"Education is the most
powerful weapon which
you can use to change
the world".

-- Nelson Mandela



"Genius without education
is like silver in the mine."
-- Benjamin Franklin

Archive for March, 2009

Higher Learning Signs, They Are A-Changin’

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

As major newspapers fall out of business, signs of change are also evident in higher learning.

The signs reveal a neon pathway that is clearly visible to innovators and trendsetters, but surprisingly invisible to business-as-usual types.

These education trend indicators inspire tough sermons delivered by education forecasters — warning that traditional colleges and universities are slowly losing ground. And unless higher education administrators embrace rapidly changing technology that daily informs, connects and influences today’s children, these future college students will shun on-campus schools and stampede toward high-tech online schools.

Newspapers were warned in much the same way, soon after the public began receiving its breaking news on the Internet, rather than in paper form — and often hours before it hit the printing presses. But only now are the major newspapers tumbling out of circulation — after years of warnings. So perhaps traditional schools have sufficient time to act.

Administrative visionaries must integrate online classes and online degree programs into their education foundations, or risk going the way of the dinosaurs — into extinction.

In past blog articles, we stressed this message in:

And now, the Chronicle of Higher Education also warns traditional colleges and universities that they may be in trouble.

An article by Kevin Carey, “What Colleges Should Learn From Newspapers’ Decline” (April, 3, 2009), chronicles the chain of events that could determine the fate of many public, and some private, honorable institutions of higher learning.

Hopefully, colleges and universities will heed the warnings, rather than ignore them like the newspapers did.

Our local newspaper lost weight over the past couple of years, shedding reporters, departments and pages. Now it hits the driveway — or the ditch — as a mere shadow of its former self. Soon, it will reach its unplanned resting place of intangibility on the web, a fleeting flicker of information traveling unceremoniously along telecommunication pathways.

And just as a newspaper era will soon be gone, so might ‘Taps’ be chosen among the repertoire for a slew of hallowed halls of education — unless the powers that be finally set their antennae on the neon path to a brighter, higher education future.

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Popularity: 5% [?]

Posted by vida

A Gathering of High-Tech ‘Fun and Games’ Professionals

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Millions of people rush home every day from work or school to play video games, while others play obsessively online.

This behavior has spawned a booming, international, multi-billion dollar industry that continues to flourish — even during a bad economy.

And that is why, during a week of beautiful weather in a city known for its world-famous bridge, thousands of video game professionals gathered to check out the latest trends and newest technology in interactive video games.

Video game enthusiasts converged on picturesque San Francisco Bay this week, March 23-27, to attend the 2009 Game Developers Conference - a conference that drew over 18,000 people at the Moscone Center last year. They met to learn, be inspired and network with others who have a passion and love for video games.

Within a hop, skip and jump from the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge and picturesque Fisherman’s Wharf, game software designers, computer programmers, visual artists, sound designers and others immersed themselves in a generous buffet of all there is to know about the video and digital games industry.

Over 400 workshops, a hands-on expo, and an insider’s peek at the newest, not-yet-on-the-market gaming consoles drew professionals and students to the video gaming industry’s largest annual event. Round table discussions, networking opportunities and several awards shows — including the 9th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards — were sprinkled throughout the week.

Students who desire a career in the video game field were also present at the conference. Many jobs in the field require a college degree; and accredited traditional and online degree programs fill the bill with majors in graphic design, fine arts (drawing, animation, music), software engineering, business management, fashion design, sound engineering and others offering entrance into a fun, satisfying and diverse field.

Career opportunities were highlighted during the conference, with representatives of top companies like Microsoft, Sony, LucasArts, Blizzard, and Activision on hand to recruit and interact with aspiring attendees.

For those who love video games and want to work in this field, San Francisco was definitely the place to be.

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Popularity: 5% [?]

Posted by vida

Angry at AIG — But Are You Part of the Problem?

