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The Online Learning Guidebook

Accredited Schools Online

Accredited Schools Online

Students are used to being online, and these days, we’re not just open to online education – some of us even prefer it. But are we doing it right? It’s such a new phenomenon that there is still learning to be done about learning online. Accredited Schools Online created a guide to help students learn more effectively in these courses. The guide looks at Khan Academy, Coursera and MIT OpenCourseware specifically, and includes advice and keys to success from a panel of experts. Check out The Online Learning Guidebook here.

The guidebook talks about the benefits of online learning, such as convenience, cost effectiveness, and improved technology and learning skills. It guides students through what to expect when taking an online course, and even identifies which students are best suited for this type of learning based on the student’s qualities.

As online education continues to grow, many schools are making it a major part of their curriculum. To help students understand this trend, the guide also includes a detailed breakdown of online learning methods and technologies, as well as information on how to identify quality online schools or programs.

Leave your thoughts on the guidebook in the comments below.

This was contributed by guest Angela Hanners.

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How to be a Better Student in 5 Simple Steps

Image by Tulane Public Relations, Flickr

Image by Tulane Public Relations, Flickr

Everyone wants to be a better student, and we’ve got five easy steps to make sure you’re doing your best!

Step 1: Go to class. This is the easy part, as most students do this regularly.

Step 2: This may sound a little crazy, but unless you absolutely need your laptop, leave it at home. Why? Because laptops are the gateway to distraction. The temptation to multi-task — also known as checking Facebook or Twitter, playing a game, or basically doing anything unrelated to the lecture at hand — is overwhelming, and at some point you will be sucked into doing it (I know from personal experience). A 2013 study published in the Computers & Education journal found that students who multi-task during lecture retain, on average, 11% less information than those students who are fully focused on the lecture. In other words, it can affect your mark by a whole letter grade! Additionally, not only does your laptop distract you, it can also be a distraction for students around you. The same study found that students seated near laptop users retained even less information from lectures than the laptop users themselves!

Step 3: Find a seat away from students with laptops and write out your notes with good old pen and paper. Doing this will keep you focused on what the professor is saying much more than typing on a computer screen.

Step 4: To go above and beyond, take those hastily scribbled notes and rewrite them neatly when you have spare time. Rewriting your notes should help preserve the information in your memory and it will be useful for future studying. Underline or highlight the most important points and keywords so that key concepts can be picked out quickly later on.

Step 5: Use your notes to study for an exam (obviously). However, simply reading them over won’t cut it. It is through writing and speaking that most people are best able to recall information. This is where cue cards come in. Cue cards are your friend – maybe your best friend. On one side of the card, write down questions that you have generated using your notes. Whether simple or complicated, create a question for anything you need to remember. On the other side of the card, write the answer. Next, ask yourself the questions and write out your answers on a different sheet of paper. Check if you were right (no cheating!). If not, do it again until you nail it. Rote memorization isn’t fun, but it will help you attain academic success. Doing this alone is helpful in improving your recall, but to mercilessly crush the exam you must speak the questions and answers from the cue cards out loud. This is what really improves your memorization of the material. Writing out answers is slow and your mind can get distracted, but by repeating the solutions to yourself out loud, you become able to recall the answer quickly and efficiently. Whichever technique you decide to use, studying is all about grinding out the material and the more time you put in, the better your results will be.

Is It Worth It To Skip Class To Study?

Image from pixabay.com

Image from pixabay.com

It was impossible. I had a huge assignment due in a few days, and there was no way I could have it done by then. The assignment involved a massive workload, which would take me a lot of time. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that time. To save my grade, I decided to skip class to work on my assignment.

Skipping class meant missing out on a lot of knowledge I’d need for future tests; it’s amazing how much content can be covered in a 3-hour lecture. It also meant I was less informed about homework and assignments that were due. To stay up-to-date with class, I asked friends to send me their notes and to figure out what assignments and tests were upcoming. If I did not have a friend in a class, I was forced to ask a stranger when I got back.

Knowing I was on a short deadline, I made sure to manage my time wisely. I put away my phone, knowing that calls and texts would distract me. I listened to music, as it allowed me to focus better. I made sure to take breaks only when I needed them, as they could be time-consuming. When I did take breaks, I kept them to five minutes and watched YouTube videos, which were the perfect length for a short break.

I drank caffeine to stay awake and focused. Skipping class was exciting, even if it was to study. I got to miss class and be very productive in a limited time. However, I had to rely on someone else’s notes to be accurate, I couldn’t ask my professor questions on new material, and I was pressed for time. But I felt I had no choice. I normally got As on the assignments I skipped class to complete and I was relieved to have them done on time. If I had gone to class, I probably wouldn’t have finished them at all; but there was a significant tradeoff in the lessons I missed.

