All posts tagged time management

All About Synchronous and Asynchronous Online Classes

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Online classes are usually either synchronous or asynchronous. Some courses may be a combination of both. There are also blended courses for students who want a limited amount of on campus attendance but prefer to do the rest of their work online at home. Blended courses and synchronous courses are good choices for students who wish to have a transition path from on campus attendance to fully online study. There are also independent study courses, taken online, for students who prefer to work at their own pace, either faster than a traditionally-scheduled course or at a slower pace as best fits their own schedule.

Students have different preferences about which type of course they prefer. Let’s talk about how each type of course works.

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Five Myths about Online Education

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People have a lot of preconceived ideas and beliefs about online education. Among those beliefs are that online education is easy and that students are isolated from their peers and instructor. The truth is that accredited online education is academically equal to traditional education. Here are five of the most prevalent myths about online education:

Myth 1 – Online classes are easier.
For most students, online classes are actually more time-consuming and, in some cases, more difficult. The reason is very simple. Sitting in on-campus classes involves most listening and speaking; very little in depth reading and writing is done in class. In online classes, in depth reading and writing are necessities since all work is done at home on the computer.

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5 Reasons to Choose Online Classes

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Students take online classes for lots of reasons, although those new to online classes may not fully understand the differences between online and on-campus classes. Do be sure to check next month’s posting to find out about the myths surrounding online classes. The differences in the two types of classes are some of the very reasons that students describe as their reasons for choosing to do part or all of their education online. Here are the top five reasons for choosing online classes.

1. Convenience: The top reason is avoiding the time needed for commuting to and from school, which can save hours throughout the week when managing school, work, and family activities on a daily basis. Some students report saving as much as 5-10 hours a week in commuting time and they can apply that time to studying.

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Where to Find Help in Your Online Class

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Online classes are different from face-to-face classes in a lot of ways, many of which we will talk about at various times on this blog. One of the most obvious differences is not being able to ask questions in class or go to the instructor’s office and get immediate answers. When you ask questions in an online class, often the wait time is the next day and sometimes more than one day. This is frustrating to students who want answers in order to move forward with their assignments. If answers and solutions are not forthcoming in a timely manner, there are several options for finding help.

Before asking questions, students need to make sure they have read all the information posted in the class. Required reading includes the syllabus, specific textbook pages each week, online or database articles, handouts, or additional resources posted by the instructor. While students may be frustrated when they don’t receive immediate answers to questions, keep in mind that instructors get frustrated when students ask questions about information that is clearly stated in the syllabus, announcements, or required reading. Instructors will sometimes respond with “Please check the syllabus (or announcements or other place in the course) for that information.”

Here’s a short list of resources and contacts for those times when you need help with your online course technology, course content, or writing.

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Get the Most from Instructor Feedback on Your Assignments

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Criticism is an integral part of academic success. No one likes to hear negative criticism about their work; however, negative feedback is an excellent way to learn new skills and to help you demonstrate your ability to learn. Implementing feedback suggestions in future work shows that you are open to new concepts and ideas and willing to work hard to reach expectations. Unfortunately, many students react to criticism as if the feedback were a personal attack. Recognizing that criticism and critique are about YOUR WORK and not about you, helps students develop a good attitude about receiving critiques.

Students need to understand and accept the purpose and goal of feedback. The purpose is to instruct students on skills and concepts that need improvement. The goal is for students to study and learn the new concepts or new skills, and then implement this new learning in future work in the class. Read the feedback with an open mind, set it aside for a few hours, then review the comments and suggestions again.

Here are some helpful strategies for getting the most value from your instructor’s critique of your work:

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Daily and Weekly Routines in Online Classes

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Classes on campus are scheduled at the same time daily or weekly. Students go to class and then work on additional class activities and assignments outside of class. Online classes are different because there is no class attendance scheduled each week. Although some classes do have an hour each week of virtual class time where everyone meets online together, this is usually optional and if schedules don’t work out, then students can review the archives for class meetings at a later time. Even though attendance at a specific time and place are not required, online students still need to have a schedule for completing the class activities and assignments. Not having a schedule can lead to procrastination and late assignments.