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

The public outcry against AIG, American International Group, due to the $165 million handed out in bonuses after a $170 billion bailout, resounds like the shot heard round the world.

And the elephant in the room is the nagging question: Why would AIG employees accept bonuses paid for with the money of taxpayers, many of whom are now without jobs?

A Plethora of Anger

It seems that everyone is angry at AIG for what is, according to some, tantamount to stealing. But many of those who are verbally casting stones at AIG employees are not without their own sins against taxpayer monies. In fact, the same greed and lack of integrity that caused the AIG chain of events, is rampant in our society.

So the real question is: Are you part of the AIG problem?

Although it is difficult to admit, today there is an epidemic of shady, close-to-the-line behavior at work, at home and at play. And even if we don’t take part in such behavior, we often condone and rationalize the behavior of others. But when our money is affected — even our taxpayer money — then all of a sudden, we are “outraged”.

When You Hold Up a Mirror, Who Do You See?

These are a few ways that some people either take their own taxpayer “bonuses” or cheat other taxpayers:

  1. By cheating on income tax returns. In preliminary data, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reports that 138,893,908 individual tax returns were filed in 2007. Anyone who fails to report all sources of taxable income, who makes up nonexistent expenses, or who is otherwise “creative” with their tax return, is stealing from the taxpayer pot. Even a small percentage of cheaters lowers the pot by multimillions or billions of dollars.
  2. By cheating with a fake college degree. The person who buys a fake degree from a diploma mill to acquire a job or promotion has snatched that work away from a college graduate who earned an accredited online degree or traditional college degree honorably through sacrifice and diligence. The cheater defrauds the true graduate and uses a worthless document to substantiate a lie to the employer.
  3. By cheating retail stores. Some “fashionistas” make it a game to purchase clothing that they never intend to keep. They then wear it and return it to the store for a refund, usually claiming it was never worn. When they receive their merchandise refund, the state sales tax is also refunded, lessening the state’s revenue. Also, the store misses out on the item being sold, rather than ‘borrowed’ rent free. Other taxpaying customers end up paying higher prices for merchandise; or they lose the store completely, partially because of this unscrupulous practice.
  4. By cheating waiters and waitresses out of tips. Certainly there are more than a few who may be undeserving of a tip; but this is generally a minority. Yet most of you are familiar with the demanding restaurant customer who runs the waitstaff ragged, then leaves little or no tip. Well guess what, whether or not they receive the tip, waiters and waitresses are taxed based upon what they should have received, not what they actually received. So reward those who work hard to serve you; leave a tip — don’t cheat them.

But thankfully, all is not doom and gloom. According to the New York Times, many of the AIG bonuses have been returned — including 9 of the top 10 bonuses.

Still, the next time you are tempted to complain about someone else’s greed, pause and consider whether you are part of the ‘greed’ problem as well.

And determine that, in the future, you would rather be part of the solution.

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Popularity: 4% [?]

Posted by vida

Are You Ready for the Coming Economic Recovery?

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Everyone is clamoring for an end to the recession and its accompanying woes — including escalating unemployment, shrinking portfolios, sky-high foreclosure rates and vanishing credit.

But are you really ready for the coming economic recovery?

What Kind of Question is That?

Most of us consider that question to be a no-brainer. Of course we are ready to ride into the beautiful sunset again on our virile net worth and bulging status quo ante. Once again, we want to feel the invigorating breeze of a stable job with cool perks and flowing expense accounts.

And considering all we have been through, is that really so much to ask?

Perhaps not, but a lot depends on how the current economic climate has shaped, transformed and prepared each individual for a smooth ride to a new financial and employment reality.

Beat Anxiety . . . Be Proactive

Although anxiety over money matters is normal in the short-term, it can be debilitating. But those who actively prepare for economic recovery will have an advantage over others when jobs open up and employers ask the question: “So what have you done in the months, years since your last job?”

And they are going to want to see the evidence on your resume.

