Conflict Resolution for Online College Groups

In the course of everyone’s interaction with others, there will come times when something arises between parties that threaten to destroy the cohesion of the relationship. In some cases you may just choose to let it go and move on. There are other times when the value of the relationship is paramount to accomplishing some of your goals. Such is the case with members from your online college groups. Maintaining harmony between group members ensures that your project can roll forward more smoothly and with the greatest benefit for all.

One of the greatest lessons I am learning over and over again is that people need to feel understood. Sometimes it has nothing to do with others accepting the validity of an idea, but rather just being heard. The principle taught by Steven Covey in his landmark book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is paramount when seeking to prevent conflict before it even begins: Seek first to understand and then be understood. This kind of approach is one that is not often experienced in interpersonal relationships.

How often do you see one person just waiting to jump in while another is sharing something with them? How often do you do it yourself? The next time you are in a conversation, make sure you understand the other person before presenting your point, it may just change your mind. To be sure you heard correctly what the other was saying try restating what you heard. This gives them to accept or rephrase their point.

Even when trying to understand others there will arise misunderstandings or disagreements. If the disagreement is about what topic your group is going to select, you may present the best ideas to your professor to get some direction or feedback on it. If this doesn’t resolve the issue, ask the professor to choose a topic for you.

Always ask for clarification if you feel offended. Chances are not likely that someone meant to give offense in something they said. Respond politely by letting them know what message you got from their statement and follow with something that gives them the benefit of the doubt like, “I’m pretty sure you didn’t mean it that way.” Sometimes blatantly offensive things can be said in moments of stress. Do your best to diffuse things that you know aren’t related to your actual project. If something was said that deals with your role in the group, take some time before responding to consider the truthfulness of the statement. It may be offensive because it’s true. If you haven’t been working on the project and meeting deadlines there may be some frustration from others in the group, especially if their role is dependent upon something you promised to do. If you are going to apologize, make sure that you follow it up with a commitment to step it up. Don’t wait too long before responding if the message came in email, but don’t do it so quickly that you are still steaming.

One last thing about offense; if someone offended you in a public setting, don’t retaliate in public. You will be much more likely to resolve things if you don’t put them on the spot. Take them aside later (in an email or chat) and let them know how you feel. Be sure to let them know too that you want to work things out.

Emotions can get high in your online college group settings, but spend some time up front meeting and getting to know your group members, establishing and meeting expectations, and seeking first to understand before being understood. These skills coupled with a little patience and forgiveness can go a long way in maintaining harmony in your group and keeping you on task.

How to Collaborate with Your Online College Class Group

Collaboration in online college classes can be fun if you do it right. Setting times to meet throughout the course of your project, creating roles and assigning tasks are of course some the first steps, but after that you will want to use some tools that can make your work much easier. While group emails can be helpful, they can also get pretty messy. Same goes with forums. This may be good to nail down ideas in a free flowing setting, but actually collaborating on your project, this may get pretty hairy. Here are some tools to help you better manage your collaborative efforts for your online college class.

Although it’s still in its early stages, Google Docs can be a great way to collaborate on a paper or presentation. Simply go to docs.google.com and have someone start a word document, creating sections for each student’s assignment. This will give each person a specific place to type out their contribution without getting it mixed up with everyone else’s. Once they have created it, they can invite contributors to the document. You may also have them give access to your professor if they’re open to reviewing preliminary drafts of the document as you go along. All you need is the email address of those you wish to invite to both see and edit the document. It will be best to let the professor know when you’d like to have him or her view the document so they don’t waste time reviewing something that isn’t ready to be reviewed.

If you are editing the document while others in your online college class are, you will see the changes appear as they make them. This can be kind of fun. The best way to add your work to a community document like this is to first create it on your own computer, save it and then add it. There are occasional hiccups with Google Docs and it can be frustrating to lose your work.

Another possibility is to use a wiki tools such as Media Wiki. This solution is a little more complex and requires that someone in your group knows how to set one up. You may be given the option in your online course admin panel or you may use a free version at sites.Google.com. It may not be worth the learning curve, but if all in your group are tech savvy and used to this format, give it a shot. Wikis keep track of edit history, which can be a good thing.

These are some possibilities of 3rd party tools you can use for collaboration with your online college classmates, but make sure before you use them that the school you’re a part of doesn’t already have tools to accomplish the same things. This may just be the case. They may even be more suited to fit your needs. If they fall short in one way or another however, take some time to ask your professor for suggestions. Your fellow students may also have a few up their sleeve. Use what works with the least amount of hang-ups.

