How to Create a Vision to Enhance Learning

 “Without vision the people perish,” says a wise verse of scripture. It’s in pondering these words that college-bound students should put some valuable time. For it could just as easily be said, “Without vision, the college student tapers off & drops out.” Even if that doesn’t happen, you may end up with a degree and aimless, which can be just as bad.

Vision is a picture of where you’re headed. It also entails a reason why you’re headed there that transcends the mere pleasing of parents or of wealth generation, both of which get old in time.

In his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey shares a small exercise to help you get to the heart of your values, which will underscore your vision. He starts by asking you to envision yourself at your funeral. See yourself floating above everything & observing all those in attendance. See the looks on their faces and feel what they are feeling in regards to you. Hear the words of those who speak, sharing their thoughts of who you are and what you meant to them. Part of the reason this is a powerful activity is because everything said at a funeral is good. How many times have you been to a service where you hear the deceased referred to as a no-good, lousy scumbag? While some may think this, few say it. Perhaps this is because we all desire others to remember us for the good we’ve done and put to rest all of the things we weren’t proud of.

Covey’s little thought experiment is good also for another reason. It gets at the heart of your values. When all is said & done, how do you wish to be remembered? Those things that remain when all else is peeled away are your values. A value-based vision of where you’re going in life, if refreshed & tapped into often will give students a much greater ability to persist through those rough midterms, finals and monster papers.

Capturing down on paper how you wish to be remembered also gives you, the prospective or current student, a direction that many students never have. Think about it. If you knew where you were going and all of your class work was helping you to get there, don’t you think you’d have a better ability to stick with it than the student who thought all his classes where a waste of time? Sure! You better believe it!

So, if you don’t already have a vision statement, take some quiet time, perhaps up in the mountains or by a stream. Hover above your funeral and take notes on who you’ve become (remember, YOU control this). Then once you have a list of what you’ve become, start planning what you want to do to achieve that vision. This will breathe excitement & life into any education you pursue. Here’s to your vision of a successful education!

A Few Benefits of Speed Reading

When I was in grade school I thought that I was dumb, well at least part of the time. I had a mathteacher that held me back. I would take much longer than other students on the timed standardized tests. As it turns out, I simply was getting bored quickly as I read the story problems. My mind would wander. I’t’s no wonder, I was reading at the very slow rate of 100 words per minute or less. The mind can’t help but say, “get on with it!” at that speed, especially if you are a student with ADD, as I was.

The mind is truly an amazingly capable structure. Those who relearn reading skills are amazed that they can reach reading speeds in excess of 1000 words per minute. To give you an idea of what that means in practical terms. If I were to read Animal Farm, a 128 page book with about total 39,000 words it would take me 6.5 hours at my childhood reading rate (I increased that rate slightly over time), but only 39 minutes at 1000 words per minute. Could you imagine reading 10 books in the time it could have taken you to read just one? But that’s just the beginning of the fun affects of learning to speed read.

Not only does speed increase with proper speed reading techniques, but comprehension also increases. Some people have even reported “seeing” the story unfold in their head like a movie on the screen. Amazing, isn’t it!

Reading at a quicker pace, if done properly, can improve concentration & attention span. Memory also has been seen to increase along with overall learning capacity. Those who take the uncomfortable journey of learning to read in a way different than they were taught at home or in grade school will also see a general excitement for learning.

Learning to speed read can give you many more rewards than simply completing a book in 40 minutes. It can give you a passion for learning & life that you never thought you had.

For those of you doubters out there I want to recall some of my own hesitations when I first heard some of the things that I’ve been telling you. My initial thought when I heard this was that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy reading because I’d be missing too much reading that fast. And that would be true if I were to try to read how I always had been, but not true with some simple techniques that speed readers employ with great skill. In fact, many find reading more enjoyable because they take in more.

Well, if I haven’t yet convinced you to give speed reading a try perhaps it’s not for you, but really, what have you got to lose? If you spend a couple weeks learning some basic skills you may just find that speed reading is everything I’ve said it is and more. If you’re interested, start with a simple Speed Reading Test to get an idea of your average reading rate.

Speed Reading Test #1

Do something with me. It’s a little test of reading speed. Simply take the next minute, time yourself, and read the following from T.H. Elliot’s The Once & Future King. At the close of a minute note how many words you’ve read. Don’t force yourself to read fast, just read how you normally do. Ready? Go!

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays it was Court Hand and Summulae Logicales, while the rest of the week it was the Organon, Repetition and Astrology. The governess was always getting muddled with her astrolabe, and when she got specially muddled she would take it out of the Wart by rapping his knuckles. She did not rap Kay’s knuckles, because when Kay grew older he would be Sir Kay, the master of the estate. The Wart was called the Wart because it more or less rhymed with Art, which was short for his real name. Kay had given him the nickname. Kay was not called anything but Kay, as he was too dignified to have a nickname and would have flown into a passion if anybody had tried to give him one. The governess had red hair and some mysterious wound from which she derived a lot of prestige by showing it to all the women of the castle, behind closed doors. It was believed to be where she sat down, and to have been caused by sitting on some armour at a picnic by mistake. Eventually she offered to show it to Sir Ector, who was Kay’s father, had hysterics and was sent away. They found out afterwards that she had been in a lunatic hospital for three years.

