Archive for the 'Education' Category

The New Presentations

May. 14th 2013


PowerPoint is dead. Long live PowerPoint.

The demise of the ubiquitous presentation tool has been predicted for a few years now. Sure, it gets the job done, but there is a whole new generation of presentation tools that do the job while making more engaging, creative, and eye-catching slides that can help you tell your story and connect with even more people. In today’s 21st century workforce, regardless of where you work: Virginia, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wyoming, Utah, South Carolina, your resume will not be complete without them.

Going Online

With each new tablet and social network that launches, more of our interactions are happening online, from Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn and Google +. According to a 2011 Pew Research Center report, half of all Americans use social media, compared to only 5% just six years prior. Given our increasingly reliance on the online world, it’s only natural that our work shifts online, too.

“As more and more of our interactions become asynchronous and globalized, the need to present information online becomes greater,” says Chiara Ojeda, an educator, blogger and speaker who blogs at Tweak Your Slides.

Enter presentations tools like SlideShare, SlideRocket, and Google Slides, which make it easy to create slides and share them online with your classmates, colleagues, or a global audience of millions. More sophisticated tools like cloud-based presentation app Prezi.com do away with the idea of individual slides altogether to help you make impressive, modern-looking animated presentations on a seemingly endless canvas. Along that line are video scribe tools like Doodle and PowToon, which can truly animate your ideas. Not only can these presentations become more engaging, they can help your audience understand the subject matter better. One of the most popular Prezi presentations can teach you about the theory of relativity by showing it to you in action through a nifty animated elevator.

These presenting tools are prevalent in business, as well as IT, marketing, and education, and are quickly becoming essential. Jennifer Stagner manages SEO and ecommerce sales for office supply website www.tops-products.com and regularly uses Google Docs and SlideRocket to communicate with coworkers in other parts of the country.

“I use online tools for every presentation, whether it is presenting sales analysis to our executive team, search engine optimization best practices to our content team, training presentations to our technical support team, or product solutions to our customers,” says Stagner. “As a manager of a large department I also believe that students who are familiar with online presentation tools will be more valuable to future employers.”

If you’re an undergraduate student, graduate student, or recent graduate, now is the time to learn how to learn these tools and get these increasingly valuable skills on your resume. You can use them now in your classwork or internship, and have them in your arsenal for when you enter the workforce.

“This is absolutely an important skill,” says Ojeda. “Particularly because those already established in the workforce tend to do things in the old death-by-PowerPoint style, the opportunity for young, 21st century-workers to set themselves apart by taking on the tools of 21st-century presenting is very great.”

The Online Presentations Tools You Need To Know

Because many of these presentation tools are free, you can get started learning how to use them right now and incorporate them into your own assignments. Here’s our primer to understanding the more popular online presentation tools — and how to get the most out of them:

  • Google Slides: For Google’s version of PowerPoint, check out the Google Slides section of its Google Drive cloud storage (previously known as Google Docs). Through this free online presentations app, you can create and edit presentations using pre-made templates and inserting images and videos. For more collaborative projects, you can edit the presentation with fellow students or coworkers. Once it’s ready, you can share with others via Google Drive, download as a PDF, PPT, or .txt file, or even embed onto a website.

  • SlideRocket: Like Google Slides, SlideRocket helps you make presentations online. But the website also has more sophisticated tools so you can add animations and transitions. You can also include data from real-time sources, like Twitter live feeds and Yahoo! Finance stock quotes, for an always up-to-date presentation. When you’re finished, you can publish your presentation as a URL, which you can then embed in a web page or blog or share with others. There is one caveat — this popular tool is at a bit of a crossroads. Following an acquisition by ClearSlide, a sales-based presentation platform, SlideRocket is not currently accepting new registrations for its services. So you’ll have to stay tuned to see what’s next in store.

  • SlideShare: As the name implies, SlideShare is all about sharing your work. If you made a presentation through PowerPoint, OpenOffice, or Keynote, you can upload it to this online community to share with a global audience. The free website supports a variety of documents, including PDFs, MSOffice, OpenOffice, and iWorks docs, which you can add audio to through the site. You can upload presentations publicly or privately and share on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, or embed on blogs, wikis, or websites. The site can be valuable for when you’re conducting research, too, thanks to the thousands of uploaded SlideShares covering any number of searchable subjects.

  • Prezi: One of the more advanced tools of them all, this cloud-based presentation app uses Adobe Flash to help you choreograph non-linear, dynamic presentations. Its signature rotate and zoom capability can be useful for conveying complex ideas, so it might not be best for every project. It’s free to sign up, and you start with 100 MB of cloud storage. Working in a group? You can collaborate on a prezi with others in real time. When your presentation is ready, you can share publicly or download to present offline.

  • Skitch: Visuals are key in any presentation, and this free Mac image editor app from Evernote lets you easily manipulate your images and add annotations, shapes, and sketches.

