by Emily Carone, Assistant Director,
Center for the Assessment of Learning at Thomas Edison State College
TECEP® exams and other credit-by-exam programs are the most efficient way for Thomas Edison State College students to earn credit. If you have some prior knowledge or experience in a subject area and think you are an independent learner, you might be a good candidate for this credit-by-exam method of course completion. And you can feel confident that TECEP® exams will fulfill your degree requirements, just like the College’s online courses.
The best thing about earning credit this way is the ease and flexibility of the process. You do not need to follow a rigid course schedule, prepare assignments by due dates or participate in online discussions. All you need to do is show up on a test date, which you select, and (of course) be prepared to take a comprehensive final exam.
Another appealing feature of testing is the grading system. Credit-by-exam grades are pass/fail only and do not affect your grade point average. Because of this, you only need to demonstrate that you know the subject matter to earn the credit.
So why don't all students decide to earn credit through testing?
There's one big reason: not everyone can successfully work in an unstructured environment. Deciding to earn college credit by preparing for an exam that covers a semester's worth of content means you have to be self-motivated and disciplined. There are no deadlines and there is no mentor to answer your questions or provide feedback. This approach is exactly what appeals to many busy adult students who have competing demands on their time and who prefer to work independently without any interactions with a mentor or other students.
Does this sound like you? If you think you can establish and follow your own study preparation schedule, you should consider "testing out" and try the credit-by-exam method of earning college credit.
TECEP® is the College’s own testing program. The exams are developed by the College’s mentors in order to help our students fulfill their degree requirements.
By Dr. Mark Kassop
Mentor, Thomas Edison State College
I have been a mentor at Thomas Edison State College for more than 25 years for several reasons. First and foremost, I enjoy the adult, self-motivated students who populate Thomas Edison State College courses. They are a pleasure to work with and their diverse backgrounds lead to fascinating assignments and discussion postings.
Connecting with students in an online environment is about creating a positive impact on the student and on the student’s classmates. Mentoring courses on the sociology of the family, as I do, my Thomas Edison State College students have been in all stages of dating, marriage, divorce, remarriage, etc., and their experiences enrich the classes that I mentor. I have learned a lot from my students and, hopefully, they have learned a lot of useful material from me, too!
There are significant differences between face-to-face (f2f) students and online students. One could argue that a student loses something by not having face-to-face contact with their mentor. However, I can honestly say that I know my online students better than I know my f2f students and they might often say the same thing in reverse.
When I was president of the New Jersey Virtual Community College Consortium, I gave frequent lectures around the country about the virtues of online learning. One of the differences that I would focus on is the oxymoron, “anonymous intimacy.” Most of us have had the experience of sitting on an airplane next to an absolute stranger who pours out their life history to us, because they know they will never see us again and their story is safe. Similarly, online students open up to their mentors via e-mail and in online discussions in ways that they are not likely to do in a traditional face-to-face classroom.
Furthermore, students do the same in online discussions. Since they do not know their classmates on a face-to-face basis, they are not as inhibited as they might be in a classroom. They feel as though they can express their point of view in the online discussions and politely disagree with their classmates on controversial topics. The online discussions give them the chance to bond and expand their viewpoints based on feedback from their classmates and mentor.
In addition, online students learn skills that f2f classes don’t usually teach. They learn to collaborate with their classmates in online discussions and projects. They develop lifelong learning skills that prepare them for their careers in ways that they had not suspected. They learn computer skills and online searching skills, including the ability to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate sources; that will benefit them in many careers.
The main role of an online mentor is to assist students in the process of learning a body of knowledge. I love the saying that online mentors are the “guide on the side,” rather than the “sage on the stage.” It is not the responsibility to spoon feed students that knowledge. Having mature, self-motivated students helps a mentor to successfully be that “guide on the side.” I still need to know the same body of material, 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. I can challenge them to move beyond simple answers and partial solutions.
When I first started mentoring online in 1998, I knew that there were some advantages in an online course space, but I didn’t think about the ability for my personality to travel across cyberspace.
