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Archive for March, 2008

Using Small Pieces to Construct a College Degree

Monday, March 31st, 2008

You have to wonder why someone didn’t think of it before.

After all, we often recount the wisdom of breaking lengthy projects down into small, user-friendly tasks. In fact, this strategy is the cornerstone of crucial advice given to help procrastinators, pack rats and others.

But now it is being used to increase the pool of college graduates for skilled labor in Ohio. A unique plan offers new hope to those struggling to get out of low-paying, dead-end jobs by offering them a creative way to earn a college diploma.

The hope is that the success of an education pilot program will allow working adults to earn a series of academic and technical certificates that potentially add up to a college diploma. These ”stackable certificates” would allow students to begin by learning basic skills — like reading and math – then to move into progressively more challenging, college-level work.

Earning the certificates would help employees earn more money as they increase their skill levels. And the educational delivery system of the courses would encourage flexibility and success. Online education, or distance learning, is the most flexible delivery method for classes, enabling students to choose the time and place for study. This e-learning model places students in the drivers seat, allowing them to learn at their own pace.

In this particular pilot program, there would be no failures — only successes. If a student does not advance beyond a specific course, the course is simply repeated until the information is successfully absorbed.

Less than half of Ohio state residents —  aged 25-54 — are high school graduates; and only a third hold a college degree. As a result, the pool of highly skilled workers has reached critically low levels. Therefore, Ohio legislators mandated that the Board of Education develop a plan to increase college enrollment; and that is exactly what they did.

The new program is expected to debut in Ohio this summer on 12 campuses; and its outcome will undoubtedly be monitored by other state education departments. Hopefully, its success will lead to implementation of similar programs across the nation, leveling the playing field for all.

online education, distance learning, e-learning, college_degree, Ohio, education, jobs, college grad, working adults, academic certificates

Popularity: 5% [?]

Posted by vida

Diploma Mill Family Pleads Guilty in Seattle

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Three members of a family that operated an international  fake degree business pleaded guilty to federal charges involving the Washington-based diploma mill.

Stephen and Dixie Randock, along with their daughter, Heidi Lorhan, and several other defendants reportedly sold over 8,200 bogus college degrees around the world. The business is believed to have taken in between 5  and 6 million dollars from the base of operations in Spokane, according to the Houston Chronicle.

One customer was reported to have purchased a medical degree from the Randocks after seeing an advertisement in an airline in-flight magazine.

Guilty pleas by the Randocks and their daughter were part of a plea-bargain agreement that lessened the criminal charges to wire and mail fraud. The case against the Randocks has been carefully watched and is reported to be the first successfully prosecuted case against diploma mill operators using these particular charges. The defendants are expected to be sentenced in a few weeks.

The Randocks and their co-defendants sold bogus college degrees from non-existent colleges, along with counterfeit degrees from reputable schools. According to the Spokesman Review, at least 300 of those diplomas were sold to U.S.  government employees — some working in sensitive agencies like the Justice Department and the State Department. Others were sold to foreign purchasers who could use the false credentials to immigrate more easily into the United States.

A task force was set up to build a case against the Randocks when information revealed that some of the fake degrees were being sold to customers in the Middle East. Investigative agencies involved in the case include the Secret Service, the U.S. Attorney’s office, the IRS (Internal Revenue Service), Spokane police detectives, Federal Protective Services, and the Washington State Attorney General’s office. 

Although numerous accredited online degree programs exist, diploma mills draw in customers by advertising a “something for relatively nothing” product. Customers generally write a check, completing little or no actual college-level work. Within two or three weeks, an impressive and authentic-looking college diploma arrives in the mail.

Because many employers lack the manpower to verify credentials listed on employee job applications, fake degrees remain largely undetected.

However, the case involving the Randock family may signal a new beginning in the way diploma mill predators are detected, investigated and prosecuted. And in the meantime, buyer beware!

accredited online degrees, bogus college diploma, college degree, diploma_mills, employee, employers, fake degrees, job, online degree

Popularity: 7% [?]

Posted by vida

Student Loan Debt Takes a Toll on Society

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

When we hear that student loan debt has grown more than 57% in the last five years, it sounds rather ominous. 

And its effect on financially-burdened students is devastating, as it is for their parents who are taking out hefty second mortgages and private loans to pay for college.

A Mountain of Debt

According to the Project for Student Debt, at least 10% of students who attend private, non-profit 4-year colleges are $40,000 or more in debt; and half have at least $19,500 in education loans. Students in specialties like medicine or law may incur loan totals of $100,000 or more.

To top it off, students who receive Pell Grants – and who are from lower income families — are likely to borrow more money and graduate from college with more debt than students from higher income families.