Routine and repetition increase successful learning. Students who put off academic work until the weekend, and then complete everything in one or two days, are not as successful as those students who work on class activities and assignments every day of the week. These class activities and assignments include participating in discussions, writing essays, taking quizzes, reading, and taking notes on weekly learning resources.

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So You’ve Signed Up for an Online Class – What Now?

photoOnce you have registered for an online class, what’s the next step? When can you access the class, read the syllabus, and order the textbook? All of this information should be available when you register for class. Most schools open online courses several days before the official start date of the term. This gives students extra time to check technical requirements and make any contacts that are necessary (academic advising, disability services, tech support, bookstore, etc.) before class begins.

Waiting until the first day, or perhaps a day or two after that, to log in to your class can potentially delay your ability to complete the first week’s work on time and that is not a good way to start out a course. Aside from being late, there is also the risk of making a poor first impression with the instructor and your classmates.

Here are five steps to a stress-free and successful class start that ensures a good first impression and timely completion of the first week’s work.

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9 Myths About Online Education

It is 2014 and there is still much resistance to the progress of distance learning. Yes, student debt is exorbitant, but that beast has been feeding on student bank accounts since before any of the recent controversy. Consider this: today we have options to listen to vinyl records and digital downloads; to read volumes of novels and gigabytes of e-lit; pen and paper, keyboard and screen. New technology has made things more convenient and more fast-paced. Daily life may feel less physical, but social media has created more interaction and connectivity between people. Distance learning is no different: It’s convenient and fast-paced, perhaps less physical, but still keeps you interactive and connected.

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Happy Holidays from Top 5 Online Colleges!

Only a few days ago basically, I posted about how it’s now autumn and the leaves are changing colors and the air is getting crisp. Well, here in Chicago, it’s already winter. I’m being dramatic, but only exaggerating slightly. We’ve had our first snow flurries already and when I woke up this morning, the news was telling me it was 29 degrees outside! While I personally love the fall – the memories of shopping for school supplies as a kid, playing soccer with long sleeve shirts under the jersey, heading to football games, and curling up under a blanket with a hot cup of tea while studying for midterms – this unseasonably cooler weather is getting me ready for one of the best two month stretches of the year!

Halloween next week kicks off Holiday Season, and I couldn’t be more excited! It’s a time to spend with family and friends, to reflect on the past year, and to prepare for things to come in 2014. Holiday Season tends to fly by so quickly, but even though you feel like it’s here and gone before you know it, it can certainly be the cause of a lot of stress. There are travels to be arranged (and the long lines, delays, and traffic to put up with), too much time spent in close proximity to family members you only see once a year and maybe for good reason, gifts to buy while trying to maintain your budget, and big meals to prepare that always take longer than you thought they would.

So, with that being said, especially knowing that many of you are in a year-round online school – which means you don’t get a long winter break between terms – there is a lot on your plate these next few months. But guess what! A few of my previous posts can help with that! Check out tips on time management, or even the most recent one about managing stress. Although the holidays can get crazy and move quickly and become stressful, it’s easy to take the tips we’ve discussed about your education and apply those to your holiday planning as well. Especially when you’re adding schoolwork to the mix.

So think ahead and schedule things out as best you can, but also know that when it comes to this time of year, it’s good to relax and go with the flow whenever possible. As I said before, this is the time of year to rejoice in the people in your life, the opportunities you’ve had, the steps you’ve taken to get to where you are now, and the steps you’re currently taking to get further. Be proud of how far you’ve come and where you’re planning on going, and take some time to celebrate you this holiday season!

The Top 5 Online Colleges Blog will be going on hiatus over the holidays – we don’t want to add to your plate either, by giving you so many interesting things to read when you should be studying! But we’ll be back in the new year with more information, tips, and topics pertaining to your online higher education.

Happy holidays everyone!