Ways to Move Ahead of the Line

Thankfully, while unemployed or underemployed, there are credible ways to prepare for the best future positions while leaving a resume paper trail.

  • Volunteer. A volunteer works for free but also strengthens current job skills, learns new skills and networks at the same time. The satisfaction of working as a volunteer can bolster confidence and provide a measure of career satisfaction during a difficult time.
  • Enroll in an online degree program. There are tens of thousands of e-learning choices; and the silver lining of a layoff may be the opportunity to go back to school and earn a college degree or certificate in a virtual classroom. In fact, this may be the best time to enroll in online schools and online degree programs. After all, less household income generally translates into increased eligibility for grants, scholarships and low-interest loans for college.
  • Become a consultant. After leaving a job, take stock of your job experience and skills. You may be able to shop those skills to local businesses, or even back to former employers. Employers often lay off workers due to the high costs of salaries plus benefits. The same employer might be willing to pay more money per hour on a per-job basis for the same services, but without the burdensome price tag of payroll insurance, health insurance and retirement benefits. You may even win enough clients to consider a permanent change to being your own boss, while keeping job skills current in case you decide to reenter the job market.
  • Remain current in your career field. It is important to glean nuggets of information from trade journals, technology magazines and forecasting sources in order to see the direction your industry or field is headed. A combination of spiraling technology and disruptive innovation is taking many careers into uncharted territory. If you have a heads up, you can prepare for it.

These strategies also help to balance the invisible time of looking for a job by filling in resume gaps.

The coming economic recovery may not look like our vision of what it should be. And being ready for it may involve a willingness to fit into new molds, not the anachronisms with which we became comfortable.

But with thoughtful planning and diligent preparation, that ride into the recovery sunset should be smoother, more beautiful and more satisfying than ever.

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Popularity: 5% [?]

Posted by vida

Men Find Job Stability, Satisfaction in Nursing

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

When a male nurse walks into the typical hospital room, he might be greeted with surprise, apprehension or suspicion by some patients.

After all, since the days of Florence Nightengale, the word “nurse” has evoked images of a medically trained, maternal woman who cares for the sick.

But almost 6% of nurses are men; and they might beg to differ with that image. And the lure of a stable job in health care during this economic tsunami is certain to draw even more men into the nursing profession.

A study published in 2005 found that men choose nursing for the same reasons as women:

  • Job satisfaction
  • Job stability
  • Excellent salary and benefits

And today, with so many traditionally secure jobs falling by the wayside, men are beginning to find their way toward a career that offers monetary and other tangible and intangible rewards to those who earn the coveted RN, or registered nurse, credential.

Former military personnel are often among those who pursue nursing after being separated from military service. And they are in good company, especially in nursing school, joining students from many diverse backgrounds who have decided to give nursing a shot.

Although nursing is not a one-size-fits-all profession for either males or females, it is often a good fit for those who are compassionate, hard-working, ethical and people-oriented. And in a field that continues to be dominated by women, male nurses can count on the majority of their supervisors and co-workers to be women.

Blended and online nursing programs are sprouting up across the country in order to stave off a nursing shortage of half a million that is predicted to take place by the year 2020. Students in rural communities are especially targeted by newly-designed online degree programs that hope to help fill nursing needs in remote geographical locations. However, the typical entry-level nursing student attends traditional on-campus training for at least 2 years, then is able to take advantage of online RN to BSN (Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing) programs while working a full-time job.

Male nurses are changing the way the field of nursing is perceived, as demonstrated by ad campaigns that portray male nurses as manly, competent and caring.

So the next time you look up to see a male nurse in the hospital or in a doctor’s office — just smile.

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Popularity: 7% [?]

Posted by vida

Health Care Jobs Still Recession Proof, Says February Report

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

On the second floor of the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, a controversial tourist attraction draws medical professionals, students and curiosity seekers from around the world.

It is “The Bodies” exhibit, a collection of real human bodies, displayed in a museum-type format. This fascinating educational walking tour covers every part of the body in intricate detail, leaving onlookers with a greater understanding of how complex, yet awesome, our bodies are.

