What You Can Learn From Your Mentor Outside the Discussion Board

Posted Friday, July 11, 2014

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

More than 250 years later, Benjamin Franklin’s words still ring true when it comes to the academic relationship between student and mentor. It’s a common misconception that a mentor and teacher are one in the same. While both work with students and grade assignments, teachers focus on instruction and presenting information. A mentor’s role is to facilitate your learning and assist you on the path to earning your degree.

But how might they do that? And why? Glad you asked!

They may ask you to explain your reasoning, provide feedback on your latest assignment or encourage you to pursue a research topic you are passionate about. They inspire and motivate you to take responsibility of your education. And usually, what your mentor teaches you offline, can be just as important as what you learn online.


Mentors can be a valuable networking source.

With their academic background and professional experience, mentors can be the connection you need to advance your career. Dr. Dwayne Hodges, mentor in the School of Applied Science and Technology, recognizes that course mentors are industry practitioners and experts. He believes students should take advantage of their mentors’ knowledge and expertise to cultivate relationships and build a network of contacts for future opportunities. When a student is ready and willing to learn, he makes every effort to help them reach both their course and personal learning objectives, often meeting students in-person to discuss the subject matter over coffee or connect with students on LinkedIn. So maximize every chance to avoid “just being a name” and stand out in your courses, because your mentor could very well provide the best endorsement of your work ethic, skills and strengths. 


Mentors empower you to take responsibility of your learning.

When it comes to your coursework, how you choose to apply that information is up to you. In other words, no one is telling you that you have to write an essay detailing the circumstances of a historical event or complete a math worksheet of long division problems, characteristic of a childhood education. As an adult, your mentor will provide you with the opportunity to use your existing experience and knowledge, and apply it to a project or assignment. Or you may decide to use your coursework as a chance to develop a work-related interest. In the end, the more active and hands-on your learning experience, the more memorable (and fun) your education will be.


Mentors encourage your critical thinking skills.

“I can guide students to useful information,” says Dr. Mark Kassup, mentor in the Heavin School of Arts and Sciences. “And I can challenge them to move beyond simple answers and partial solutions.” In other words, there’s a reason your mentor asks you to try again; he is fostering your ability to think through questions and offer strong responses, both necessary skills for your professional and career development.

How have your mentors helped shape your academic or career development?

Tags: Career , Mentors , School of Applied Science and Technology , Taking Courses

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9 Critical Factors You Need to Consider Before Choosing a Study Space

Posted Thursday, July 03, 2014

Your surroundings make a huge impact on how efficient and effective you are. They can affect your mood, energy and concentration, and your study space is no different. Consider the place you finish most of your schoolwork:

Are you in an office with constant commotion?

Is it in a coffee shop with dim lighting?

Do you sit on the back porch watching your kids laugh and play?

Whatever the atmosphere of your study space, though it be homey and comfortable, it may actually be hurting your studies. So, to get down to school business and actually accomplish something on time (and yes, even early!), make sure your ideal study space meets these 9 critical factors:

1. A Writing Surface

Although there isn’t much your computer can’t do, there are times when you just need to write things down. Notes and math problems may be easier to understand when written on paper. Or you may be the type of learner that needs to draw and diagram the information. Your study space should make it easy for you to write and jot down any ideas to save them for later.


2. Seating

A chair can make all the difference between focusing on your work and falling asleep in the middle of a chapter. Choose a chair that is comfortable, but not so comfortable you want to take a nap in it. Oftentimes, a dining room chair works best. Whatever chairs you choose, make sure that it allows you to focus on your schoolwork and can accommodate your writing area.


3. Lighting

Having sun filter through your windows can be just as important to your studies as to your home décor. Small daily doses of sunlight can help you sleep better and increase your mood, which will improve your focus and creativity. If natural sunlight is a no-go for you, position yourself so that any main source of light shines on your side and that of your computer screen to reduce glare and eye strain, and prevent squinting.


4. Storage

Clutter can cause stress, and stress can cause poor grades. When you have a clean workspace, you are less likely to get distracted. So your study space should be organized so that you can find what you are looking for, whenever you are looking for it. Pick out storage that addresses your needs; are you a packrat? Get some filing cabinets. Do you print every piece of paper related to your course? Perhaps a binder is more effective for you. The right storage can stop messes and piles from forming, and save you your sanity.


5. Access to Outlets

It’s 2 a.m. and you are almost finished with your final term paper. You’ve ignored the notifications from your laptop signaling that your battery is getting very very low. Just a couple more sentences and… the screen turns black. Panic sets in. What happened to all your work? Was it AutoSaved? Has this ever happened to you? Avoid such a situation and make sure you have access to an outlet close to your study space; enough so connecting your laptop to a power source won’t interrupt your focus.