I do not recommend skipping class to study or finish assignments. Being on a tight deadline, I was very anxious, constantly looking at the clock with my stomach in knots. The stress of finding someone who would give me notes from the lecture I missed was not an easy task either; even once I had them, I couldn’t guarantee they would capture all the important information. I risked missing pop quizzes, and felt the effect through deductions in my attendance and participation marks. Skipping class to study saved my grade a few times, but be sure to weigh the pros and cons before you do it yourself. Attempt to manage your time instead throughout the semester to avoid last minute assignments.

Tips for Pulling an All-Nighter

Image by bibliothekarin, Creative Commons

Image by bibliothekarin, creativecommons.org

You get home from school and check all your syllabi, only to discover that you have a big project due the next day. You haven’t even started it yet. What is there left to do but pull an all-nighter?
All-nighters are common, with many people experiencing them throughout their university careers. They may not be your preferred mode of doing things, but sometimes they’re your only option. If you’ve never pulled an all-nighter before, you may be anxious about it. Never fear. All-nighters usually go swimmingly, if you keep a few things in mind.

Some tips to remember when pulling an all-nighter are:

  • Stock up on caffeine. You’ll be staying up all night, and you don’t know what time you’ll need a caffeine kick at – your nearest coffee shop may not be open. Remember not to overdo it on the coffee, as it can have side effects that may adversely affect your work (and your health).
  • Manage your time wisely. Plan how will you spend your time. Avoid taking breaks that are too long – remember, if you’re pulling an all-nighter, that means you have a very short amount of time to complete an assignment. Taking long breaks runs the risk of not completing everything by morning.
  • Avoid talking to friends. This may be too distracting for the short period of time you have to complete things.
  • Listen to music. This will make the whole process much more enjoyable for you. You may just find yourself being more productive, because you’re more focused on what you’re doing instead of thinking about how quiet and cozy your house seems.
  • Take a short nap once you’re done working. If you have time, why not take a nap? It will leave you refreshed in the morning and may even make the all-nighter process more bearable for you. On the same note:
  • Don’t take a nap if you’re not done the assignment. When you stay up all night, your body is extremely tired, and may not wake up when prompted. Don’t risk falling asleep for the whole night.
  • Set multiple alarms. It is very possible that you will be so tired the next morning that you miss the first alarm. How awful would it be to stay up all night finishing an assignment and not wake up in time to hand it in?
  • Proofread in the morning after you’ve taken a nap, had a shower, or downed a cup of coffee. You’ll be more alert, making it less likely for you to skim over errors.

You may be nervous about pulling an all-nighter if you’ve never done it before. Don’t fret. All-nighters can go well, if you plan them well. Of course there are drawbacks like losing out on sleep, lacking in the quality of work and the possibility of not being done on time, but unfortunately sometimes they’re your only choice. Remember: all-nighters don’t have to be a nightmare. They can be fun, if done right. Cheers and happy studying!

5 Ways You Can Get an “F” on Any Academic Paper

Image by Elvert Barnes, Flickr

Image by Elvert Barnes, Flickr

Writing an academic paper is a regular activity at school and it’s a way for students to showcase their abilities in gathering data, writing, and more. Writing an excellent paper is one of the goals of every student because they get to improve their knowledge, acquire better grades and develop certain skills that will be able to help them in their studies. However, it seems that only a few students are able to accomplish such a feat. Getting an “F” is the last thing a student wants to see on their paper, but if you don’t put the effort in, you can’t expect great results. As a student, it’s your responsibility to excel at your studies no matter what, and you have to find out what’s causing the problem. Here are a few examples of the problems that you should prevent before it’s too late.

  1. Getting easily distracted
  2. There’s certainly no way you’ll be able to write a great paper if your mind isn’t in the right place. Being unable to focus is the result of boredom taking over and you won’t be able to finish if you allow it to continue. Distractions are pretty much everywhere and you’ll have to avoid them as much as possible. Work on your paper in an isolated place like the library or your own room provided you’ve cleared away anything that can cause distractions. Be sure to turn off your Internet connection, laptop and your phone while you’re at it.

  3. Experiencing “writer’s block”
  4. If you can’t seem to write anything, then it’s a clear sign you have a writer’s block – the worst thing that could happen to you while writing. Forcing yourself to think will only make things worse, as your brain isn’t working with you. You’re pretty much doomed to fail, unless you do something about it. According to some studies, exhaustion can cause writer’s block, which is why you should take enough time to recover from your mental and physical fatigue so you’ll be able to write without any problems.

