April 15, 2014
While there are an infinite number of strategies and tactics that can drive a student’s success, there are only a handful of reasons that may lead a student to crash in failure. But those reasons are MAJOR. And, oftentimes, hard to avoid. But not impossible.
By understanding the pitfalls that often plague students, you can better prepare for your own college success. Whether you are just learning how to navigate a work/life balance, or searching for a reason why going back to college is so much harder than you thought it would be, kick these 9 habits to the curb and give yourself a degree tune-up:
1. Poor Time Management
Work is calling. The kids are crying. Dishes are piling up in the sink. You miss a course deadline… or two… or three… We get it. Life gets busy. You can’t plan for everything. But you can plan for something.
The Fix: Set aside a few hours each day to do school work, uninterrupted, that will allow for your total focus on the task at hand. By planning your day or week in advance, and writing it down in a notebook, planner or on a post-it stuck to the fridge, will help you visualize what needs to be accomplished. Then you can make adjustments and arrangements as needed.
2. Not Keeping Up
We’re all guilty of procrastination. Putting off tasks until another day is going to happen in some way, shape or form while you pursue your degree. Telling yourself that you will just “do it later” will only hurt you in the long run. Getting totally lost in a course is a problem that happens far too often.
The Fix: Set personal deadlines that come before your course deadlines so you can assure that the work gets done in a timely manner. You may need that extra day or two to polish your work, or recap something you read earlier on. By staying on pace with your courses, even studying will come much easier to you; cramming for your courses is one thing you can leave behind.
3. Not Getting Enough Sleep
Ah, sleep. We can’t get enough of it, literally. With the hustle and bustle of balancing work, school and family, where is sleep supposed to fit in? But not getting enough sleep can hurt your test taking, studying and writing performance.
The Fix: Getting a good night sleep can actually improve your grades over pulling an all-nighter, help you to retain more information and much more. Find the balance that works for you so you’re refreshed and recharged to take on the day ahead, the right way.
4. Not Discussing Your Plans or Questions With Your Advisor
Not discussing your degree plans with your advisor could adversely affect the courses you take; who knew you didn’t need to take that class again?! Your advisor certainly did! Your advisor is the one that can offer the guidance and advice you need to finish your degree on time and as efficiently as possible.
The Fix: Your advisor is an invaluable resource. When in doubt, ask. As a Thomas Edison State College student, when you are in doubt, you can make an advising appointment through myEdison® 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Or, you can call the College’s Advisement Expressline to reach an academic advisor quickly without the need for a formal appointment, especially for questions that typically take less than 10 minutes for an advisor to answer. Remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question. Every question is important because it applies to you.
5. Not Having the Right Supplies, Materials or Equipment
You wouldn’t take a test without studying, right? And you really wouldn’t take that test if you didn’t even have the book to study from, right? It is crucial to obtain your course materials in a timely manner so you can engage properly at the very beginning.
The Fix: Plan to purchase your materials, test out your equipment and review the syllabus before the course begins so you can understand what’s required of you. And don’t forget to test out your technology; be sure to have a reliable computer with the programs you’ll need and a dependable Internet connection to actively participate in courses.
6. Using Google and Wikipedia as Credible Research Sources
Sure, Google can be a great resource to help you develop ideas, but it should never be the only source you use to look for information. And neither should Wikipedia. Simply put, these sites are not credible sources in an academic paper.
The Fix: Public libraries, online journal databases, and credible online websites (typically those whose web addresses that end in .org, .gov, .edu, etc.) are the most reliable places to gather research information. As a Thomas Edison State College student, you do have access to the New Jersey State Library and its special databases, articles, books, journals and more that can help you nail that next research paper.
7. Taking On More Than You Realize
“Biting off more than you can chew,” as they say, can be detrimental to your success in any course you take. When you begin as a new student, ready and eager to get started as quickly as possible, it may seem tempting to take two or three courses at a time, and underestimate the time commitment required. Falling behind then becomes all too easy.
The Fix: Speak to your advisor and get their insight into what they think may be an appropriate course load for your first term. Keep in mind any job, family or outside commitments, and consider how much time in a week you will be able to dedicate to school. This will help you assess the right amount of courses to take without sacrificing your grades.
8. Not Participating
In any course, class participation is key. Whether you are raising your hand in a traditional classroom, or posting a reply to a discussion thread, your presence is noted. And assessed. And graded. If you don’t participate as required, not only are you putting your grade in danger, but you won’t get the most out of your course. Which, at the end of the day, is the whole reason you’ve chosen to pursue your degree.