But there is no need to travel to Las Vegas to study the body. Those who are interested in focusing upon the anatomy, care and health of the human body may wish to consider pursuing a career in one of the health professions by enrolling in an online degree program.

According to the New York Times article, “Job Losses Hint at Vast Remaking of Economy” (3-7-09):

“Transportation and warehousing lost 49,000 jobs in February. Employment services shrank by 88,000 jobs. Hotels and restaurants lost 32,000 jobs. Health care remained a rare bright spot, adding 30,000 jobs.”

Even during a recession, with millions of jobs having disappeared, health care continues to be a promising career field of opportunity. Online degree and certificate programs are available in nursing, dental hygiene, medical office, medical coding & billing, health care administration and pharmacy.

Although some health care programs require completion of practical or on-the-job training, others are offered completely online. This e-learning option saves travel time and expenses.

Judging from the constant flow of people into “The Bodies” exhibit, there is no shortage of interest in human anatomy. But for those who want to take their desire for knowledge a step further, an online degree in health care may be the ticket to a recession-proof career.

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Popularity: 6% [?]

Posted by vida

Flawed Online Schools “Exposé” by Consumers Digest Disappoints

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Although I generally support the work of consumer advocacy organizations, like Consumer Reports, the recent “exposé” of online schools by Consumers Digest is weak on credibility.

The March 3rd press release, entitled “Consumers Digest Exposes Online Universities’ Exploitation of Federal Title IV Student Financial Assistance Program“, would be dismissible if published as an opinion piece or blog. But it was released as fact.

And an organization that works on behalf of consumers should exemplify accurate reporting and responsible journalism. Consumer watchdogs who hold others to high standards should adhere to those same standards themselves.

These are areas of the press release that concern me:

  1. In the course of producing the investigative report . . .  interviews with 26 former employees and students from the biggest for-profit online universities brought to light . . .” Wait a minute. So the length and breadth of the investigative report is limited to interviews with only 26 people. And these are not unbiased people; they are former employees and students. Former employees are often disgruntled if they were laid off or fired. Students may be unhappy with a school because of a low grade or a problem with a teacher. It is irresponsible to generalize findings from this meager data to the greater for-profit online schools community.
  2. “. . . some of these institutions . . . are able to skirt requirements of the Title IV student-assistance program that is part of the Higher Education Opportunity Act, and thus, mostly taxpayer money is filling the coffers of these companies.” What evidence is there to support this statement? Was financial information gathered from an adequate sampling of for-profit online schools, then analyzed and interpreted following accepted statistical guidelines? The answer is no, according to the information provided in the press release. And without such detailed statistics, this statement is simply an unfounded, unsubstantiated allegation.
  3. . . . brought to light the questionable role of admissions “advisers” who know little about academia . . .” A recent job listing in Chicago (2-27-09) for an academic advisor for DeVry University – an accredited, well-respected online school – requires applicants to have a bachelor’s degree or higher; and another DeVry job listing for an advisor states that applicants “Must have the ability to make ethical decisions, doing what is always best for the students as well as the University.” And although not all academic advisors at traditional or online schools have bachelor’s degrees, a statistical study of the credentials of academic advisors could better provide this information. Consumers Digest fell far short of that.
  4. Allegedly, instructors are pressured to inflate students’ grades to keep them enrolled and the financial aid flowing in — and are rewarded for doing so.” At least Consumers Digest uses the word “allegedly”; and I will leave it at that. Allegedly, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means accused but not proven. Unfortunately, it is always so much easier to accuse and not prove.
  5. “. . . a degree that is devalued by employers . . .” In October of 2007, the Sloan Corporation’s “Online Nation” study reported on data from 2500 colleges and universities that offer e-learning. One of their findings was that “academic leaders do not believe there is a lack of acceptance of online degrees by potential employers”.