  • Keynote: When working offline, many designers prefer this Apple product to other desktop-based presentation tools like PowerPoint to make their slides. Choose from more than 25 transitions, made 3-D charts, or morph text from one slide into the next for visually stunning slides that can then be uploaded to a site like SlideShare.

The Next Generation

To some presentation gurus, even cutting-edge tools Prezi and SlideShare are already passe, and the future of presentation belongs to video scribing — a new form of visual story telling that uses whiteboard animation, stop-motion photography, or illustrations to explain a concept.

“The days of PowerPoint, Slideshare, even Prezi are not long for the world,” says Duane Siebert, founder of www.TonerRefillKits.com. “People are suckers for motion, videos, more engagement, more entertainment.”

Siebert would know. He regularly creates “doodle-art” whiteboard videos using tools like Powtoons.com, as well as YouTube videos based on PowerPoint files, effectively for his business. These video presentations can make even the most mundane topics watchable and engaging. Siebert himself will tell you that his YouTube videos have garnered more than 300,000 views on stuff as boring as toner for printers.

Some of the emerging players in this animated arena include PowToon, a free animated presentation online software tool; Sparkol VideoScribe, a subscription-based whiteboard animation tool; and Camtasia Studio, an app that turns screen recordings into video. And as is usually the case with adapting brand new technology, younger people are at an advantage.

“A huge leg up young people have on us ‘old farts’ is that they are so keenly aware of the cutting edge nature of video, what’s appealing, what is eye-catching,” says Siebert. “It is far easier for them to see the power of tools like these and come up to speed on them far faster.”

Tips for a Killer Presentation

Though the tools themselves may have evolved, what makes a great presentation indeed great still relies on three key things: content, delivery, and visual presentation. Jim Endicott, author of The Presentation Survival Skills Guide, calls this a three-legged stool, a concept that Nancy Duarte, author of slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations, expanded on more recently with her presentation ecosystem. It all boils down to this:

“A presentation is strong in three areas: content that is dynamic, real, and resonates; delivery that is natural, engaging, and connected; and slides or visuals that are design-centered and visual in approach,” says Ojeda. “Each one takes unique preparation, self-critique, the critique of others, revision, and practice. An effective presentation is one that leaves the audience wanting to take action and effectiveness doesn’t come without [these] characteristics.”

Here are some tips to help you make effective presentations, whether you’re using online tools like SlideRocket, Google Docs, SlideShare, and Prezi, or, yes, even PowerPoint:

Follow by example: There are thousands of online presentations out there, curated by design and presentation blogs. It’s likely the more popular ones will also be some of the more engage, too, so point around and learn by example to see what works. “Study great presenters, don’t just go it alone,” says Ojeda.

Be succinct: An online presentation isn’t an essay — less text is better. And better than text is an image. “You want to avoid too many words on a slide or too many slides; often you can relay the same concept with an interesting visual or infographic instead,” says Stagner.

Rehearse: If you’re in school, you’re likely not just uploading your work to sites to let it potentially go viral; you’re presenting it before a classroom. And just like any presentation, it’s important to practice and put the time into the actual presenting — not just the presentation itself. “Don’t procrastinate, prepare instead,” says Ojeda.

Getting Started Now

Becoming proficient in any or all of these online presentation tools can be a valuable addition to your resume and portfolio. And the best part is you can start now; many of these tools are free and provide tutorials to help get you on your feet. You’ll be wowing your fellow classmates, professors, and future employers in no time.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Education, Resources | No Comments »

The After-50 Guide to Continuing Education

May. 1st 2013


With the average retirement age increasing, many people over 50 are taking on opportunities to learn a new, necessary skill and stay marketable. In addition, many retirees take on second careers to supplement their pensions and stay active. With roughly 30% of the population older than 62 and financially ready to retire, it has never been more important for middle-aged and senior Americans to engage in professional development, particularly within employment sectors in which they can contribute and be productive past the age of 65.

Post-Retirement Careers

Those who are able to retire often want to work at least a part-time schedule in order to earn extra income and remain engaged with the world. Many even choose to follow through with dreams they once had as young people. As noted in a recent article in Forbes, ‘encore careers’ frequently involve stints with charity groups, non-profit organizations or other volunteer agencies. Many older Americans find fulfilling post-retirement employment with organizations such as Teach for America and the Peace Corps.

Others build on the skills they developed over a lifetime to create service-oriented second careers. One long-time litigator established an agency to find pro bono lawyers for social entrepreneurs. Another, a former PR consultant, became a senior move manager, helping others downsize their lives when they moved into smaller homes. Although their new careers may not be nearly as lucrative as if they had remained at their old positions, these seniors enjoy fulfilling second careers that reinvigorate them.

One profession growing across age groups is the home-based entrepreneur; those over 50, with their years of experience and fully developed professional skills, have a qualified advantage over younger self-starters. Some of the most common home-based job titles among the AARP crowd include handyman (or woman), real estate appraiser, senior helper, and financial planner.