When students leave college with such overwhelming financial debt, the impact is not only felt by the graduating student, but also by the society at large.

How We All Lose to Student Debt

According to the New York Times, the ball-and-chain of student debt is a deterrent to students who might otherwise choose public service jobs. These are the jobs that serve the poor, the disenfranchised, children and other individuals with limited resources.

For example, it is becoming more difficult to lure Harvard law graduates into lower-paying public service jobs – like prosecutors and public defenders – when they can easily command over $100,000 in corporate law positions upon graduation from the prestigious university. 

Expensive law schools like Harvard leave little choice for those who must consider how to repay student loans resulting from their high-priced education. 

Student loan debt also forces the hand of those who are interested in professions like teaching, firefighting, and social work. Instead, debt-heavy college graduates must often choose higher-paying jobs in business and private industry over lower-paying public service jobs.

And many who might have taken financial risks to start their own business are less likely to do so with huge college bills hanging over their heads.

What Solutions are Available

Harvard University decided to take a step in the right direction by offering a tuition break to law students who choose to serve the public. In their third year of law school, Harvard students will receive free tuition in exchange for a 5-year commitment to work in a public service job. This tuition break is worth about $40,000 to those who step up to the plate.

But there are other money-saving strategies:

  • Budget-conscious parents and students should shop for less expensive colleges that offer a quality education at a fraction of the cost. Public universities in the student’s state of residence generally offer a substantial difference in tuition cost as compared with a private college.
  • Accredited online schools, which vary widely in tuition rates, offer students the opportunity to take classes at home via computer, which allows the scheduling of study time around a full or part-time job. In addition to bringing in additional income, employment in the student’s field of study has the added advantage of providing valuable work experience that may be critical to landing a higher-paying job upon graduation.
  • Junior college is a great tuition-saving option for the first two years of college, leaving only two years of student loans at a 4-year institution for the final two college years. The student receives his or her college degree from a school of choice, but will spend only half the money that would have been shelled out for four years. The cost of junior college in the state of residence is negligible in comparison to most private or public 4-year institutions.
  • Loan forgiveness programs are generally limited in availability, but may help some who meet the narrow criteria. Usually, graduates are required to work in a low-income school, clinic or other designated environment after graduation for a set length of time in order to qualify for a permanent reduction in student loan debt.

The issue of mounting educational debt is one that is expected to become critical in the coming years. And unfortunately, when graduating students are pulled away from public service employment by financial concerns, we all lose.

Parents and students may need to rethink the way they choose colleges. And perhaps they should treat college tuition like they would any other household expenditure – with prudent and fact-laden scrutiny.

accredited online schools, online school, student loans, Harvard, college tuition, student debt, junior college, college, jobs

Popularity: 6% [?]

Posted by vida

Ten Desirable Qualities for Nursing Candidates

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

Nursing jobs offer an excellent salary and benefits; and because of this, many are drawn into the field. The consistent demand for nurses, along with a shortage of qualified candidates, has created widespread interest and drawn in a variety of people.

However, success in the nursing field requires specific characteristics or qualities to be cultivated in those who are considering a career working closely with doctors, patients and the public.

Following are ten of those qualities; though several others would easily make the list.

  1. Aptitude for science & math
  2. Aptitude for operating medical equipment & computers
  3. Ability to remain calm under stress
  4. Attention to detail
  5. Caring and empathetic manner
  6. Excellent communication skills
  7. Cultural awareness and respect
  8. Analytical & problem-solving skills
  9. Organizational skills
  10. Desire to remain a lifelong learner

Those who are armed with these qualities are already a step ahead when it comes to preparing for a job in nursing. But those who are not may be able to cultivate them in school and enter this fascinating career.

Training for nursing is available at traditional schools and online schools. Online schools generally offer bachelor’s and advanced degrees after initial training has been completed.

career, job, nursing, nursing qualities, online schools

Popularity: 10% [?]

Posted by vida

Distance Learning Saves Gas and the Environment

Monday, March 24th, 2008

At select gas stations across the United States, escalating gas prices have already soared to $4 a gallon. The high price of gasoline has forced many people to avoid unnecessary driving trips and to pinpoint creative alternatives to car travel.

But some are already in the driver’s seat when it comes to saving big on gas – online students. And not surprisingly, they also help the environment at the same time!

E-Learners Save Gas

Instead of attending traditional colleges that require frequent drives to a nearby or far-away college campus, e-learners opt out of expensive trips to the gas pump by studying at home or at work.  These distance learning students register for classes, purchase books, utilize library resources, watch live or archived lectures, communicate with instructors, and turn in assignments — all from the keyboard of a computer.

In addition to cutting back on gas, e-learners may rack up extra study time because of the driving time they save!