Good luck with your online college classes & in collaborating your group members.

Setting Roles for Collaborative Work in Online Schools

Have you ever had the unfortunate and scary experience of standing around the scene of an accident, everyone in shock, not sure what to do? Well, while group work in an online school may not be an accident, there are definitely some similarities between a wreck and some groups that I’ve been in. It’s that moment where nobody knows what to do and nobody takes charge. In your online school group as in an accident, you need to work together as a team to accomplish a task. In both there are windows of opportunity that can pass by if you hesitate. Therefore, it’s best to plan ahead about how to address group settings before you get there to help save you time and headaches of disorganization.

There are a couple of roles that jump out from the start as important ones and depending on the task at hand there may be more. Establish up front the need for the following roles and ask others how they feel about them: the role of an organizer, the role of a general editor and the role of a final editor.

The Organizer. This individual should resist the temptation to become the “boss” or micromanager. They are mainly responsible for helping the group set deadlines, create specific and actionable tasks, making sure that someone “owns” all tasks and that the project all in all is moving forward according to goals and timelines. It may also fall upon the organizer to be in contact with the professor about the progress of the project. An organizer must make sure that they can follow through or the group may lose structure and focus.

The General Editor. This person runs through all portions of the group’s work, sews it together in a unified voice, checks for spelling and grammar mistakes, adds necessary transitions between parts, and gives the paper or project a cohesive feel. A good editor is one that is comfortable in their ability. It may need to be someone who isn’t, but this may elongate the time it takes the project to become completed significantly. Choose the best person up front to save stress down the road.

The Final Editor. While the general editor spent time making the individual papers from the individual group members, the final editor checks for adherence to style and form. They look over the bibliography, double check sources to make sure they are correct. They may also be the one who submits the final project to the instructor.

Now there may be a chance that others have felt forced into roles in the past that they didn’t feel good about. Be aware and look for signs of such repulsion towards someone taking charge. If this does happen you may talk with that individual privately and ask about their concerns and see how they would carry the project forward. If they push back to your initial efforts to organize the group, this little reassurance that you’re not there to force anyone will most likely be more than anyone else had done with them before. Share with them your enthusiasm to have them on the team and contributing towards the end goal in how they feel best.

Good luck organizing roles for good and effective team work in your online school!

Assessing Credibility of Sources for Online School Students

Have you ever gotten those emails that say if you forward it on to 100 other people Bill Gates will give you money? How about a request from the Crowned Prince of Nigeria saying that he has money to send to the States, needs help doing it and if you give him all your bank account information he will send it to your bank account and split it with you? Well, if you haven’t, I’m sure someone you know has. There is a connection to those type of emails and some seemingly credible information on the web.

Just because someone says something doesn’t make it true. And as a student you are responsible for checking your sources to make sure they are credible (as should we all be). Here are a couple of questions you can ask yourself when assessing the credibility of sources for online school students.

Does the author(s) have credibility? As you begin to look up articles in a certain area you will most likely start to see some names more than others. You can visit a university’s website to get an idea of the kind of work an author has done in the past. If they have a bunch of articles on the given topic for many years running, then chances are they are credible. You can also do a search for the author’s name and see what kind of search results come up for him, her or them. Someone may have been published, but there are also those that publish controversial things. That doesn’t mean that it’s wrong, but you should be aware of this and hear any arguments for and against. You won’t get this from just looking at the article. In general, don’t trust a source that doesn’t give a name of the author, or one that you can find no real information about his or her.

Is the article objective? Some articles have the intent to persuade while others are reporting findings. While no research can be done without bias, the very act of framing your hypothesis demands that you exhibit some discernment and bias, does the article appear to have a low level of bias and do the authors seem to be open to results that would prove them wrong?

Is the article current? I had one professor that I remember specifically said we could not use any article that was over 5 years old. This may change depending on the purpose of your assignment, your field of study and your professor, but if the authors have done their job, they will have taken into account other research that preceded them so they can build on it rather than repeat it.

Does the article sufficiently dive into the topic? Some articles are reviews of many areas and do not dive deep enough into any one topic. If this is the case, your report or paper will be as shallow as the research you’re pulling from.

How accurate is the material? If you’re new to research this may be more difficult You don’t need to check the validity of their statistical analysis, but try a couple simple checks to determine the general accuracy. Look up a couple of the footnotes or articles cited in the bibliography. Are they real? Do they say what the author(s) mean them to say?