Many seniors are tapping into their skills and flexible schedules to become freelance workers. Those who speak a second language are highly desired as translators. Others, whose first career was in human resources or conflict resolution, are often hired as mediators. Those who spent years conducting research and tending to details find work as blog and grant writers.

There are a few helpful guidelines for those switching careers later in life. First, think about what you want your life to be going forward and choose a career that fits that vision. Second, particularly if you’re thinking of investing in a new home based business or franchise, take it for a “test ride” first by volunteering in the field. Third, become visible on social media and other networking sites like LinkedIn and Twitter.

Professional Development

Professional development is an ongoing enterprise for anyone who is serious about acquiring the skills and knowledge necessary for furthering their career. Although many individuals receive professional development opportunities through work, others enroll in online college courses and attend conferences and seminars to hone new skills.

Seniors can often take college courses at reduced tuition rates, and sometimes for free. According to a recent report, nearly 60% of accredited colleges waive tuition for older adults. There may be a few hurdles to jump through before you get the waiver, such as obtaining an instructor’s permission, but the savings are worth it.

Another frugal option is to simply audit a course. Since many professionals over 50 no longer have to prove their qualifications with a degree, simply having the knowledge to apply in the workplace is often sufficient. Community colleges are generally less expensive, and many offer reduced-fee classes designed for seniors.

One caveat: older adults should weigh the risks and benefits of college if they’re thinking of attending a full-tuition program. With fewer years left to recoup the cost of that tuition, it simply may not be worth paying for a new degree. One far less expensive option is to learn new skills through professional development seminars. Some of the most popular careers that can be started this way include medical transcriptionist, substitute teaching, practical nursing, freelance writing, and home-based healthcare.

Continuing Education

Whether seeking a second career or just satisfying an interest, a number of online course options are ideal for seniors. Even the under 50 set enjoy the flexibility and lower cost of the thousands of classes available on the web. Many courses are offered for free, a boon for those on a fixed income, and the flexible structure enables students to learn at their own pace.

One such online education site, Coursera.org, offers a wide variety of online classes that are free of charge. Courses are taught by top educators from colleges across the country; subjects range from genetics and calculus to digital programming and Greek mythology. Anyone in need of credentials, such as people hoping to launch a career in financial planning, can take a flexible online course and receive a verified certificate for a modest fee.

Others who are looking to move into positions with service organizations can also find informative and engaging online material. The courses offered at Edx, which are taught by professors from top universities like Harvard, MIT, and Stanford, explore themes that have great appeal to those who wish to enter the public sector, such as justice and poverty.

Another option for seniors looking to broaden their minds is free educational content known as open courseware, or OCW. MIT has made nearly all of its course content available for free through the school’s OPENCOURSEWARE site. This open content is perfect for the self-starter who can learn on his own, such as an entrepreneur hoping to launch a home-based business.

Whether they are looking to take a different path or develop a new skill, older Americans have found that continuing their education is a great way to enhance life after 50. Take some time to explore the wide array of professional development opportunities, seminars and conferences, formal coursework and online materials designed to make your retirement years as much fun, fulfilling, and productive as the first 50.

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Forecasting Higher Education

Mar. 19th 2013

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Returning Troops & the Transition Back to School

Mar. 1st 2013

President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address expressed a desire to bring home 34,000 American troops currently serving in Afghanistan over the next year; 80% of citizens agree this undertaking is necessary. Thanks to the GI Bill, the men and women returning to the United States whether it be West Virginia, Texas, Michigan, or Idaho will be able to transition into civilian life a little more smoothly, including earning secondary education.

Even before this declaration, veterans began enrolling in college and university programs in droves. The 2011 National Survey by the Department of Veterans Affairs revealed that a total of 923,836 troops took advantage of the education program’s perks. This marked an uptick from 2010′s 800,369, which also increased from 564,487 the previous year.

It stands to reason that the ones set to return over the next year will likely consider higher education an appealing option as well, filling programs offered both online and off. And with the Post-9/11 GI Bill now providing living stipends for students opting for Internet-based courses and degree programs, colleges and universities are even more accessible to veterans than they ever were before.

Why Online Really Is an Option

Jennifer Connors, Director of Military Services at George Mason University in Virginia, praises the Post-9/11 GI Bill for its comparative fluidity and for offering aspirant students more options. “[It] really does allow for transitioning veterans to choose the education path that best suits their needs. And for some of those individuals, a traditional brick-and-mortar university isn’t a pathway to success,” she said. “It’s going to be an online degree program, because those have the schedules which allow the flexibility to work full-time to support your family and pursue higher education.”

“In the military culture and environment, a lot of professional military education is done in computer-based learning modules so a significant portion of our core ancillary training requirements in the military are computer-based training modules,” Connors explained. “So I think it’s very accessible and very equivalent to what we experience in active-duty military.”