However, in numerous student evaluations over the last 14 years, I have had students comment on my sense of humor, my dedication and hard work, my caring personality, and my availability. In turn, I have learned many things about my online student’s personalities – their dedication, their work ethic, their family lives, their goals, their joys and their concerns. We often talk in academia about civil behavior and some professors and administrators complain about the lack of civility among students. Strangely (maybe), online students tend to be much more civil than f2f students. Online students are more likely to send their regards, wish you a nice day, hope that you are feeling better, suggest that you be careful, etc., than f2f students usually are.
I have lots of wonderful stories about students that I could share from my many years of online mentoring experiences, but my favorite is a female student I mentored about 15 years ago.
The student worked as a midwife in Eastern Pennsylvania. Specifically, she helped Amish and Mennonite women deliver their children. On several occasions she would go out in the evening to deliver a child and get home in the middle of the night or very early morning. Her adrenalin was flowing and she would sit down and write me an e-mail and submit an assignment. Her e-mails were filled with the beauty of the delivery and the children who were on the bed with mom or helping my student with the preparations. She would tell about the joy and assistance provided by the father and describe the new baby that she helped to bring into the world. She would share this beautiful experience and finish off her e-mail by noting that she just had to write her assignment since she was wide-awake and so excited.
There are lots of students who I have had in my classes who needed the flexible schedule that Thomas Edison State College has offered throughout its existence. These students have all had an opportunity to complete degrees and excel and share their excitement as part of our online communities.
I think I speak for most people when I say it is a relief that election ads are no longer on the airwaves. For many, election night is like watching a sporting event where we follow results, count red and blue states and, especially since 2000, electoral votes.
This year, “Big Data” got a piece of the national spotlight. You may have seen news reports focusing on Nate Silver, who runs the New York Times’FiveThirtyEight blog. Prior to the election, Silver predicted that President Barak Obama would be re-elected. This attracted some criticisms from national commentators. The results of the election proved that Silver’s predictions – based on predictive mathematical models and careful data analysis – were accurate.
Silver’s predictions provide an example of big data at work, which extends far beyond political polling. Whether it is in business or other endeavors, leveraging big data typically refers to how an organization collects, examines, manages and uses information.
According to the Oct. 2012 edition of the Harvard Business Review, businesses today are collecting more data than they know what to do with and need people with new skills and a new management style to turn that information into a competitive advantage.
As a result, businesses across the country and all over the world need managers who are skilled in data analytics to mine and manage business data.
Data analysis is not new. In the 1970s and 80s, airlines began looking at ticket purchases on specific routes, times of year, times of day, etc. to develop new and more profitable pricing strategies. Perhaps the best known execution of data analysis was highlighted in the book, Moneyball, by Michael Lewis, which was made into a major motion picture and focused on the Oakland A’s use of data to select players undervalued by other teams.
What is new is that anyone can now get access to data and use their own technology to store, analyze and visualize it. What is also new is that firms are beginning to recognize that they have (or can buy) massive databases of order, purchase, demographic information about their customers, and that these data are underutilized.
In the past, many business leaders used their “gut instinct” as a large part of the decision-making process. Today, decision-makers have access to more and more information about their customers, their products and services and the marketplace. Businesses, organizations and many others are using big data to help make more accurate predictions about their markets and develop better strategies to grow their businesses and expand their market share.
Naturally, this change presents new management challenges. Leaders have to learn to ask the right questions. Organizations have to improve how they collect and manage data and must find people who can translate that data into useful information and actionable intelligence.
In today’s knowledge-based economy, business professionals are expected to possess sophisticated data analysis expertise and self-management skills. As global business expands and markets become increasingly complex, stakeholders will need to apply data analytics in order to adapt to the scope, intensity and relentlessness of market changes and continually reinvent themselves in order to compete, survive and sustain.
Data-oriented professionals who want to shape the future of global business today are leveraging the power and potential inherent in data analytics. Data analytics professionals mine, interpret, and present data enabling organizational leaders to make data informed decision making and evidence-based action.
It’s an exciting time for businesses and organizations ready to leverage big data.