miserable job, a fantastic book by Patrick Lencioni, I just recently reviewed.

Have you ever caught yourself saying these things or asking these questions?

  • “I hate my job.”
  • “I never have time to do anything I want because of work.”
  • “I never get to see my family.”
  • “I thought life began after college?”

Do you hate your job? Maybe at scientific animations? Is your career keeping you from living a life as fully as possible? You’re not alone: Recent studies have found that 6 in 10 workers are unhappy in their current job(s). Job security has become increasingly scarce and is more important to many people than actually loving what they do. However, if you are laboring in a career you genuinely don’t enjoy, you may be hurting yourself more than your paycheck is helping. The stress associated with working in a job that is not satisfying and/or stimulating can take years off your lifeline, take a toll on your family and marriage, and cause full blown depression and anxiety attacks.

Nevertheless, before you march into your boss’s office and quit, assess whether or not you are exhibiting the three signs of job misery:

1.) Anonymity – Feeling that management and leadership does not care about or value you as an individual with a unique life, goals, and interests.

2.) Irrelevance – You do not see how your job makes a difference, or impacts anybody’s life in any way. The tasks you do have no meaning or end result that you can tangibly see and/or feel.

3.) Immeasurement – Inability to measure your successes and contributions to your employer.

If you are experiencing all three of these signs, it is time for you to really consider whether or not you want to stick with your current job, or start looking into a career change. Despite any reluctance, you must ask yourself, what is your joy and happiness worth to you? There are several steps you need to go through when planning a career change, and they certainly do not begin with quitting your current job. You can start your career change plan years in advance, putting yourself in a better position when it’s time to take the plunge.

1.) Assess what you like and what you dislike.

Even if your current job is the worst thing you have ever done, there is bound to be at least one thing about it that you enjoy. Can this enjoyable aspect of your job become a new career path for you? And in finding the activities you loathe about your current position, ask yourself what, if anything, would make these activities more enjoyable. From here, make a list of activities you really enjoy outside of the office and add this to your “likes” column. The key point in doing this exercise is rediscovering yourself; your passions, and what motivates you.

2.) Research new and alternative careers, focusing on what you discovered in step 1.

Now that you have rediscovered your passions, spend some time identifying careers that will center on these passions or will be complimented by them. Talk to professionals you respect about your decision to change careers and pick their brain(s) for ideas that will allow you to utilize your passions and form them into a career.

3.) What are your transferable skills?

Don’t underestimate the skills you have acquired in your present occupation. Use your current skills, experiences, and talents that are applicable to your chosen career path and accentuate them. Most likely, you already possess a good pool of skills that will transfer seamlessly into your new career.   It’s also a wise idea to become familiar with at
least one software product that can be used in many office jobs, such as Quickbooks Online for Accountants.

4.) Education, Training, and Schooling

An old adage states, “You never stop learning.” Be that as it may, your learning can become stagnant and your knowledge irrelevant. When plotting out a career change, it may be necessary to enroll in some online courses to supplement your skills with some new knowledge. This will apply regardless of what your new career path is. Want to be a massage therapist? Enroll in an online massage therapy school. Interested in pursuing accounting? You can get your MBA online in as little as two years. With enough planning, forethought, and perseverance, you can have a degree that will be relevant to your chosen career path before you leave your current job.

5.) Networking

Many professionals who are making a career change think they must build a new network from the ground up, neglecting the network they already have in place but are not fully cognizant of: family, friends, and colleagues. Utilize them for job leads and advice, and plug in to social gatherings that will help advance your career. In addition, join a professional organization or guild for the career you are shooting for, and attend their meetings, and be active on their message board(s).

6.) Internship or volunteer position

Remember that you are basically starting your career from scratch again. Taking an internship (paid or unpaid) or a volunteer position within your chosen field is an outstanding way to get valuable experience that will make you far more attractive as a job candidate.

7.) Search out an adviser

Preferably someone who has had success in your chosen field, but is also familiar with the potential pitfalls and traps that lie ahead. You can also plug into your adviser’s network and find your future job this way. If you don’t feel comfortable asking somebody to be your adviser, man up and drop your pride off at the door; most professionals will be honored that you are asking them to advise you and will be glad to take you under their wing.