Since so many returning troops must balance spouses, children, jobs, and major life expenses, the digital classroom offers up an excellent education in the most time-efficient, cost-effective environment. Michael Voris, an admissions counselor at University of Alaska Fairbanks specializing in helping veterans transition, also believes more homecoming troops will lead to more pursuing online degrees thanks to these perks.

“When I speak with prospective active military students, their most common question is, ‘Can I complete that degree online?’ With their work schedules, very demanding jobs, and common geographical challenges, online education becomes more and more attractive, and it’s our responsibility and privilege to facilitate that,” he said.

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A Different Kind of Student

“To begin, the truth is that more than 1 million — as opposed to 34,000 — service members will leave the military over the next five years. This certainly creates an opportunity for online degree program,” said Syracuse University’s, in New York, Mike Haynie, founder and executive director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families and a former Air Force officer.

“Veterans are non-traditional students. For example, they are more likely than their non-veteran peers to be married, have children, and also to hold down a job while going to school. For these reasons, the flexibility inherent in online programs is well-suited to the situation of many veterans,” he added. “One of the great advantages that veterans have with regard to an educational setting, is based on their dynamic and accelerated life experiences.”

But the characteristics smoothing the move from military to school still come packaged with their own drawbacks. “This also can serve to create a situation where they don’t feel like they ‘fit in’ with their non-veteran peers, whose life experiences are less robust,” cautioned Haynie. “Online learning environments serve to mitigate this challenge. Further, veterans adapt to online environments well, given the fact that military culture instills discipline and planning behaviors — attributes essential to success in an online learning environment.”

Regardless of whether or not they select an online or a traditional brick-and-mortar institution, veterans begin class with a unique set of circumstances that make transitioning a challenge.

Although Connors acknowledges that all students, regardless of their backgrounds and degree plans, grapple against motivation and balancing their lives, she does believe these to be particularly prevalent amongst returning military personnel. As a result, the concentration required to follow a degree to completion is something these students must tackle before it causes academic problems. “The degree path and the course of action a student takes define the problem,” said Connors. “For instance, at an online institution — it’s going to be persistence.”

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Transitioning to the Lifestyle of an Online Student

“I think a significant amount of veterans that are going to be transitioning out of the military are going to have responsibilities beyond that of what a traditional freshman would have,” she continued. “A lot of the online programs offer those 18-month programs, but the assumption is that it’s going to be easy. And it’s not. It’s going to be labor-intensive … especially in those more consolidated-length programs. I think that’s going to be difficult, to find that balance.”

Moving from the highly regimented situation to one with far more freedom and permissiveness also overwhelms returning troops, complicating the settling process.

“When you’re in the military, there is an instruction or a regulation or a manual for everything. There is something that tells you exactly what to do and tell you how to do it and a checklist … to ensure that you’re doing what you need to do,” said Connors. “When you’re out of the military, you don’t have that. There’s no checkbox to life so when you’re brought up and groomed in a culture that inhibits that free thinking, then that’s a big, big transition.”

Voris stresses the fiscal challenges. “Many active military members have fairly rigid work schedules while in the military, so the flexibility of then becoming a full-time college student can be both liberating and challenging,” he said. “The financial side of college can be more challenging to arrange for military and veteran students because there are more steps involved.

“Because active military and veteran students are a unique and important part of our student body, we try to treat them that way without making them feel marginalized,” he says. “Also, I think it’s important that students have an awareness of the challenges that come with completing college courses online–some students tend to think that they might be easier than traditional in-person courses.”

To Haynie, most of the problems faced by returning veterans are systemic. Both society and the institutions involved need to start caring about and addressing their unique struggles in order to create truly equitable educational spaces. “Inherent in the secondary education system in the U.S. are people, systems and processes positioned to assist college-bound, high school students to make well-informed choices with regard to the pursuit of higher-education,” he said. “Importantly, this robust infrastructure is practically inaccessible to military veterans.

“The increasingly large universe of choices available to veterans with regard to paths into higher-education, coupled with the disparate nature of the institutions participating in the GI Bill program, highlights the need for a rigorous and robust system to prepare veterans to make informed choices about how, where, and when they will leverage GI Bill benefits,” Haynie said.

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Choosing a Major

When it comes to selecting the major that works best for them, veterans utilize the exact same blend of self-analysis and formulating solid career goals as anyone else. They have unique circumstances while adjusting to online and traditional classrooms; in no way does that translate to being inherently suited to particular degree plans.

“The highest concentration [of George Mason University veterans] is in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences,” said Connors, adding that any major works just fine — especially since students taking advantage of the GI Bill must make a decision on the government’s timeline.

“We don’t have room for failure. There’s no second chances when you’re coming out of the military and into a degree plan … But you’re put in a situation where the Post-9/11 GI Bill requires you to declare a degree plan after two semesters,” described Connors. “You cannot be undeclared and use your Post-9/11 GI Bill for a long period of time. So you really have to declare a major.”