So, be judicious when searching for sources to use in papers and assignments. It takes some practice, but you can do it. Have these and other questions ready and ask them specifically about the first 100 sources you are considering. This will give you a good idea about how credibility can vary from source to source. Good luck!

Research Tips for Online College Papers

“Ready, aim, fire!” is how the saying goes, but often times as students we fire before readying or aiming. This happens often when a student heads to the library in search of stuff to help them complete a paper. You know there’s no preparation when you’re going to the library for “stuff.” But with these few research tips you can learn to be laser focused before ever entering the library or online database.

First, make sure you understand any assignment your professor may have given you thoroughly before beginning. It so often happens that a student is searching for a couple hours before a light goes off in their head that they don’t really know what they are looking for. Don’t let this be you. Ask questions to help you clearly get a picture of what you’re going to be doing when you go to research.

Second, don’t wait to begin your research. Students often think for whatever reason that they’ll be able to zoom into the library, get what they need and get out the day before their paper’s due. You may be able to do this, but you’re teaching yourself a bad habit. Picking out the first 5 articles that come up in a journal database search is not the same as going through a good amount of them and weeding out the irrelevant ones and picking the best that will help you understand the topic you’re presenting thoroughly. Schedule some research time as soon as you receive an assignment. This will ensure that you have plenty of time to write your paper.

Third, know where to search. Sometimes it’s confusing what database you should be searching to find scholarly articles on your given topic. Sometimes what you’re looking for can be found in several different ones. Take some time to learn from a librarian what the different resources include. Have a list handy of the kind of articles available in each database. You may luck out and have a smart interface that removes the need to know the difference between all the different databases, but just in case you don’t, make sure to pick the database that is specific to your field of interest, like Earth Science, Psychology or Economics.

Fourth, be specific in your searching. Google knows that most people don’t find what they’re looking for the first time they search. They often rephrase or add modifiers to their search. You may be the same way, especially if you don’t put much thought into what you’re searching for. You may start with a broad phrase. You may do this intentionally to see what subtopics are included in a subject. Once you find the area that you are looking for, getting more specific can help you narrow the amount of results greatly. When being specific do your best to leave out words that may narrow your search like “pros and cons,” “relationship,” “cause,” “effect,” or any prepositions like “of,” “at,” “to,” “in,” etc.

Understand your assignment, begin your research early, learn where to find what you need, learn how to find what you need and leave some time for your writing and you’ll have a better research experience for your online college papers.

Successful Study Tips for Online College Classes

We all have a hodgepodge of habits that we picked up somewhere along the line. They may have come from our parents, grade school teachers, fellow students or friends. Some of them serve us very well, while others are more of a hindrance to where we’d like to go. Here are some study tips that can help you be more successful in your online college classes.

Measure Progress. I once heard someone say that those behaviors that we measure we improve. Take for example my flute lessons as a child. It wasn’t much, but when I wrote down the time I started & stopped practicing, what I practiced during that time and a little bit about how I improved, I noticed that I was getting better quicker. It was just as simple as that. My teacher even noticed the difference. The power in this skill is what self observation can do. When we are not self-aware it’s easy to skip important actions that help us improve and it’s also extremely common to people to misestimate just how much they are really doing when they report on their progress via memory. Writing helps us keep from overestimating the amount of time we spent on a given task.

Reward Accomplishments. One reason that goal setting becomes such a drag to some is because their internal reward system isn’t quite what others’ is. Some get a great deal of satisfaction in completing tasks and accomplishing what they set out to do, while others of us benefit from a little more external push. When you set out to write a paper and you’ve got it scheduled over the course of three days, take time when you’ve completed it to smile, go for a walk, and breathe in the goal accomplished. Eat a candy bar or piece of pie. This last technique only usually helps if you haven’t been eating pie and candy bars the whole time while you were doing the paper. 🙂

Take Restful Breaks. I know because I’ve done it before that working without taking breaks can take its toll. There is something that can happen when you get focused in on a task. It’s almost as if time stops and you tune everything else out. If you are on a computer you may start to slouch and tighten up after looking at the screen for so long. You get tense and may even breathe more shallowly. It only takes 5 minutes to walk around, stretch, and get some sunshine to reconnect with the world at large. Coming up for breaths every once in a while keeps you from getting cabin fever as if you were on a submarine for a month. You may also just lay on your back, meditate and take some deep breaths. This is a good restful way to break up your study blogs. Take a break at least once an hour, more if you need it, like every thirty.

