All posts by ahart

Which Learning Format Should You Choose?


“Laptop Keyboard” by garycycles8, Licensed under CC-BY 2.0

Happy New Year!

I have a feeling that it’s going to be a fantastic year, especially if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to start your education! Online learning has changed dramatically over the past few years. More online schools have popped up, and more and more established universities and colleges are expanding their online offerings. As a prospective online student, you have a ton of options!

Choice is a wonderful thing, but you want to make sure you understand the different learning formats. Not all online courses are created equal. If you want to increase your chances of academic success, you need to make sure you choose a delivery format that suits your learning style and your lifestyle. Here are the most common options:

Asynchronous Courses with Weekly Deadlines

I teach asynchronous courses, and I love them! An asynchronous course is broken up into several units or learning modules. Each module has a deadline, and students are expected to complete the reading, discussions, and assignments by the end of each deadline. These types of courses frequently contain discussion forums or other interactive components.  Some schools even have a minimum participation requirement. For example, I taught at one institution that expected students to post at least three days a week.

Classes with weekly deadlines are great if you are a self-directed learner, but one who appreciates interacting with other students in the discussions. They are also great for procrastinators who need the pressure of frequent deadlines!

Asynchronous Courses with Self-Paced Modules

If you’re a solitary learner and you prefer to work at your own pace, you may want to sign up for an asynchronous course with self-paced modules. Asynchronous self-paced courses offer students incredible flexibility and freedom. The course material is broken up into modules, but usually, these modules don’t include interactive elements. Also, you are free to complete the work at your leisure. There’s just one deadline – the final course deadline. These courses are great for the student who has only a few days a week to devote to school work.

Self-paced courses are designed for extremely independent and disciplined learners. If you need a lot of direction and guidance, you may want to look at a course with some synchronous components.

Asynchronous/Synchronous Hybrids

Some courses contain synchronous and asynchronous elements. These courses may give you some flexibility in terms of when you complete the readings and the written assignments, but they may require you to attend live lectures, group discussions, and presentations. If you have some flexibility in your schedule and you like working with others, this may be the perfect option!

Completely Synchronous Courses

If you crave a more traditional learning experience, you may want to sign up for a synchronous course. A synchronous course requires the instructor and the students to be online at the same time. If you choose a synchronous course, make sure you can make it to all the class meetings.  You may be penalized if you miss too many classes!

2018 is a great year to learn something new and/or build upon existing skills. Make sure you do your research and pick an online course that works for you!

4 Things You Can Learn from Your Gen Ed Courses

Picture of a young man sitting at a desk, reading a book.

“The Student” by Julius Thiengen Bloch (American (born Germany), Kehl 1888–1966 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0

Most online colleges and universities have some general education program in place. In fact, according to a periodical published by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, general education courses “may comprise as much as one-third of [a student’s] college education.” Now, you might not be too keen on having to complete a cluster of core courses, but general education programs aren’t going away anytime soon.  So, you can approach your general education courses in one of two ways: you can bemoan the fact that you have to take courses outside of your major, or you can decide to make the most of all the learning opportunities that general education courses present

Personally, I recommend the latter! The truth is your general education courses can teach you a lot. Here are some of the things you can learn if you keep an open mind:

Read more

How to Stay Focused During the Holiday Season

Next week, we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving. As a person, I love the holidays – I love the cooking, the festivities, and the family fun. However, the teacher in me hates that 6-week stretch from mid-November to Christmas. Why? It’s pure chaos. Students are panicking about the end of the term exams and papers, and I’m trying to cook, clean, and grade everything without losing my mind. It’s a stressful time for all involved. That said, there are some strategies you can employ to make sure you have a productive and relaxing holiday season – or at least a more relaxing holiday season.

Read more

Tips for Catching Up!

It’s October. The leaves are falling, the football season is heating up, and midterms are approaching. Not surprisingly, this is the time of year when some students start to fall behind. If you’re attending a traditional ground college, you usually have eight weeks to get caught up. However, if you’re taking an accelerated course at an online university, you don’t have a lot of time to make up missing work. Don’t despair!

Read more

Coping with a Mental Illness While in College


Picture of a person with face in hands.

“Depression” by ryan melaugh is licensed under CC BY 2.0


According to a recent article in The Guardian, college students today are 5 times more likely to suffer from mental health disorders than college students a decade ago. Depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders can impact a person’s ability to engage in everyday activities. If you’re an online student with a full course load and personal and professional obligations, mental health disorders can be devastating. However, they can don’t have to derail your academic progress. Over the past 7 years, I’ve helped countless students manage their mental health issues and achieve their academic goals. I’ve also pursued two graduate degrees while dealing with acute anxiety and depression.

Read more

How to Be An Active Learner

Image of a young man studying on the ground.

“Studying” by Alex Indigo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Last month, I talked about the importance of adopting a growth mindset. Students with growth mindsets tend to get more from their educational experiences than students with fixed mindsets. Students with growth mindsets also tend to be more active learners, which is one of the reasons why they are successful.

When I was in high school (no, I’m not going to tell you when that was), people thought about education a lot differently than they do now. Most educational professionals still clung to the teacher-centered learning model. In that model, the teacher would speak, and the students would passively listen, hoping that something would stick. The type of education you received depended on the type of teachers you had.

Read more

Moving from a Fixed Mindset to a Growth Mindset

“Growth vs. Fixed Mindset” by Jessica Ottewell is licensed under CC BY 2.0


We’re a few days into a new term, and I’ve already received several emails from panicked students who are terrified about the upcoming writing assignments. These emails don’t contain questions or requests for assistance. They contain professions of inadequacy:

“I’m a terrible writer.”
“I’m not an English person.”
“I’ve never been good at writing classes.

I get these kinds of emails all the time. Unfortunately, students who email me things like this usually don’t do too well in my course. It’s not that they aren’t capable of putting together a cohesive essay. In fact, many of these naysayers have solid writing skills! They fail because they assume they will; they struggle because they believe they don’t have the ability to succeed.

Read more

How to Make a Grade Appeal

Image of woman and man having a discussion.

“Discussion” by MIT OEIT is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Last term, I had a student send me a very aggressive email. Using some very choice phrases, he demanded I change his final paper grade, and he accused me of not reading his submission. Needless to say, I didn’t honor his requests.

Unlike some my colleagues, I don’t mind grade appeals. I like it when my students care enough to fight for the grade they think they deserve. However, you have to present your case in the right way. So, if you want to get your teacher to rethink your grade, be sure you do the following things:

Read more

How to Get More From Your Online Discussion Posts!

Discussion boards are a prominent feature of most online courses. In fact, I’m teaching a Literature & Composition course now, and it that requires students to post to 11 different discussion forums over an 8-week period! Although most classes don’t demand *such* an extreme level of involvement in discussion forums, the majority of online courses do require weekly or biweekly participation.

Read more

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Your First College Research Paper

By Transcendentan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Throughout my high school career, I wrote about 4 research papers. After my first month at Wellesley, I had matched that number. I soon realized that high school had not prepared me for the challenges of college-level academic writing. Sadly, my experience is not unique. Too often, students matriculate without knowing how to form a strong thesis, support their ideas with credible research, and cite everything using the proper documentation style. That’s why it’s important you go into the writing process knowing what to do and what not to do.

Here are some common mistakes that you should avoid when writing your first college-level research paper:

Read more