Additionally, Voris is a supporter of veteran students taking full advantage of colleges’ career services offices and academic advising centers, which can really help students narrow down their potential major of choice.

“At the end of the day, I advise students to pursue their passion – the subject that makes them want to do the work for a class — rather than choosing a program based on perceptions of future income or other factors,” Voris said.

Haynie echoed the same sentiments.

“We shouldn’t be talking about where a veteran ‘fits’ with regard to linking a particular academic major, to their military vocation. Instead, we should be giving veterans the same advice we give anyone pursing higher education; that is, pursue your passion,” he said. “Don’t let someone tell you what you should do just because it might relate to what you did in the military. While this might be one factor in the decision-making process, in the end choices related to both academic major and institution should be more holistic and motivated by future-focused goals and aspirations, as opposed to singularly tied to their military experience.”

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Vow to Hire Heroes Act

Initiatives such as the Vow to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 might impact the major-related decisions of veteran students between the ages of 35 and 60. This legislation targets unemployed former military personnel desiring an associate’s degree or non-credit certification, paying for a year of community college or technical school. But training must lead them towards a career in one of 211 most-needed positions and industries, like construction management, electrician, and more. Vow to Hire Heroes may not influence the degree plan choices of most veterans, but the promise of tuition reimbursement and jobs after completing a program could push some undecided students towards pursuing particular majors and career paths.

Shifting between the heavily regimented military lifestyle to the relatively freeform college and university environment can be incredibly jarring to returning veterans. Regardless of whether or not they elect for an online or offline degree, they experience stressors their peers could never fathom. Schools need to start paying attention to what these students require and take pains to ensure the transition occurs as smoothly as possible.

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Caffeinated Nation

Feb. 25th 2013

People in the US regardless of where it is: Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, consume a lot of caffeine—80% of us have some sort of caffeinated beverage every day. Everybody has their own caffeine-loaded drink of choice, from double lattes to ice-cold cola to strong-brewed green tea. More and more, however, people (and especially young people) are turning to less healthy caffeine options, like chemical-loaded energy drinks. While energy drinks aren’t always inherently bad, studies show that more and more people are using them in excess, often drinking many a day in order to stay awake and alert—and the effects can take a serious toll. Energy drinks are loaded with caffeine, much like coffee or many sodas, but energy drinks are also often chock-full of other energy-giving, unhealthy substances. Among students, energy drinks are being consumed at heightened rates in unhealthy qualities, and in tandem with this, hospitalizations and even deaths related to energy drink consumption have seen a considerable uptick in recent years. While an occasional energy drink for most healthy people is harmless, when energy drinks are consumed at high volumes, and when they’re paired with alcohol, the risks become much higher. The following infographic takes a look at how the energy drink market has grown, and what some of the health impacts of this could be for those who consume them.

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Caffeinated Nation Infographic

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10 Career Resources All Online Students Deserve

Feb. 4th 2013


Nearly every college or university campus has a department devoted solely to easing the transition between graduation and starting a career. Understandably, this may leave some online students feeling locked out of the offerings, though they deserve just as much of a chance at landing a job as their counterparts on campus. Most schools recognize this disparity and are working to give online students access to the very same resources, adjusted to meet their virtual situations. If they’ve put in the time and energy toward their educations, they’ve certainly earned the right to enjoy everything that might lead them to scoring and keeping a dream job.

  1. Resume and cover letter services:

    The most basic of career services involves helping students hammer out the best resumes and cover letters possible. Seeing as how these are probably the most important documents most people will ever have to write in their entire lives, they certainly need as much guidance as possible. Pretty much every school with online degree plans offers enrollees a chance to e-mail their documents — including whole applications — to a counselor for detailed critique and suggestions. University of Montana’s online and distance students, for example, enjoy access to such assistance via phone, the Internet, or even in person if they prefer.

  2. Personalized resources:

    Skype, Google Hangouts, and other voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) and chat functions make it easier than ever for online students to receive one-on-one career counseling from a pro. These sessions might include advice on resumes and cover letters, guided assessments, questions and answers about different options, and anything else the up-and-coming employee might need. Many schools post up general resources at minimum, but students tend to flourish with individualized assistance.

  3. Workshops:

    Some colleges and universities, like Academy of Art University, encourage their online students to sign up for virtual workshops on a wide range of career-related subjects. The specifics vary from school to school, but commonly focus on the basics of job-hunting — writing resumes and cover letters, filling out applications, networking navigating the frustrations of finding a position, etc. — sometimes even as they pertain to specific industries.

  4. Online networks:

    Oberlin College and Conservatory might host a suite of fabulous online networks for current students and alumni, but it’s hardly the only one who reaches out in such a manner. LinkedIn groups remain incredibly popular, with most schools providing groups perfect for meeting others in the department, graduates, and anyone else wanting to help out that job search, though Facebook isn’t without its trumpeters. For online students, this means a more equitable chance at meeting people who could very well launch their careers.