  5. Taking the easy way out
  6. Most students aren’t fond of spending too much time on their papers, which is why they’re doing everything they can to shorten the amount of time needed to write. Copying articles word for word is one of their usual strategies, which is obviously a form of cheating, as is getting someone else to write it for you. Writing a brilliant paper will take some time because you’ll need to do proper research to write a compelling argument on your topic. Remember that your patience and effort in writing can eventually pay off in the form of an “A+”.

  7. Getting information from a single source
  8. There are many reliable sources of information that can be used, but the problem is that most students are narrowing their search into a single medium. They have a great dependence on the Internet since information is easily accessible in seconds, but it might lack on some areas of their topic. Aside from the Internet, try reading books or asking knowledgeable people about the subject so that you’ll be able to cover more ground, and that would greatly reinforce your arguments.

  9. Writing at the last minute
  10. Tardiness is very common among students nowadays and it could have a negative impact on your study habits. Working on essays or assignments at the very last minute is a good example of something that can result in a paper truly deserving of a failing grade. You need to set your priorities straight if you want to gain positive results from your efforts, and writing your assignments should take precedence once you get home. It won’t be easy, but it’s definitely for your own good.

There you have it! Hopefully, you’ve learned what to avoid when you’re writing academic papers. Good luck!

This article was contributed by guest author Sophia Jennings.

Why Watching the Olympics is Good for Your Marks

Image by rapidtravelchai, Flickr

Image by rapidtravelchai, Flickr

Do you feel guilty about watching the Olympics this year? Like you really should be working on that assignment instead? Well, before you turn off the TV, we’ve got some news: it might actually be good for you, a student, to watch the infamous Games – and not just so you know what everyone’s talking about on Facebook.

The Olympics can be both inspirational and educational for students. No, we’re not just talking to those of you who happen to be athletes. We’re talking to students majoring in…well, everything.

Hear us out.

We’ve talked before about how you can’t get any better education than incorporating real-world experience into courses, and the Olympics gives you an opportunity to really see what goes on behind-the-scenes.

Still aren’t sold?

Here are some ways students in various majors can keep an eye on real-world happenings in their industry while completely enjoying the Olympic Games, guilt-free:

  • Marketing Students:

  • Over a billion dollars has already been spent on marketing at the Olympics. Can you see what it’s been spent on? Future marketers can watch for product placement and banners at the events themselves, and how companies all around the world take advantage of the buzz through commercials and social media. What’s the most effective marketing tactic for you?

  • PR and Journalism Students:

  • Sure to be one of the biggest news subjects of the year, watch the various events and figure out what you would write about. What do you think tomorrow’s big story will be? How would you handle a scandal for the media? What are the most tweeted events? Which news entity do you think is providing the best coverage?

  • Political Science Students:

  • Do you approve or disapprove of the way the Russian government is handling the event? What are your criticisms of it? What would you suggest for the use of the event venues after the Olympics to ensure the government doesn’t lose money?

  • Economics Students:

  • A lot of money has been spent on building new event venues and improving infrastructure for the Olympics. Would you have done anything differently? Do you think it was a worthwhile idea to spend money on infrastructure and buildings now, in hopes Russia can recoup the costs later?

  • Travel and Tourism Students:

  • Although many people will be attending the Olympics in Sochi this year, some may be wary about visiting Russia in the future. How would you promote tourism here? What would you do to help people feel safe in the country? Are hotels and restaurants doing anything special for the Olympics to welcome tourists? How much have prices increased during the event?

  • Biology Students:

  • Which country is taking home the most medals? Do you see a relationship between medals won in certain sports and the countries these winners are from? Do you think the genetic makeup of a person has anything to do with their skill in a sport?

  • Urban Planning Students:

  • Over 8 billion dollars was spent building new roads, railways, and even a glass-front train station in Sochi. Pay attention to what transportation is like – are people complaining about congestion? Did the company in charge of infrastructure do enough (or not enough) to host the event?

  • Physics and Engineering Students:

  • Look into how the engineers built the platforms for various events – how do they perfect the icy track for the luge? How do the skiers make sure they rotate the right amount in the air? Pay attention to the angles and surfaces used in different winter sports. Have any innovative materials been used this year?

  • Psychology Students:

  • Listen to the interviews of various athletes before and after the events. Are the expected winners taking home medals? Is anyone cracking under pressure? What might influence their mentality at the games?