The “exposé” goes on; but the bottom line is that many reputable, accredited online schools offer a high-tech, high-quality college education in a flexible way. Online degree programs are popular and continue to increase in enrollment at a rate higher than that of traditional schools, according to the Sloan Corporation.

However, when deciding to enroll in any college or university, whether traditional or online, the issue of transferability of credits, or units, is important. And as a result, I do agree with the advice given by Consumers Digest about this (for which they needed no “exposé“).

  • Transfer students should request a written formal audit of transferable college credits before enrolling in a school.
  • If the desired career requires certification or professional recognition, potential students should consult those licensing bodies for approval of the chosen school.

Hopefully, Consumers Digest will avoid similar unsubstantiated “exposés” in the future; but I continue to applaud their other work on behalf of consumers.

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Popularity: 4% [?]

Posted by vida

Students Develop Discipline, Leave Fear Behind in Online Classes

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

Online schools intimidate some college students, especially those students who believe they lack the discipline to study on their own.

But in most cases, that fear of failure is not justified.

And lack of discipline as a prerequisite for enrollment in e-learning classes is fast becoming a myth and a non-issue. For a growing number of students, distance learning is becoming the only way to experience college, even if that includes developing discipline along the way.

It is no secret that online classes require discipline.  But those skills develop quickly when there is an easy-to-understand plan, or schedule, from the beginning of each class. And competent e-learning instructors are especially diligent about providing a detailed online syllabus.

The syllabus, a simplified roadmap for the class, tells students:

  • which textbooks to buy,
  • what assignments are required,
  • deadlines for completing those assignments,
  • how grading works for the class,
  • instructor office hours and contact information,
  • a link to the class website.

Additional information is often included on the class website, like links to: class notes, class video or audio lectures, message boards that connect students with each other, and individual grade books updated with the grades for each assignment.

Weekly emails from instructors are a normal part of online courses and generally explain the current week’s assignment, giving a heads-up about challenging homework that requires extra effort.

In traditional college classes, instructors hand out the syllabus; and students attend classes in person. But there is often little personal communication between instructors and students, unless the student initiates that communication. Online class instructors generally engage students through regular emails and discussion boards; and they welcome feedback from students. This is a strength of online classes.

Students who avoid enrolling in online classes may miss out on a rich, flexible learning experience that incorporates the latest in distance learning technology and prepares students to work in careers that rely upon technology. These career fields include health care, information technology, accounting, computer science, engineering, business administration, medical billing, paralegal and almost every other field.

Discipline is important for successful completion of any college or university class, whether it is online or traditional.

But online classes are a great way to develop that discipline and to leave fear far behind.

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Popularity: 8% [?]

Posted by vida

New Micro Lectures Trim the Fat, Keep the Meat in Online Degrees

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

College students already experience variety in how distance learning lectures are presented — via streaming video, lecture notes accessed from a web page, audio over the Internet, etc.

But now, e-learners may also watch the length of some online class lectures shrink as well. And get this: Lectures may shrink to as little as 60 seconds. Yes, 60 seconds!

The concept of learning anything from a 60-second “micro lecture” may bring on the guffaws; but condensing lectures into bite-size bits of key information is working well in a few online degree programs. And these incredible shrinking lectures may become a staple of future distance learning courses.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the combination of micro lectures with relevant assignments, discussions and practical learning activities allows online school students a unique opportunity to experience an innovation in pedagogy.

By trimming the fat and keeping the meat, students remain engaged in learning the material and have little chance of becoming bored. Within the micro lecture framework, they are quickly introduced to key facts, and then are assigned practical homework to bring relevance to the material. In addition, instructors may require additional reading assignments and other activities to further enhance successful learning.

The elimination of excess makes sense for some lectures; but not all subjects are candidates for the shorter lecture format.

Therefore, instructors and administrators will continue to determine what information is vital and what is unnecessary in using micro lectures as another creative, efficient and flexible way to teach students.

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Popularity: 5% [?]

Posted by vida