  5. Self-assessments:

    The savvier career services departments out there proctor self-assessments, frequently online, meant to grant students a deeper understanding of their strengths, weaknesses, and possible career paths. Since so many schools still do not offer personalized sessions with a counselor, these little tests and questionnaires provide insight into what the individual might want and need in a job. Alternately, they offer up a viable alternative to shier or more self-assured types who prefer exploring themselves and their possible futures alone.

  6. Mock interviews:

    Whether conducted online through video chat, over the phone, or in person, participation in mock interviews builds the skills and confidence students need to land (hopefully keep) a job. Montana State University at Billings allows its distance learners to sign up for phone interviews via e-mail and receive practice and feedback about what needs improving. Even the most comfortable and poised student could stand to use a few pointers before heading in for a real interview.

  7. Meeting with experts:

    Most career workshops hosted by colleges and universities are fronted by staff members, but some departments take them to the next level by bringing in the professionals. The Climbing with the Experts series at Westwood College pairs up students and employees in industries they might want to pursue, allowing the former to ask more specific questions than they could in a more general setting. Some of the workshops this particular school offered include game development and design, criminal justice, and IT, though the meetings change from semester to semester and school to school.

  8. Job openings:

    Whether or not students take their courses in the classroom or online, job postings are a staple of career services departments. While the mechanisms differ depending on the school, the one thing they have in common being that they connect students with openings in their field. Online students who live closer to campus can also scope out whether or not their colleges plan to host any career fairs anytime soon.

  9. Links:

    Even if career services departments provide absolutely nothing else to the online student body, at the very least they should post up a listing of valuable job-related links. Penn State’s World Campus boasts one of the best examples of doing resource inventories right. They break their dozens of links down to several different categories — including social media, interview tips, graduate school, and plenty more — for quick and easy browsing.

  10. Lifetime support:

    Harrison College proudly ensures that its alumni receive full usage of career services department for life. After all, schools train students to enter the workforce, and with life being what it is they may find themselves searching for a new job years, even decades after landing their first. Which means they might need a bit of assistance rewriting their resumes and remembering interview protocol as well. Continual support for graduates means peace of mind that the ol’ alma mater will always be there to provide assistance when the road grows rough.

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The Student Cheat-Sheet for Understanding the Faculty Crisis

Jan. 17th 2013


As a student, you may feel that the faculty crisis only tangentially affects you, yet the reality is that it can and does have a direct effect on the overall educational experience you’ll have in college. For that reason, it’s imperative to learn as much as possible about the faculty crisis. You want to be a smart, savvy consumer who gets the most for their money, and college is one of the biggest purchases you’ll ever make, so you should know about issues that will impact the value and quality of the experience. If you don’t know where to begin, don’t worry; we have you covered. Here’s a quick guide to understanding who’s really teaching you and what that may mean for your financial investment in college and ultimate success as a student.

Who Is Teaching You?

Do you know what role your professors play at your school? You should. Read on to learn more about the different titles your professors can have and the pros and cons of each being your instructor.

Teaching Assistant:

Teaching assistants are graduate students at the master’s or doctoral level working with a professor in their department, usually to gain experience and tuition breaks. Pros: TAs are often (but not always) closer to your own age, something which may make them less set in their ways and more flexible. Cons: Teaching assistants have not yet graduated from their degree program and most, while knowledgeable, don’t have the same degree of experience as a professor.

Adjunct Professor:

Adjunct professors are those who work part-time for the university or college. Once, adjuncts were largely individuals who were retired from teaching or professionals working in the field, but today adjuncts are much more likely to be master’s or doctoral program grads who cannot find full-time employment as professors. Pros: Adjuncts are often highly credentialed in their field and as qualified to teach as any other professor. Cons: Unfortunately, the part-time status of adjuncts’ jobs may force them to teach at several schools which means more time spent traveling and less time to prepare for and meet with students.

Lecturer or instructor:

If someone is listed as a lecturer or instructor, this usually designates that the individual is simply teaching at the school and has no research obligations. Pros: Lecturers generally know a lot about their field, are highly qualified, may have more time for students because they don’t also have to complete research. Cons: Because they aren’t doing research while at the school, however, lecturers may have weaker ties to the university and it may be hard to keep in touch as you progress through school.

Assistant Professor:

When academics enter their field, they generally begin as assistant professors. This position can be tenure track and requires the same amount of research, preparation, and teaching as other professorship positions (sometimes more, as young professors work their way up the academic ladder). Pros: Your assistant professors will have graduate degrees and should be highly qualified. Cons: Because assistant professors are new to their field, they will have less experience and usually aren’t tenured.

Associate Professor:

Associate professors are those who are on the tenure track (or who have already obtained it after being promoted to an associate professor) but have only been on the job six to eight years, depending on the institution. Pros: Associate professors are highly qualified and are tied to the university through tenure. They also do research, so they will be in the loop about their given field. Cons: There are few cons to having an associate professor as a teacher, though some will have less experience than their full professor colleagues and may have more committee and administrative work with their higher rank.