8.) Consider changing careers, but not employers

Since you already have your foot firmly in the door at your current employer, inquire as to whether they have any positions there that will line up with your new career. It may be as simple as transferring departments, saving you months of time and hassle in the job search.

9.) Brush up on your job-hunting skills

Things have changed significantly in the job-search world in the past 10 years. There are numerous free tutorials online that will prepare you for what’s out there in the job hunting wilderness, and will equip you with the weapons you will need to survive and thrive.

10.) Be open-minded

Things are most likely going to change for you dramatically now that you’re changing careers. You need to keep an open mind and be flexible regarding your status, pay, benefits, and relocation. Expect some bumps in the road and maintain a positive attitude that while change is hard, change is also good. Set progressive goals for yourself with reasonable time tables and feasible outcomes. Ironically, quitting your current, misery inducing job may be a very hard decision for you to make. There is going to be a certain level of fear and trepidation that will nag at you while you are running through the ten steps, and you may want to throw in the towel and play it safe because of this. Just remember WHY you are pursuing a new career path and play your life’s tape forward: How satisfied with life do you want to be in 20 years?

Bio: Olivia is married and the mother of 3 daughters. She studied Communications and Business in college. She works in maintenance for an online schools website. In her spare time she likes to create bouquets and various flower arrangements for miscellaneous events.

Posted by Mike King under Business | 6 Comments »

How to Empower Someone to Become a Learner

September 27th 2008

The desire to learn is not an easy trait to pass to others and while I have many of my own approaches to learn new things, there are countless other methods for learning that others use as well. None of those can simply be taught to anyone you cross since everyone learns with their own methods.  Not only that, but the desire to learn is something that has to come from an individual and cannot be expected without that person accepting to learn new things.  I believe that anyone who is a strong learner in life has great advantages in creativity, perspective, knowledge and many other areas.  If you can empower just one other person to become a learner themselves, you have given them a great gift!

This articles covers some of the methods I’ve learned to help empower others to become learners themselves.

Lead By Example

One of the most obvious and important ways to inspire others to learn is to ensure that others know you are learning yourself.  Make your actions speak for themselves when it comes to learning.  Talk about the things you learn and how you learned them.  Ensure that people know when you’ve learned something new by reviewing it with them or by presenting it to them.  Spend time studying and practising new methods and processes that you see.  Volunteer to teach new people in your work area everything about the job and make sure they know some of the resources you use for learning yourself.

Keep books on hand and talk to others about books they read.  Spend some time everyday reading books as it is the best resource for new material that exists still.  The internet is certainly an option as well but if its in the workplace, the internet is still often considered as a time waster, not a learning tool, so you should make other methods of learning more visible in the workplace.  Take some action with these as examples in your life and ensure that you are leading by example.  Doing this automatically attracts others to do some of the same things or use the same resources even without you hinting or asking them to.  People tend to copy others and if they see you learning, they will likely commit some learning themselves.

Demonstrate the Value of Learning

Sharing your success stories and failures is a great way to demonstrate the value of learning.  Take away from all your major activities something learned and share that with others.  Whether it is some life experience or project you have been on, look at what the things are that you learned from that and share that with others.  Look at how the mistakes you’ve learned from have improved you or helped you avoid such mistakes again or look at how you’ve repeated successes and learned to excel in those areas.  Demonstrating these type of results as a value of learning will help to inspire and motivate others to take learning more seriously themselves.  People value what impacts them and those they love so if you can demonstrate how learning something will improve their lives or those they love, you are much more likely to influence them into becoming a learning in that area.

Motivate with Rewards and Measures

If you are working to empower a friend, child, colleague or direct report, you should closely examine what kind of rewards and measures you use to encourage them to learn on their own.  Noticing new things learned is the easiest but often overlooked.  People want to be recognized so simply telling them what you noticed they were doing to learn more impressed you, or say thanks to them to encourage this type of behavior.  You may want to look at offering something for those who learn something new, or solve a problem by studying it or perhaps simply reading a book or fixed number of books.  Simple rewards can be very effective here especially for children.