Managing your Time while Studying Online

There are three key tools of effective time management that you should uses to best manage your day-to-day: a schedule or calendar of events, a prioritized “to-do” list, and organized note taking. You’ll notice that these items don’t necessarily relate only to schoolwork – you can and should use them to sort out your entire day, week, year, etc. And you should also use them together for the best results. Here’s a non-education-related example: You are having people over on Friday evening for dinner. You put the chores you need to take care of prior to the party on your to-do list, in the order of most important to least important – the hour you need to run to the grocery store as well as the time you need to clean up the house a bit. In addition to just listing those items, you also provide details, or notes, about the specifics of each “to-do.” You need to clean the bathroom and the kitchen? Include things like “wipe down counters,” “scrub sink,” “mop floor,” etc. Finally, you also schedule time for your cleaning and grocery store run on your calendar, along with the actual party. Ta da! You just used the three main tools to manage your time as best as possible!

Just like adding chores to specific times on your calendar, I strongly encourage you to not only include your education-related items on your to-do list, but to also use a calendar to schedule time each day (or within your week at least) to focus on those school items. You’ll want to schedule time that will allow you to have the most amount of privacy possible – if that’s how you function best, that is – and that will avoid the most distractions. Therefore, if your house is the busiest at 7pm – with kids finishing their own homework, the family finishing dinner, getting toddlers ready for bed, taking the dog for an evening walk, etc. – then maybe that’s not the best time to try and sit down by the computer.

However, if that’s the only time you have, you’ll really want to manage not only your time, but the tasks that need to be done while you’re working. Therefore, if you know the kids will sit down and do their homework alongside you, use that to your advantage! Make it “family study time” and engage each other in the topics you’re working on (if possible). Or if it’s dinner cleanup, ask family members to help out while you study, and come up with ways you can help them out in return.

No matter what you have to do to manage your time, the most important aspect of all of this is planning. The more you can plan out every detail of your day, the easier it will be and the less overwhelming and stressful school will be on top of everything else. But with that comes the requirement of being flexible. There will always be things that come up and change everything, and the only way to help ease the stress of those moments is to do what you can to prepare – stay on top of your schoolwork, have a back up plan as much as possible, factor extra time for studying in your week and then reward yourself with “me time” or something enjoyable when you find you don’t need that extra time.

Keeping an up-to-date calendar and having daily or weekly to-do lists that are kept prioritized is a fairly common response to “How can I improve my time management?” But keeping organized notes might seem a little odd, especially when you’re thinking about time management between schoolwork and household chores, or something similar (compared to in the workplace). However, think of it more along the lines of that detailed to-do list – not only do you want to have a list of tasks, such as “bake cookies for school bake sale” and “complete discussion topics for class,” but you can also include more specific details along with those tasks so that you’re organized and most information is in one spot. For instance, include the cookie recipe right next to your task list item, and write down a bit about when topics you’ll be discussing for class or what ideas you have in mind. Not only does this help keep you organized, which is a key part of time management, but it can also speed up a lot of your to-dos, which, in a way, creates more time in the day!

Finally, the last piece of advice I have to help you manage time more effectively is to think about what distracts you and eliminate it, or actually schedule time specifically for those distractions. You login to check a post you received notification about on Facebook, and suddenly it sucks you in and you spend 30 minutes scrolling through the newsfeed!? Been there, done that! So actually schedule time in your day to spend on Facebook and stick with that schedule. Then, to really make sure you don’t go over that allotted time, schedule something you enjoy doing right after your “social media time.” Making dinner is something you love to do? Well, then skim social media for 30 minutes before it’s time to start dinner. Walking the dog is that peaceful time of the day you look forward to? Make sure it’s the thing you do right after Facebook time – plus, you know that dog will demand you sign off anyways, unless you enjoy cleaning puddles off the floor as well!

All in all, you have the tools to manage your time and it just takes a little habit-building and practice in order to start using those tools. It might take some getting used to, but you’ll be happy once it starts positively effecting not only your productivity with your courses, but also your day-to-day life.