E-Learners Help Save the Environment

The Sloan Consortium reports that almost 3.5 million students took at least one online course in the fall of 2006, with a growth rate of 9.7% from the previous year. Even if half of these students had chosen to take an on-campus class instead, the additional 1.75 million cars on the road would contribute to increased air pollution, diminished oil resources and greater traffic congestion.

The effects of automobile pollution on the environment and on our health have been well-documented. Yet those who enroll in online classes are doing their part to help the environment just as surely as those who:

  • recycle paper and plastic,
  • use less water,
  • turn off unnecessary power to conserve energy,
  • use rechargeable batteries, and
  • use energy-efficient household appliances.

The benefits of online classes keep piling up; and saving gas and the environment are just the tip of the iceberg. But the bottom line is that an accredited online school provides an excellent education; and those who are planning a return to school should consider this win-win situation.

distance learning, e-learning, online school, accredited online degree, gas prices, save the environment, conserve energy, save gas

Popularity: 6% [?]

Posted by vida

5 Great Reasons to Choose Nursing as a Career

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

When most of us hear the name of Florence Nightingale, we think of the field of nursing — a high calling for those who are interested in caring for the sick. And it is to Ms. Nightingale that registered nurses owe a debt of gratitude for raising the status of a profession that was once a lowly job with few benefits. 

Today, there are many excellent reasons to choose to become a registered nurse.  Here are five of them:

  1. Nursing has excellent job opportunities, no matter what is happening with the economy. By the year 2030, there are expected to be 800,000 vacancies for nurses.
  2. Nursing has excellent starting salaries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a median annual starting salary of between $47,710 and $69,850. 
  3. Nursing offers an opportunity to truly help other people and save lives.
  4. Nursing keeps the brain stimulated; there is always something new to learn.
  5. Nurses can begin working within 1-2 years after the beginning of training, then can continue to work while finishing an online bachelor’s degree in nursing or an RN to BSN degree.

When it is time to choose a profession, nursing should be high on the list of possibilities.

nursing, online degree, RN to BSN, job, nurses, Florence Nightingale, career

Popularity: 9% [?]

Posted by vida

Criminal Justice Grad Contemplates Career As a Private Eye

Monday, March 17th, 2008

When Brandie Woodward received her online criminal justice degree, she followed a path that was unusual for someone with her credentials. She wrote a children’s book — about a goat named Lloyd.

According to the East Hampton Star, after studying serial killers and criminals, Ms. Woodward found herself drawn to writing a children’s story she had been contemplating for years. It was based on her own childhood experiences with a pet goat.

And after her children’s book, ”Lloyd“, was published this past January, she became interested in getting back to the criminal justice arena. This time around, she wants to pursue an online certificate program to become a private investigator.

Although Ms. Woodward may use her online degree to move into the private eye business, there are a number of options available to her as a criminal justice graduate. An online criminal justice degree is versatile enough to open doors into jobs as law enforcement officers, parole and probation officers, private detectives, substance abuse social workers, FBI agents, court clerks, school security officers, teachers and private security consultants.

Corporate investigative work may require an MBA (master’s in business administration) or an accounting degree; and those who choose forensic computer work should have additional training through computer science coursework. Computer forensics training may also be acquired through professional certificate programs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for jobs as private investigators is expected to rise faster than the average occupation, at 18% growth expected between 2006 and 2016.

So graduates who are interested in this career, like Ms. Woodward, should have a promising future.

online degree, career, criminal justice, jobs, law enforcement, MBA, online certificate program, online criminal justice degree, private eye, private investigator

Popularity: 6% [?]

Posted by vida

E-Learning Educators Band Together to Analyze Distance Education

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

A timely article in US News & World Report lauds the information on distance learning that is being compiled by several e-learning institutions. The schools are gathering data to assess how well online degree students are faring and who they are demograpically.

This voluntary data collection is expected to result in the release of a school-specific report in 2009 that is designed to measure accountability and provide demographic information about online schools and their students.

The study is called “Transparency by Design: Principles of Good Practice for Higher Education Institutions Serving Adults at a Distance“.

Several of the schools that are taking part in this accountability study include: Kaplan University, Regis University, Capella University, Western Governors University and Fielding Graduate University.

We look forward to hearing more about this.

online schools, online degrees, distance learning, e-learning

Popularity: 4% [?]

Posted by vida

Economic Downturn Still Fuels These Hot Jobs

Monday, March 10th, 2008

The reported loss of 63,000 jobs in February dealt a significant blow to the economy; and unemployment remains steady at 4.8%. 

However, employers are still hiring in some career fields, even during this economic downturn. So which jobs are still up for grabs?