The best kind of reward to give is one that is given without any prior promise or intent.  Do not tell someone you will give them a reward if they go learn something.  Instead, challenge them in different ways and then when they do learn something on their own, reward them for that spontaneously.  You don’t want someone to only learn if there is a reward at stake so its important that the rewards be random and spontaneous.

Measuring progress towards a goal of learning or self learning is also very helpful, especially if you have someone who you know is already working on becoming a more active learner.  Put some metric into place like the number of hours spent or the number of books read or the number of new things completed each week.  These types of measures can be highly motivating if you are a friend, parent or colleague with the intent to improve and help that person.  Don’t make it a person favor or competition, simply encourage them to become a more active learner.

Make resources Available and Easy to Access

Some people don’t know where to start when having to learn something new and this is where resources come in.  You can help provide the tools, people, training, courses, material or whatever else is needed to encourage someone to learn and empower them by eliminating any roadblocks.  You want to get as many things out of their way as possible so that the learning is easy.  Once there is a habit of learning and a desire, you can help them to get obstacles out of their way themselves.  These obstacles are things like having access to the learning materials, money to attend seminars and courses, lists of books and online sources for information, public library access, a network of people and friends who you can discuss and learn from and any other resources that would help someone learn.  Share any resources you’ve used for learning and lend out books and trade content.  Join a club that does this or look for used material or items to trade.  Introduce people to others with similar interests and learning habits so that as many resources that a person might need to learn from are readily available.

Let People Learn With Your Own Style

With all those resources listed above, not everyone is going to use them all or even like the idea of them all.  Find out how a person likes to learn and let them have their own style for content and practice.  It doesn’t matter how someone learns or even what they learn if you can empower them to become a life long learner.  Someone who learns today will continue to learn tomorrow and they will stimulate themselves to explore new areas and branch their learning experiences into new and different topics with various methods.  You should allow others to learn by their own tools and methods.  If you look at all the other headings from this article, they can each be accomplished while still letting a person learn with their own style so don’t push them into your style of learning and let them discover what works best for them.  There is certainly no problem with giving them suggestions or explaining what has worked well for you to help empower them, just make sure it is their own choice as a learner needs to have their own style of learning if it is to last.

Start Small

Empowering someone is a difficult task to accomplish so you should always start small.  You don’t want to make any massive changes or expectations on someone that overwhelms them and discourages them from being engaged in new learning activities.  Begin with simple straightforward things that you already know they can handle and build upon that to have consistency and repeatability in learning actions.  Ramp those activities up over time and make sure that you don’t accelerate too fast.  Keep in mind that you likely have a much higher ability to sustain a learning mindset and workload than someone you are looking to empower with that attitude so you need to ensure you allow them to grow and learn at their pace.  Make sure you recognize any and all progress since you want to encourage more learning and any increases in learning focus is valuable.

Set Goals and Plans

Goals and specific plans should help you to empower someone to become a learner as well.  Work with to set a specific goal that they can accept about their level of learning and ability to learn.  Something that is measurable and demonstrates an ability to learn and willingness to learn instead of a specific learning task.   Don’t teach or look for facts, content, or knowledge in these goals,  instead, teach them HOW to learn, how to think, how to approach things.  Give them space to become an individual with their own creative mind and an ability to find solutions to problems and a desire to hunt down that solution themselves.  Set the goals to help focus them and use them as a guide to review progress and help them get to a level of ability they are happy in achieving.  Continue to expand those goals over time as they are accomplished and look for new ways to complete each goal to help expand their learning capacity and ability.

Final Thoughts

Keep them away from the systemic teaching systems (like classic schooling and courses) that do nothing but spoon feed information, training memorization instead of thinking and ensure that every distraction and control is bound around a very rigid and non-flexible teaching style.  These methods are failing now to build students with individual minds and are producing less and less people with the ability and willingness to learn throughout their life!  Make sure to encourage “out of the box” thinking since thinking has become so conditioned in today’s schooling that few people ever come to realize the dangers of that system.

If you empower a person to learn, they become a learner and teacher for life with an immense ability to take on and excell with any new challenge!

Posted by Mike King under Learning | 4 Comments »

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