There are many more ideas to help you study more successfully for your online college classes, but I hope these few give you a good start. Good luck!

Understanding Your True Time Commitment for Online Classes

One rule that you learn in business is that it always takes longer and costs more than you plan on. This has held true in my experience not just in the market place, but in just about everything. Each time we begin a new task that we’ve never done before and often times in tasks that we have done before we are poor at estimating how long it will take us to accomplish the task. Taking into consideration all the elements needed to accomplish a task can help you understand your true time commitment for your online classes.

A good habit to get into when estimating the amount of time it will take you to accomplish any given task is to ask yourself, “What is the process I will go through to complete this task?” One task that students often overlook is just the initial time you will spend reading what the assignment is, thinking about how it can be accomplished and asking any clarifying questions to help you understand correctly the assignment. “Measure twice, cut once” says the carpenter and it applies here to us. Also include the time you will be spending setting up the assignment, such as going to the library, finding the right books, traveling home and in researching.

At each step of the way there is a risk of distractions, misunderstandings, redos and unexpected emergencies arising to push back the time it’s going to take you to complete whatever you set out to do. In addition to planning for the things that you CAN account for, plan a little time for things you CAN’T. While it can get ridiculous to triple whatever estimate you have, I find that adding an additional 30 minutes for most tasks gives me a little bit of a buffer. Be careful too. You may find yourself filling that time just because you’ve planned it that way. Strive to get the work down in the shortest amount of time without cutting corners. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see that you have time left over to do other things.

Be reasonable in your time estimation. While you may know that you can type at 80 WPM, you may not be that fast when you’re coming up with ideas from scratch or having to develop well thought out responses to a professor’s question. It’s good to have goals and to push yourself, but don’t make it so tight that you end up cutting corners or get frustrated when you don’t finish when you wanted to. Over time you can improve your speed and skills, but start out setting goals that you can actually achieve and increase their difficulty over time as you see you are reaching them.

Lastly, think ahead in your mind about all possibilities. You may need to spend some time learning how to work with a certain technology or software. You will need time to have someone look at papers and time to edit them yourself. You may need to budget in some time for asking questions to your teacher or other students.

Time marches on and without a good picture of everything your online college classes & assignments entail you may feel like you’re getting behind quickly. If you know what to expect you can plan for it and keep up. Good luck in understanding & estimating the time you will spend in your online classes.

5 Rules for Getting Writing Assistance in Your Online College Classes

What happens to your body after you haven’t exercised in a month? Well, if you were used to some sort of exercise routine and got off it for whatever reason you may have noticed that you no longer have the same energy, tone or excitement that you once had. This feeling may similar for those who return to school after some time when they think of writing papers. Writing is a core of the educational process and many online college classes are going to require you to do it well. A teacher and other students are going to able to clearly understand your ideas if the writing you do is done well. So, what’s an online college student to do if their writing skills aren’t up to par? Well, don’t worry, there’s help.

Rule number one, when in doubt, ask. Mentioning to your professor that you would like help in writing better can yield great fruits. You may be tempted to think, if my writing were really that bad, he or she would have already directed me to a place to get help. This is may not be so. Despite how wonderful some teachers are, others are either too busy, or just don’t want to force upon students something they have no interest in. A teacher is usually happy to have a paper submitted a bit early so they can give you feedback on it. They may not be the best writer themselves, so just keep this in mind.

Rule number two, pay attention during your orientation. Most online colleges have some sort of online orientation that introduces the resources they have available. If they don’t specifically mention a writing center, inquire about it. Many have just such places where they offer help with writing style, grammar and punctuation, tone of voice and more. This is a good place to help sharpen your skills.

Rule number three, examine your own resources. As it turns out, I have family members that teach English classes and you may too. Ask around to family and friends to see who has the experience, time & desire to help you step up your skills. While some may be busy, if you have a bit of dough or something enticing enough, you may just be able to pull them away from their busy schedule to help you become a more proficient writer.

Rule number four, don’t give up. If you ask your professor and you ask your online institution and neither have what you need, take your search to Google. You’re bound to find some help if you just ask. Try something like “writing lab”. You may just find another online college that offers assistance to anyone.

Rule number five, look into local services. If the above helps yield no help at all, then you may be able to find a tutor that specializes in writing. You can check Craig’s list, your local classifieds, or even do a search for “writing tutor”. There may be someone nearby that you could meet up with or even a local service provider that helps students who need additional help.