The Fix: Actively participate with quality responses, and be sure to answer emails promptly and efficiently. Sure, your mentor is watching, but your classmates are also hoping to learn from you, as you are from them.
9. Not Writing Down Due Dates and Assignments
If you don’t have a planner, get one, stat! It will be your fail-safe throughout your academic career. Notating your course assignments and deadlines is fundamental to your time management skills, and will help you plan your life accordingly to stay on track.
The Fix: Whether it be a planner, a Google Calendar or a mobile calendar and reminder app, find the planning tool that works for you. Include the due dates of all your assignments, exams and readings. Being able to quickly and easily reference your commitments is the easiest way to stay organized and on top of everything.
Are you guilty of any of these habits? How have you overcome them?
April 03, 2014
By Todd Siben, Assistant Director
Prior Learning/Portfolio Assessment
Concerned about the math requirements in your degree? Perhaps it’s been 20 years - or more - since you studied math. Depending on your degree program, fulfilling your math requirement may not be as difficult as you think.
First consider the degree you have chosen and the math requirement for that degree. Ask yourself, "Have I chosen a degree appropriate for my own ability?" For example, since you haven't studied math in almost 20 years, your math skills may be rusty. Perhaps the last math you studied was algebra, and you passed, but barely. Now you've chosen a degree that requires calculus I and II.
Taking that calculus course may require that you first refresh your algebra skills. Then you'll be better prepared to take the next logical sequence of courses. Math is taught in logical sequences, with concepts built upon previously learned concepts.
Consider Your Comfort Level
According to College mentors Ildy and Csaba Boer, "it is better to start with a lower-level math course even if it doesn't fulfill your degree needs. Students who lack basics often do not succeed when taking a course above their level. Instead of dropping down to a lower-level course, they repeat the higher-level course again, unsuccessfully, wasting both their money and time."
Consider Your Assets
As a self-directed, mature student, perhaps you are better prepared to study math now than you were years ago. You are more analytical, more disciplined and more driven toward degree completion. So, why be threatened by a math requirement?
Consider Your Degree
Some institutions require algebra for all degrees. Thomas Edison State College offers alternatives. If you have selected a liberal arts or human services degree, the math requirement can usually be satisfied with an "entry level" math such as MAT-105 Applied Liberal Arts Math. Although MAT-105 is a reasonable option, students often choose intermediate or college-level algebra because they've heard the word "algebra" before, so it seems more familiar than a course called "Applied Liberal Arts Math." This fear-of-the-unknown can result in the incorrect choice.
Perhaps you are pursuing a business degree that requires MAT-119 Quantitative Business Analysis. If you wait until the last few courses to complete this requirement, then find you are unable to pass the course and switch to a liberal arts degree with a lower math requirement, you may find that you now need additional credits to earn the new degree. This situation can often be avoided with a bit of advanced planning.
(Cue your advisor…)
Consider Your Options
Along with the many online math courses available to you, credit-by-exam programs such as CLEP and DANTES (DSST) standardized tests in math and statistics. Some investigate math courses by distance from other schools. Some students just prefer to take math as a classroom course at a local college whenever possible. Also consider that a statistics course can satisfy your math requirement for some degree programs.
Before you jump ahead and register for a math course, discuss the options with your advisor. In most cases, there are choices that will be a better fit for you, your learning style and your level of capability in math.
Ultimately the choice will not only have an impact on your success but on the amount of antacid and aspirin required to successfully complete the course. Choose wisely!
March 21, 2014
Even though students have done their research and decided that online classes are the best option for them, they still have tons of misconceptions about course expectations and requirements. We tracked down the most common myths students believe, and asked our mentors (yes, those mentors, the ones assessing your grades) to officially bust them, once and for all. Let the debunking begin…
Myth #1: Because it’s an online course, I don’t really have to spend that much time on it.
BUSTED BY: Dr. Sandra Harris, School of Business and Management
“Start with one course to acclimate to the online environment. It is necessary to get into the “classroom” several times a week. Be prepared to spend four to six hours per week on the course.”
Myth #2: It isn’t necessary to schedule or set aside blocks of “class time.”
BUSTED BY: Nora Carrol, School of Business and Management
“Online learning does not lessen responsibility; on the contrary, it can require more time and better time management than face-to-face learning. Expect to do a fair amount of peripheral research using virtual libraries and other online tools. A challenge too is timing, as physical classmates are together, but virtual classmates may be scattered worldwide, all juggling multiple activities in different time zones.”
Myth #3: My mentor is my teacher and should tell me what to do.