Full Professor:

At the top of the academic ladder are full professors. Full professors have often be working in their field for 15-20 years and are highly experienced. Some may even be promoted to chair of the department or serve as distinguished professors for their schools. Pros: These professors are usually the big names that draw in students to schools and bring in research money. Generally, they will be the most experienced and well-regarded professors at a school. Cons: Most colleges don’t have a lot of full professors on staff, so you won’t always be able to take courses from them. They also often concentrate on graduate-level teaching. While age does offer experience, full professors may be set in their ways, or more focused on research than teaching, but these things will vary largely depending on individuals.

Problems With the Current Setup

The economic crisis and shifting financial priorities have had a big impact on who is teaching America’s college students. A growing number of full professor positions are being cut, filled instead with adjunct and other part-time positions. Budget cuts also may mean that not only is more stress put on part-time professors but also that full professors may be carrying a heavier class load and are saddled with more responsibilities than ever before. Take a look at this information to get a more in-depth look at some of the problems associated with the faculty crisis.

  • Many professors are demoralized by the current setup.From adjuncts trekking from school to school to associate professors killing themselves with long hours to earn full professorships (80 hours a week isn’t unheard of), academia as it is has proven to be pretty demoralizing for a large number of those working in it. Studies have shown that both those at the lower end of the academic spectrum and those in the middle are pretty unhappy with their jobs, which isn’t a good thing for students or professors. Budget cuts haven’t helped, with 96% of professors reporting feeling the cuts are a major source of stress and 48% having considered leaving academia altogether. Not exactly a recipe for success.
  • Non-tenure track faculty are overworked, underpaid, and have no lasting ties to the school. Adjunct and non-tenure-track faculty were once fairly rare, but today make up about 68% of all faculty appointments. In fact, only 27% of professors hold full-time, tenure-track positions. Without any long-term guarantee of employment, these faculty members are often overworked and mistreated. For example, many adjuncts earn $20,000 a year or less (many elementary school teachers make more), teach five classes a semester, or work at three or more schools. It’s hard to be a good teacher when your career is so unstable, and part-time faculty often have little time for interaction with students, research, or other personal development.
  • Schools often have disproportionate numbers of graduate students teaching students.While non-tenure track professors may be overworked, they usually have doctoral degrees in their fields. Graduate students do not. While these students do need experience teaching courses, some schools overuse them to teach. For example, of the 4,235 teachers at the University of Tennessee, 2,062, nearly 50%, are graduate students. With tuition higher than ever before, many students may not be getting access to the highly qualified and experienced professors they deserve.
  • Poor pay and benefits means that schools aren’t attracting the best talent. If your school isn’t paying professors well, then it likely has little chance of attracting those who are the best and the brightest in their field. Those academics will simply seek employment elsewhere where they will be better compensated for their expertise. That’s a big deal because research has shown that the top universities, generally those with the best student outcomes, too, have top-notch faculty teaching and doing research.
  • Smaller budgets and fewer full-time faculty means fewer resources for students. Many schools simply aren’t hiring new professors (faculty numbers have declined by 18%) or are relying too heavily on part-time faculty. This has resulted in an increase in class sizes, greater workloads for professors, and even lowered standards in courses. That’s less time spent on revising papers, answering questions in class, or meeting with students, all of which has a direct effect on educational quality.

Why the Faculty Crisis Should Matter to Students

The faculty crisis isn’t something that just college faculty have to worry about; it’s a problem that trickles down to students, too. Here are some big reasons that students need to educate themselves on the issue.

  • Faculty can have a direct impact on student achievement. Ever had a great teacher in your life? The effort he or she was able to put into helping you excel may have made a big difference in your life, your goals, and your future. Faculty who are overworked, overstressed, or underqualified are going to have a harder time helping you, as they may find it hard to simply stay afloat without any additional obligations. Studies have shown that strong relationships with professors can not only improve student grades but can actually help students stay enrolled in school until graduation.
  • Relationships with professors matter, both in school and after. Being able to build strong, mutually beneficial relationships with your professors is an essential part of getting the most out your college education. Faculty can help you find material to research, apply for grad school, or even just point you in the direction of books and articles that will help enrich your education. After graduation, they can also serve as great references and connections to the field. Not being able to foster these kinds of relationships can be a detriment to you both now and later.
  • Those entering academia will be directly affected.Those who are hoping to one day work in academia (and even those who are not, you never know where your career will take you) should pay special attention to the faculty crisis. Learning about it now can help reveal the many obstacles that students face when making it into work at a university, and talking with professors at all levels can help you to avoid many of the pitfalls affecting those in higher education today. Let this give you some perspective: between 2005 and 2009, 100,000 students graduated with a Ph.D., but only 16,000 new jobs in academia were created.