6. Personalization

Yes, your study space should be reserved for completing work, but allow for a few subtle personal touches to make it your own and motivate you. Hang a corkboard on the wall to display family photos or funny quotes, and double as a place to post course reminders and deadlines. These personal touches can serve as a powerful inspiration to finish your schoolwork, and ultimately, your degree.


7. Temperature

Your mind and body should be in sync when you study; too warm and you’ll fall asleep. Too cold, and your clarity will wane, thus making studying that much harder. While there’s no “right” temperature to study, the best one for you should increase your productivity.


8. Distractions

Without distractions, think of everything you could accomplish! And today, the interruptions never seem to stop, whether they are family or phone calls. Choose a study space that has limited noise and little to no distractions, that means closing the door for quiet time, setting aside your phone or blocking your favorite websites. The more distractions you actively reduce, the easier it will be to avoid any temptations.


9. BONUS: Coffee!

Whether it is coffee, chewing gum, exercise or water, there’s bound to be something that stimulates and re-energizes you. Anticipate what it is before you study, so you can incorporate it into your breaks to refresh and refocus.



What does your study space have that keeps you productive and focused?

Tags: Study Tips , Time Management , Work-Life Balance

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What's Your Learning Style? [Quiz]

Posted Friday, June 27, 2014

Adult learners have different learning styles than most traditional college students. Understanding how you learn can help you study more effectively around your busy lifestyle and unique needs as a college student. So, do you know what your learning style is?

Adult learners have different learning styles than most traditional college students. Understanding how you learn can help you study more effectively around your busy lifestyle and unique needs as a college student. So, do you know what your learning style is?

Tags: Study Tips

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The Secret to Earning a Second Degree

Posted Wednesday, June 25, 2014

By Donald S. Cucuzzella, MA
 Assistant Director
School of Applied Science and Technology

Students have frequently contacted me about pursuing a second degree, whether it is a second associates or bachelor’s degree. Perhaps they want to gain new skills and broaden their knowledge in two different fields. Other times, students are looking to make a career change and have identified that a second bachelor’s degree can help them in that goal. It’s important to assess which situation best fits your academic and professional goals, and decide if a second degree, second area of study or graduate degree is a better choice for you.

If you are transferring in a large amount of college credits, it makes sense to get the most out of those credits. However, you must also meet all the requirements to earn any degree, which can significantly increase the amount of time and money you spend on its pursuit. So how do you know which academic avenue to take? Consider your options and the requirements:

Second Associate Degree
If you wish to earn a second associate degree at Thomas Edison State College, and have already earned one at the College or at another regionally accredited institution, you must complete a minimum of 12 additional credits beyond the date your most recent associate degree was completed. You must also satisfy all the requirements of the degree as indicated in the Thomas Edison State College Catalog.

Second Bachelor’s Degree
If you have earned a previous bachelor’s degree, and wish to pursue a second, you must complete a minimum of 24 additional credits in the area of study/core beyond the date your most recent bachelor’s degree was completed. You must also complete all the degree requirements indicated in the Thomas Edison State College Catalog.

If you have earned your first bachelor’s from the College, you must apply again for the second degree, however, your application fee is waived. Whether you earned your first bachelor’s degree at the College or at another institution, the application process still requires an academic evaluation of your transferred credit with room for at least 24 credits relative to your area of study.   

Two Areas of Study Within One Degree
Similar to declaring a double major, you are able to pursue a second area of study within your degree program. For example, you can complete a Bachelor of Arts in History and a Bachelor of Arts in English – you would only need to complete the Area of Study requirements as outlined in the program’s credit distribution guide – because your general education requirements would remain the same (as opposed to pursuing a second degree, where you would need to fulfill another set of general education requirements). No more than 9 credits that are used in the first area of study may be used for the second area of study. All related required credits for each area of study, as well as all degree requirements, must be met at the same time. To pursue this, all you have to do is contact your academic advisor, and it will be added to your degree plan.

Bachelor’s to Master’s Program
As a student at Thomas Edison State College, you are able to earn 9 graduate credits that will apply to both your bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree at the College. If you are serious about earning a master’s degree, this program gives you a 9-credit head start toward that goal. You can apply for the program if you are an enrolled undergraduate student with at least 60 undergraduate credits toward a bachelor’s degree at the College, a minimum 3.0 GPA and at least three years of degree program relevant experience. If admitted, you are eligible to take your first graduate course after you have completed 90 credits toward your undergraduate degree with an overall GPA of 3.0. Learn more about the Bachelor’s to Master’s Program here. 