As you can see, as a worldwide event, the Olympics is not just a sports competition. Every industry is involved in some respect, and if you are passionate about your major, you’ll find how the Games relate to you. You’ll learn about the way it applies in a real-world situation, and you may even be able to work what you’ve learned into your next assignment.

Eliminating the Question “When Will I Ever Use This?”


Video courtesy of the Toronto Star

You’ve sat through countless lectures in high school and college/university. Guaranteed, there was at least one lecture where you asked yourself (or in some brave cases, the professor), “When will I ever use this in the real world?” With the fast pace of modern society, students are feeling like they don’t have time to spend learning content they won’t find useful. Many teachers and professors have begun to understand this need, and some are even tailoring their classes to combat it.

Take, for example, the Tourism, Sport and Leisure Marketing class at the Schulich School of Business (York University, Toronto, Canada). Recently profiled by Morgan Campbell in the Sportonomics series for the Toronto Star, the group project for this class is to respond to a real-life issue affecting a pro sports entity. Various companies sign on to work with instructor Vijay Setlur in designing a case specific to their company’s needs. Each group in the class is assigned a company and a corresponding case, and is tasked with pitching a plan of action not only to classmates, but to executives from the companies.

Morgan Campbell interviews Stephen R. Brooks, VP Business Operations for the Toronto Blue Jays, in the video above. Brooks says,

An opportunity like this where the Blue Jays can come talk to not only bright businesspeople with great ideas, but also people in our age demographic that we’ve been trying to focus on, is a terrific opportunity to get that one-on-one feedback from them.

And thus we see the merging of classroom assignments with the real world. These students are given the opportunity to tackle an issue that perhaps may not even be presented to younger staff in a company; one that may be reserved for top executives behind closed doors. A case like this empowers students to not only come up with creative yet feasible ideas, but receive feedback from people with a front-row view of the challenges in their company. It’s an eye-opening assignment that pushes the class to really think about what they’re doing; eliminating the “who cares, it’s just an assignment” approach and adding the “I need to make a good impression because I want to work for this person one day” initiative.

When selecting your courses for the upcoming semester, keep your eyes open for ones that offer real-world experience. It’ll give you the opportunity to be excited about an assignment and will add value and credibility when you’re ready to find your first job out of school.

View the Toronto Star article here.

Finding Help When Struggling in Class

Image by Ohfoohy, Flickr

Image by Ohfoohy, Flickr

With the volume and speed at which information is given to you during university, you can often times feel completely lost. No matter how many times you look over your textbook or your notes, a concept just doesn’t seem to stick. Instead of ignoring it and hoping that it doesn’t appear on your exam, it’s time for you to ask for help. There are plenty of people and resources out there that can help. When you want to ace that course, think about starting here:

Online Resources

If you can’t follow what your prof is saying during the lecture, being taught the material from a different angle may be just what you need to succeed. With the ability to pause, rewind, and fast forward videos and podcasts, those who like learning things slowly have the opportunity to really let the information sink in. Try these:

Professors and TAs

They’re the ones who teach the course and give out the assignments and exams, so it only makes sense to contact them for help. This does not mean bombarding them the night before an assignment is due to answer all of your questions; it means attending office hours and going to every tutorial. You don’t want your prof to think of you as “the procrastinator” and they definitely won’t appreciate staying up late to answer questions you should have asked several days ago.

Students Who Have Taken the Course

Getting help from a student who has taken the course with the same prof may be the best place to get help. Sometimes, they can even be more helpful than a prof or a TA. A student who has been through the experience will know tips and tricks to understand course content and how to do well in the exam. There might be certain things these students picked up on that the professor liked seeing in assignments and essays. Definitely ask these people for help! If you feel like you’re really struggling, consider paying for a student tutor who will assist you throughout the term.

If your school has a Students Offering Support (SOS) chapter, take full advantage. SOS offers Exam-AID sessions run by students, for students. For a small donation of $20, you are given access to an Exam-AID session usually taught by a student who has taken the course. Sessions cover the entire course and come with notes made by the student instructor. This great organization puts all proceeds from Exam-AID sessions toward development programs in Latin America. Whether you attend their Exam-AID sessions as a way to cram or as a refresher, you can rest assured your money is going to a great cause.

Students Currently Taking the Course

They may not have the expertise and knowledge that professors or previous students have, but they may be struggling in class just like you. You’re all in the same boat, so help each other out! Consider starting a study group and meet once a week to discuss questions, readings, assignments, etc. It’s also a great way to make some friends in class.