BUSTED BY: Dr. Mark Kassop, Heavin School of Arts and Sciences
“I love the adage that an online mentor is the “guide on the side,” rather than the “sage on the stage.” The role of a mentor is to assist students in the process of learning a body of knowledge. It is not the mentor’s responsibility to spoon feed adult learners that knowledge; having mature, self-motivated students helps a mentor to successfully be that guide on the side. I am still responsible for the subject matter, but I can now use it in a different way than I did when I was expected to be the “sage.” I can guide students to useful information, and I can challenge them to move beyond simple answers and partial solutions.”
Myth #4: I only have to put effort into my papers and exams; what I write on the discussion board doesn’t matter.
BUSTED BY: Jordan Goldberg, School of Applied Science & Technology
“[The Discussion Board] is what makes the online dialogue so interesting. Students respond to the topics in the course from various perspectives. I keep an eye on the introductions students post at the beginning of every term to determine how best to tailor my instructional methods to their needs… It is more conducive to learning to interact with other students in an online medium. You are not only learning the subject, but developing stronger written and communication skills that are vital in industry today.”
Myth #5: There’s nothing my classmates can teach me.
BUSTED BY: Dr. Gloria Frederick, John S. Watson School of Public Policy and Continuing Studies
“Many adult learners are already active citizens who bring practical experience to the theory and foundation of community development… by its very nature, the online learning platform and related discussion boards provoke collaboration among students seeking to share their professional views and examine the solutions they might have at their disposal.”
AND BUSTED BY: Robert Saldarini, School of Business and Management
“The wonderful variety of backgrounds, life and professional experiences of our students bring textbook assignments to life; the most influential examples come from our own students.”
Myth #6: I’m just a name on the computer screen so the mentor will never notice if I don’t participate.
BUSTED BY: Dr. Amy Hannon, Heavin School of Arts and Sciences
“Online courses demand far more direct involvement of a student who is typically submitting six written assignments per term in addition to taking exams. This requires an active mentor involvement in critiquing their writing, which results in exchanges that often surpass the interaction found in a classroom-based course. All the while, there is the obligatory flow of discussion board postings. In our online courses, no one can opt to sit in the back row and sleep.”
Myth #7: Online discussion boards don’t allow for the same participation that a traditional classroom discussion can offer.
BUSTED BY: Dr. Khaled M. Abdel Ghany, School of Business and Management
“Online classes allow many students to express themselves more freely and to ask more questions than the students in the classroom, who are sometimes shy to speak up in front of everyone.”
AND BUSTED BY: Dr. Robert Price, Heavin School of Arts and Sciences
“Online classes have many advantages that face-to-face classes do not. An online discussion gives everyone time to think about their responses and everyone gets “heard”.”
December 17, 2013
Did you choose your college?
That was a no-brainer.
Did you apply for admission?
Way ahead of you.
Did you enroll?
Did you register for your courses?
Ready to go, go, go!
Did you prepare for your first online course?
Wait – that’s a thing???
It is natural to be unsure about your first online course or unfamiliar with the expectations required of you. If you’ve only taken traditional classes in the past, the transformation to an online course can be challenging. While they are ideal interactive environments to learn if you are constrained by time and place, online courses do require time, effort and preparation to succeed.
Designed on a week-by-week timeline and guided by a detailed schedule, the number of assignments can vary depending on the course. Some may have a few long assignments while others have several short assignments. There may be textbooks and/or digital materials to read, videos to watch, as well as final projects, examinations and class discussions – all of which impact your final grade. While flexible schedules allow you to complete course work at your own pace, you can fall behind without strong time management and organizational skills. But, if you are realistic and self-disciplined, you can maximize the full learning potential of these vibrant and engaging classes, on your own terms. You can help ensure that your first online class will be a success by following these preparation tips:
Check your system requirements.
Familiarize yourself with all the technical components and software required in your course. Review your computer’s capabilities to guarantee that you will be able to access the required programs and documents without issue. This may include an updated Internet browser, proper document imaging programs, updated email information, an easily accessible Internet connection, and a webcam, microphone, or headset, if needed. Have a plan to address any technical difficulties should they arise so that you don’t fall behind in your courses.
Review the site and syllabus.
Much of the course content will be posted within a few days before an online course begins, or, if you are a Thomas Edison State College student, preview the course on the College’s website via the “Preview the Online Syllabus” link at the bottom of the course description’s page. This preview includes a view of the syllabus (which may be updated or revised when the actual online course begins), including course objectives and assignments, and shows you what books and other course materials are required.
As you review these materials, decide how you want to organize them. Create a binder or folder to hold course papers, the syllabus, notes, etc. for easy access when you need them.