The bottom line is that even if you’re not planning on working in academia, the faculty crisis does affect you. When choosing a school, take the time to learn about how many adjunct and full professors will be teaching you, and meet with those in your department, if possible, to get a sense of the atmosphere. You should have serious concerns about the ability of the school to provide you with the kind of education you deserve, especially if you’re shelling out tens of thousands of dollars in tuition, so don’t be afraid to learn more and raise questions if your school (or prospective school) doesn’t seem to be up to par.

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Studying Abroad in America

Jan. 9th 2013

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10 Alarming Statistics on College Graduation Rates in America

Dec. 21st 2012

Americans get it rammed into their heads at an early age that graduating from college ought to be their ultimate goal, because it’s the only way to get ahead in the business world; even those with no intention to enroll still end up exposed to the rhetoric. Education is absolutely essential for a nation (and humanity itself) to thrive and grow, and one would assume that this status would mean equal opportunities and outcomes. Nope. As the following statistics reflect, the country still has a ways to go before it achieves its postsecondary schooling goals.

  1. Black males have the lowest graduation rates

    As of the last round of statistics released by the National Center for Education Statistics. Black males enrolled in both four-year and two-year programs suffered from the lowest graduation rates, regardless of whether they attended private, public, for-profit, or non-profit institutions. When it comes to four-year programs, only 15% complete their degrees within the given time frame. The number increases amongst two-year students, though, with 20.4% finishing within 150% of the usual time frame.

  2. 1.2 million graduates don’t actually count as graduates

    When governing bodies calculate graduation rate statistics, they only check out the results of full-timing colleges. The successes and failures of part-time students do not factor into the ultimate numbers, so the nation’s real graduation rate remains utterly obscured and incomplete. So at least 1.2 million graduating college seniors are not reflected once statistic release party time excellent rolls around.

  3. And a further 2.1 million graduates are not recognized as having graduated

    Not only does the government manage to bungle its statistics regarding what sort of students complete college in what span of time, they also fail to recognize transfers. Individuals who begin their degrees at one institution before sending their credits, money, and warm bodies to another (like the very common “community college for two years, a four-year after” arrangement) do not count. When they completed their schooling within the polled time frame, 2.1 million American college kids fitting that description did not wind up in the numbers.

  4. Forty-three percent of American college students take longer than six years to finish their degrees

    Not because of some “kids today!” diatribe on laziness. Because cost stands as one of — if not the No. 1 — major concerns for college students, many minimize debt by tailoring their schedules around work. Sometimes this means taking semesters off to rake in as much moolah as possible, or enrolling part-time (even though statistics do not reflect this decision). It makes sense that students in four-year programs these days might not finish as fast as their predecessors.

  5. Only 29% of students in two-year programs finish in under three years

    And the very same logic from the above listing applies here. In addition, many non-starters drop-outs realize just how many professional opportunities in fields like tech and journalism do not even require a degree if the knowledge and/or talent are already present. Hey, it saves money and time.

  6. Private, for-profit schools have startlingly low graduation rates

    For as popular as they are for their flexibility and accessibility, private, for-profit schools lag behind any other type when it comes to graduation rates. After six years of schooling, a staggering 78% fail to complete their degrees. Disconcerting to say the least, especially since such institutions so often advertise themselves as an affordable way to complete a college education and enter into the workforce quicker than usual.

  7. Average debt for graduates keeps increasing

    Because a college education practically requires the selling of one’s internal organs on the black market to be a reasonably affordable venture, graduates manage to experience escalating debt levels every year. On average, they now walk away owing $26,600 as of 2011, marking an increase of 5% from 2010’s findings. Nationally, they owe a combined sum of $1 trillion. Since 10% of college graduates default on their loans within two years … yikes.

  8. Half of today’s college graduates are un- or underemployed

    As with the increasing debt load, the fact that attaining a college degree does not guarantee a job after graduation — no matter what mommy and daddy said – also deters many students from pursuing or completing their schooling. The actual number is slightly higher than one out of every two, though, with around 53.6% of new graduates either failing to find a job or entering into one with lower pay than they’re qualified to receive. Totally awesome, considering how much debt they need to pay off!

  9. Latin Americans receive the lowest amount of master’s degrees

    On a positive note, the number of master’s degrees conferred happens to increase every year! But discrepancies still exist when it comes to equal postbac opportunities for black and Latin American students. Only 2% of the latter demographic graduated with a master’s degree, compared to 5% for the former, and an increase did not occur between 1995 and 2010. Schools need to understand the roots of these gaps and work toward addressing them for a more diverse student body.

  10. America’s global ranking? 16 out of 26

    The United States may be the home of rugged individualism and an epidemic of “WE’RE #1!!!!!” but in reality it’s more like #16. Out of 26. When it comes to degree holders between the ages of 25 and 34, it lags behind many nations of similar economic advantages. In order to get back into a competitive groove, an additional 800,000 graduates need to enter the workforce each year, and the workforce itself needs 16 million employees to satisfy mounting demands.

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Online Education: Non-Profits Fight Back?

Dec. 13th 2012

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