So you can see, a student would have to complete an additional 24 credits at minimum to complete a second bachelor’s degree. For that reason, whenever students have asked for my advice on the subject, I have always suggested they pursue a Master’s degree. My experience has led me to believe that an employer would rather see a degree progression (i.e. Associate to Bachelor’s to Master’s) than two degrees at the same academic level. If you are willing to put the time and money into pursuing an additional 24 credits for a second bachelor’s, then I would consider it a better use of your resources to pursue a Master’s degree at 36 credits. However, sometimes it is a better move professionally to obtain a second degree. Whatever you choose, always discuss your degree changes, plans and options with your academic advisor. They are there to help you with whichever path you choose.

Tags: Career , Degree Programs , Transfer Credits

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7 Credit-by-Exam Myths BUSTED

Posted Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Even though credit-by-exams programs like TECEP®, CLEP and DSST have been around for years, students still have many misconceptions about them.  All I have to do is read the textbook and I’ll pass the exam, they say. I already know everything about the subject so I don’t have to study, they claim. 

But, for most students, these statements couldn’t be further from the truth. Just like any other test, credit-by-exam programs require preparation, including a study plan to familiarize yourself with the format, timing and possible essay requirements. So if you’ve already registered or ever plan to take a credit-by-exam and think it will be easy, then test-takers, consider these 7 busted myths your reality check:

Myth #1: I can prepare myself for my exam in one week.

Reality: Properly learning all the material of a 12-week course in less than one week is practically impossible for most people. There are textbooks to read, study guides to review and study aides to locate (and yes, you may need audio files, videos and computer software to study). You’ll also want to prepare for your exam by answering sample questions, and, if your exam requires an essay, spend additional preparation time reviewing those resources. A consistent study schedule will allow you to retain more information for a longer period of time and avoid a panicked cramming session the night before the test.

Myth #2: I only need to read the textbook, and I’m good to go.

Reality: A related course’s textbook is a good place to start, but you will likely need other materials to effectively study for your exam. These tests are equivalent to comprehensive, end-of-course exams, and not developed to reflect the content of one specific textbook. Start by reviewing the test description for that exam, which includes a list of topics, suggested study materials, information about the test format and sample test questions. Additional study resources might involve taking open courses, watching educational videos, reading lecture notes and more. Only then can you know what to expect and how to prepare. 

Myth #3: I don’t have to study; my background and experience proves I know it all.

Reality: While the credit-by-exam approach is testing you on knowledge already acquired through work experience or volunteer activities, there may be additional topics you didn’t know or have slipped your mind. To pass your exam, you may need more than experience and application-based knowledge; you will need to understand the theories, concepts and ideas behind the subject. Most importantly, if you don’t remember when you last took an actual test, then it is time to brush up on your test-taking skills.

Myth #4: Once I review the topic, I can cross it off my study guide and move on to the next one.

Reality: Taking this approach to studying may seem like the most logical choice, but in fact, may actually hurt how well you retain the information. Exams randomize the order of the questions reflected in your course guides and content, so jump around and study out of order. Learning the material in a sequence will impact your ability to recall the information when you take the test. Do not expect to remember the material well after only a single reading either; go over the material several times.

Myth #5: I’ll get credit for whatever exams I take and pass. 

Reality: While Thomas Edison State College offers enables students to use credit-by-exam to meet many degree requirements, it is still best to check with your academic advisor before registering for a test. This will ensure you avoid taking and paying for an exam that does not fit your degree, and you will want to find out about the credit awarding policy in advance so you can get the credits you deserve. You should also speak to your advisor to determine if an exam applies to your degree program, or if you have already taken and earned credit for a comparable course.

Myth #6: I don’t have to work that hard as if I was in a real course – it’s just a test, there aren’t any assignments or anything I have to worry about. 

Reality: Whether you are taking a course or considering an exam, both credit earning options require you to be both self-motivated and disciplined to pass. Since credit-by-exams do not offer the additional insight and engaging discussions you would commonly have with your peers and mentors in an online course, preparation and learning solely relies on you as the student and teacher. Discipline and self-direction are two crucial skills you will need to develop – and quickly – to succeed.

Myth #7: Credit-by-exams seem way too hard; I’m not going to bother.

Reality: Credit-by-exams are one of the most effective ways to earn credit for your prior learning; they help you accelerate the path to degree completion and save you the time and money of sitting through a course. While gathering all the test prep guides and resources to study may seem daunting at first, remember that you can focus on the material you need to learn in the manner that works best for you. If you are a visual learner, there are webinars and videos to help you understand the topics, or you can take the numerous practice exams available online to find out where you need to focus on for improvement.

What common credit-by-exam myths have you heard or experienced? Share them in the comments below and we will help set the record straight!


Tags: Credit by Exam , Study Tips , TECEP

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