Whether local or far away, it’s a good idea to get help if you need it. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by to hone your writing skills while taking online college classes. It’s a great time to learn because you will likely have many papers and assignments you can practice on. Good luck!

Getting a Tutor to Help You in Your Online School

Using a tutor, you may think, is for stupid people. Well, let me pose a contrary view that may just change how you think about this topic. I am sure you have heard the phrase, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” right? Well, this idea applies to those who need help in school as well. You see, some wheels are broken down, but they do not cause a commotion and therefore are less likely to be looked at and repaired. Admitting that you need help is the first step in actually getting it. Those who get help to succeed are actually the smart ones.

Alright, assuming that you have no other hang-ups about getting a tutor, where do you find one? And can you find one for the exact subject that you are looking for? Tutors come in many shapes and sizes. They are available in any area you can imagine. Those that have experience to help you are mostly available for a fee, but you may be able to talk with your online school to see if they have labs that can help you in your desired area of help. If the help you need is not that extensive you may also find someone you know who has experience in the given are.

Take some time to ask your online class instructor if he or she knows of any who can help you. They may have just the resource that you need because they most likely have had other students in the past who needed similar help.

A teacher may not have any ideas, but an online university will most likely be able to help you out. Many times colleges have student help centers or labs that can help students who are struggling in their math classes, English classes and science classes. Many times they just cover the basics, but your university may have some more advanced tutors, check to see. If they don’t have such resources they will most likely know where you can go for help.

An online school advisor may refer you to a sister service that helps students who need more help than available in their online classes. It is important for a class to keep its flow. If a teacher has to stop and help a student in great need then the rest of the class slows and can only go as fast as the slowest pupil. Classes are like freeways, when one driver is slow it slows all the traffic down. If you’re in over your head try a tutor, if it’s still too much, consider dropping the class (do this early on in the semester) and taking a class to better help you prepare and understand what’s going on.

One last word on getting a tutor for your online school classes; if you neither your teacher, nor your online university knows of anyone to help you, just do a Google search for “math tutor” or “chemistry tutor” or for whatever subject you are needing help in. Don’t give up if you are frustrated. There ARE solutions to get you help. Good luck in getting a tutor to help you in your online school success.

How to Register for Online Classes

This topic isn’t one to be taken out of context. There are many things you should have done already before getting to this point. If you aren’t sure what those are, make sure to back track to a handful of articles here and see where I’ve explained how to look for online colleges, how to narrow your list, how to apply, what to address in your letters of recommendation and personal essays, etc. By now you should have already been accepted to the online university and have created an academic plan of attack with a school advisor. This will make the process of registration easier than ten easy things…combined!

Alright, but seriously, here are the couple things that you may need to register (I say “may” because there is variability between the different online registration systems and I think by now some have figured out how to tweak their signup process to make it much easier than I’m about to explain):

The term in which you are planning on taking classes. Like I said, if the school has hired some programmers to make this part of the process easy, you may not even have to worry about this. If you were accepted the registration process may assume that you are planning on attending the next semester/term. You’ll most likely be able to change this if you are planning well in advance.

The name of the course. This is provided on the academic plan (usually along with the course id) and may be shortened. This is an artifact of the old paper catalogs that looked for ways to conserve space. It shouldn’t be too difficult to see what understand what’s what. If you have questions, talk with your advisor.

Course identifying numbers. These numbers (Course ID & CRN or Course Reference Number) are the most abbreviated forms of the classes and what group of students they are offered to. The course ID can reference the department with the first letter and the exact course in that department with a number. The CRN shows how many sections of that particular class are being offered that semester. It may also show the group number. This is a number/letter combo that represents the group of students that you began your education with and, assuming none drop out, you will end with.

Instructor. For more popular classes several instructors may be teaching the same class. If this is the case, make sure to get some feedback from other students or an advisor which teacher can meet your style of learning. Rather than approaching it from an “is this a good or bad teacher” you might say, “I am a visual learner, does this teacher do a lot of board work or explain this with object lessons. This will more readily draw from your advisor an answer that they feel they will not get in trouble for sharing.

Like I said, you may see these components, but most likely it will just be a matter of looking at the number or course name on your academic plan and searching for it in the class registration system (typically online now, if it’s not I’d look into the quality of your online education provider, they may not be the best option). Not like you will need any to do it, but good luck in registering for your online classes!