The lost jobs in February were primarily focused in construction, manufacturing and retail. Financial services workers have also had a tough time hanging onto their jobs. But a number of other professions appear to be less affected by layoffs. Of course, this situation could change in the coming months.

Surprisingly, a few careers are expected to increase in demand, despite economic woes. 

  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,  health care jobs — including nursing — continued to grow in February; and 360,00 additional jobs have been added in the last 12 months. Most of these jobs are in hospitals and emergency health care facilities.
  • Food service occupations gained an average of 12,000 jobs a month since November 2007. This category includes food service managers, restaurant wait staff, bartenders and catering services.

A previous post, Ten Careers You Can Train for in Two Years or Less, includes a few of the hot health care careers:

  • licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN)
  • surgical technologist
  • emergency medical technician
  • medical coding and billing specialist

However, economic declines flow in cycles; and a profession that is shaving jobs now could become a hot career as the economy recovers. So it may be just as prudent to pursue a dream career by taking traditional classes or pursuing an online degree program while working to pay the bills.

And once the required courses have been fulfilled, the desired employment opportunity may well become available during healthier economic times. Before preparing for a chosen career, it would be wise to check the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook for a look at whether the demand for a specific job is expected to grow or decline in future years. 

Then . . . just go for it!

online degrees, online degree program, jobs, economy, career, U.S. Department of Labor, nursing, health care jobs, hot jobs, health care career, food services

Popularity: 7% [?]

Posted by vida

Outdated Statistic Impacts Perception of Distance Learning

Friday, March 7th, 2008

In the past couple of weeks, an outdated statistic has been quoted widely in education articles and blogs.  

The problematic quote generally states: “It is estimated that 70% of distance learners do not complete their courses.” 

This unproven claim is a prime example of how statistics can mislead the public.

Skewed information like this potentially discourages students from pursuing their dreams of a college education via online degrees, convincing them that only a select few successfully finish their courses of study. And that is the problem with inaccuracies being widely dispersed and accepted as fact.

The basic historical trail of the disputed information is as follows:

  • The above-named “70%” quote was recently extracted from a report by Shawna L. Strickland entitled, “Understanding Successful Characteristics of Adult Learners“, Respiratory Care Education Annual, (Fall 2007) . Ms. Strickland states, “Furst-Bowe and Dittman estimate that 70% of distance learners do not complete their courses.” From this, we can assume that the statistic originated not with  Ms. Strickland, but from other research.
  • In her review of literature pertaining to the topic of adult learners, Ms. Strickland cited a 2001 research paper by Julie Furst-Bowe and Wendy Dittman entitled, “Identifying the Needs of Adult Women in Distance Learning Programs“, International Journal of Instructional Media 28.4 (Fall 2001).  In their paper, Furst-Bowe and Dittman state: “It is estimated that nearly 70 percent of students who enter distance education programs drop out, permanently or temporarily, before program completion”. This was written in 2001, six years before the Strickland publication. And yet the statistic is not based on research by Furst-Bowe and Dittman either.
  •  Furst-Bowe and Dittman were citing a study by doctoral student, S. Parks, who published, “A study of the importance of customer satisfaction on students’ intent to remain in a distance education program.” Doctoral dissertation. Pennsylvania State University, 1997. (Dissertation Abstracts International, 58, AAG9802732, 1997.)

So the bottom line is that the “70%” quote was based upon research that was gathered and analyzed by graduate student, S. Parks, in 1997 or earlier. That makes the research over 11 years old and outdated. Most findings about how adult learners fared in distance learning would be irrelevant by now, considering the significant changes since then in instructional technology and personal computers. Also:

  • Most Internet connections were slow 11 years ago; now faster modems and wireless connectivity are common.
  • WiFi hotspots were basically unknown to most of us 11 years ago, even on college campuses.
  • The popularity of  distance learning has expanded phenomenally in those 11 years as technological changes have introduced live lectures via computer, efficient real-time communication with instructors, webcams, interactive message boards, and better learning software. 
  • College and university instructors now routinely receive training in e-learning instructional media and utilize a slew of efficient, technological tools to successfully teach and communicate with their online students.

The authors of the above-named studies all provided insight into the world of adult learners. They drew a number of well-researched and helpful conclusions about what type of adult learners are more likely to successfully attain their educational goals. And their body of research is valuable in the continued shaping of online instruction and its efficiency. 

However, the “70%” statistic is obsolete; and hopefully new studies — using proper research methods and an adequate sample size — will compare the success rate of online learners vs. traditional students. 

In the meantime, potential students should continue to fulfill their dreams through the opportunities afforded by distance learning and join the 3.5 million students currently enrolled in online courses.  

online degrees, distance learning, e-learning, college education, online students, college and university, statistics, instructional_media, adult learners, technology

Popularity: 5% [?]

Posted by vida