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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:

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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5 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Your First College Research Paper

By Transcendentan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/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:

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Preparing for the Worst: An Online Student’s Guide for Handling Emergencies


Work created by NY – http://nyphotographic.com/

A few terms ago, I had a brilliant student in my English composition class. She actively participated in all the discussion forums, she gave her classmates insightful and encouraging feedback, and she wrote with a passionate elegance. In short, she was an ideal student. About midway through the term, she disappeared without a trace. After weeks of silence, I finally heard back from her advisor: one of the student’s family members had passed away, and she was so distraught that she was unable to concentrate on her classwork. The student tried to make a comeback, but she didn’t have enough time to make up all the missing work.

Sadly, these stories are all too common. Many online students fall off the radar halfway through the term. It usually has nothing to do with their academic abilities. More often than not, students disappear because they encounter unforeseen challenges. Online courses vary in length, but most courses are around 8 weeks long. Although the accelerated format has its advantages, it can make it more difficult for students to rebound after experiencing a setback.

That’s why it’s important to come up with a game plan so you’re prepared to deal with the curveballs that life may throw at you. Here are some of the most common problems you may encounter during your online class and the best ways to deal with them!

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