Understand the course structure.
Acquaint yourself with the mentor’s expectations and review the submission schedule to get an idea of the reading and writing assignments and activities required of you to complete the course. Notate in a calendar all term due dates so you will know ahead of time if work or family commitments will impact the completion of your course work so you can adjust your schedule as necessary.
As most courses require textbooks or other course materials, purchase these items in advance so you do not miss any key readings or discussions.
Schedule your “class time.”
Designate a place in your home for your course work and materials, and make sure the environment will let you concentrate and focus. Map out a specific block of time, perhaps an hour before the kids wake up or an hour after dinner, to stay on track of your assignments. A common mistake students make in online courses is the perception that work can be done “anytime,” so they tend to not reserve any time at all. You may want to engage in informal discussions with classmates, which can provide real opportunities to exchange ideas and enhance the formal aspect of learning, or consult with mentors by email or phone. All of which spend unforeseen time and effort. But in developing a structured schedule for yourself, and sticking to it, you will be able to handle the workload and discover additional learning benefits along the way.
Plan for midterm or final exams.
While the start date of your course term is very important, and midterm and final exams may seem like a long way off, they often have a way of sneaking up on you. Some courses have a final paper or project in lieu of a final exam, while others utilize paper examinations or online, proctored assessments that typically require registration for a test appointment. Understand how your course exams work, and keep up with any readings, to plan and organize effectively. Be conscious of these far-off dates so you can avoid last minute cramming or late-night writing. Anything you can do in advance will only help you later as commitments pile up.
The key to excelling in an online course is commitment – to your assignments, examinations, projects, online discussions – and most importantly, to yourself. No one is going to tell you how and when to complete your assignments, or remind you of due dates and deadlines. Online classes are only what you make of them and by using the tools provided above, you can drive your classes towards success.
December 04, 2013
The Internet is certainly a wonderful thing. It has allowed us to stay informed about the political upheavals of countries thousands of miles away, stay connected with friends and family across oceans, take part in the latest viral dance craze, and of course, lets students from around the world obtain a degree by removing barriers like time and place. Because of the availability of resources at our disposal, we can find information on any topic, in any language, from any time, with the tap of a button through the 634 million websites available.
But like all good things, it can be misused. The sheer volume of accessible and free sources at our fingertips has provided for increased confusion and error, giving even greater rise to plagiarism than ever before. Plagiarism is considered the unattributed use of intellectual property protected under U.S. law (you can read more about that here). And while colleges and universities have serious disciplinary action policies regarding plagiarism, the practice can also prevent you from developing key writing skills.
Whether intentional or accidental, plagiarism can be avoided by simply including citations and acknowledging any borrowed content. Here are 5 essential tools to help you avoid plagiarism and ensure your work is original and accurate:
An online plagiarism detector, TurnitIn.com provides an originality report identifying any feedback or information that alludes to non-original work, even if the text has been reworded or reformatted. Typically a paid service, it is accessible for free to enrolled Thomas Edison State College students taking online courses. TurnitIn.com allows you to not only see your slip-ups and clean them up on your own, but the final originality report can also be submitted to your mentor as evidence of your efforts.
Another online tutorial service, Thomas Edison State College students registered in courses can use this tool for free. Live, expert educators are available to provide you writing assistance and personalized feedback on your work. To allow for the live nature of this resource, submit your drafts at least 48 hours in advance to receive your review.
Similar to the previous two tools, WriteCheck.com is another fee-based plagiarism checker, offering an analysis of your content, citations and sources cross-referenced with other works. The service also offers a grammar check to ensure a proper writing style, as well as professional tutoring services to critique your submissions.
More an option than a tool, Thomas Edison State College’s Request for Course Extension form can be obtained through your mentor if you require more time to complete an assignment because of an illness, financial difficulty or military deployment. You can use the 8-week extension time valuably to review and edit your paper on your own by conducting a Google search on select passages.
A resource that provides more how-to’s and explanations than services, Plagiarism.org describes different citation styles and a glossary of terms, while also providing guides on how to cite your resources, paraphrase, use quotes and more. If you are unsure about a source, plagiarism.org can give you a definitive answer.
Whether you are answering a question on a discussion board, or submitting a lengthy, footnoted research paper, you should be proud of what you have written; it is a reflection of you. Using the resources available to you to help critique your work can be an immense confidence booster when that final grade comes in. Ultimately, every writing assignment will help you develop and sharpen the writing skills necessary to lead you on the educational and professional paths of success that you have already begun by becoming a college student.
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