In the afternoons the programme was: Mondays and Fridays, tilting and horsemanship; Tuesdays, hawking; Wednesdays, fencing; Thursdays, archery; Saturdays, the theory of chivalry, with the proper measures to be blown on all occasions, terminology of the chase and hunting etiquette. If you did the wrong thing at the mort or the undoing, for instance, you were bent over the body of the dead beast and smacked with the flat side of a sword. This was called being bladed. It was horseplay, a sort of joke like being shaved when crossing the line. Kay was not bladed, although he often went wrong.

When they had got rid of the governess, Sir Ector said; “After all, damn it all, we can’t have the boys runnin’ about all day like hooligans–after all, damn it all? Ought to be havin’ a first-rate eddication, at their age. When I was their age I was doin’ all this Latin and stuff at five o’clock every mornin’. Happiest time of me life. Pass the port.”

Sir Grummore Grummursum, who was staying the night because he had been benighted out questin’ after a specially long run, said that when he was their age he was swished every mornin’ because he would go hawkin’ instead of learnin’. He attributed to this weakness the fact that he could never get beyond the Future Simple of Utor. It was a third of the way down the left-hand leaf, he said. He thought it was leaf ninety-seven. He passed the port. Sir Ector said, “Had a good quest today?”

Sir Grummore said, “Oh, not so bad. Rattlin’ good day, in fact. Found a chap called Sir Bruce Saunce Pit� choppin’ off a maiden’s head in Weedon Bushes, ran him to Mixbury Plantation in the Bicester, where he doubled back, and lost him in Wicken Wood. Must have been a good twenty-five miles as he ran.”

“A straight-necked ‘un,” said Sir Ector.

“But about these boys and all this Latin and that,” added the old gentleman. “Amo, amas, you know, and runnin’ about like hooligans: what would you advise?”

“Ah,” said Sir Grummore, laying his finger by his nose and winking at the bottle, “that takes adeal of thinkin’ about, if you don’t mind my sayin’ so.”

Now, if you competed the whole text in a minute or less you read with the top rage of the most experienced students and adults (which is 400-600 words per minute) according to Stanley D Frank, Ed. D in Remember Everything You Read.

If you did not complete the entire text within a minute, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. Just stick around and catch my next few articles to learn how you can break unseen habits that are slowing down your reading, causing your mind to get bored, wander & retain much less than it’s capable of retaining.

Online Education Etiquette Basics

Ah, I still remember when Mrs. Pepper shared with a group of young 6th graders the proper way to treat members of the other sex. It included things like opening the door for girls, letting them go first in line and such. We also learned table manners; how to use our utensils properly, where they are placed when setting the table, how to ask to be excused, & where to put our napkins and where not to put our elbows. There are many social norms that we keep in order to make things run more smoothly. Imagine if everyone drove on whatever side of the road they wanted. Having a set side gives me some comfort as you share mutual expectations with other drivers. Similarly, when you spend time on the internet interacting with other it is good to have social norms to make your experiences safe and enjoyable. Here are a few etiquette basics for online education.

All Caps. I know that some people are much more sensitive about this than I am. But it just boils down to making it as simple as possible for people to understand your message. Reading even a sentence in all caps is not what people are used to and thus it is harder for them to follow along. Some even interpret this as shouting. The same rule can also be applied to special cursive or fancy fonts.

Don’t forget to say please. Just because you’re behind a computer doesn’t mean that you should forget what your mother taught you about saying please and thank you. It’s important as ever and received well because many forget to do it. In general use kind language and you’ll have a much better go online.

Remember to address those to whom you are speaking and to sign your name. This is a pretty formal way of communicating and most emails should still maintain this convention. If you are in a chat then you don’t need to sign your name each time, but if you’re in a group chat be sure to address to whom you are speaking.

I learned the hard way that what you THINK you type and what you ACTUALLY type may not be the same thing. Often when you are typing fast you can have mistakes appear quite by accident, leaving out words that you thought, misspelling words and such. Most of the time others will know what you mean, but one time I left a not out of a text message and it changed the whole meaning of what I intended. If people lash out, maybe you should reread what you had sent them to see if it was what you meant to send.

Cut people a little slack. There is always room for giving people a break. When someone joins in on a group discussion after a hard day’s work the last thing they want to hear is how you think they’re a lazy bum. Keep the object of getting along in mind and remember often how you like to be treated. It’s not just some old saying, but seriously, the Golden Rule is still relevant for a very good reason, when we think of ourselves too much it goes to our heads.

Remember to check emails to make sure you’re sending them to the right “John”, that you included a descriptive subject line and that you’ve attached any documents that you refer to in the email. If you use Google’s Gmail you may try some of their “Lab” functionality. One will ask you if you meant to attach something if you mention an attachment in your email while another let’s you know you’re sending an email without a subject line. A recent one I tried let me double check the email address when I have more than one person with the same name in my address book. Handy!

Your Unseen Online Education Team

Have you ever stayed to watch the credits to a movie you really liked? Have you ever thought to yourself, “Man! There are so many people involved with this.”? I remember staying in my seat after X-Men 2 and being amazed at just how many people helped in creating the movie. It felt like I was there another 30 minutes! Well, just like your favorite movie, your online education has many more people than just the teacher (the obvious one that’s always up front) working to make sure your experience is a good one. Here are of few of those people:

TAs or Teacher’s Assistants. When I went to college I was given the chance to assist a professor in the work he did. I would go to classes with him, help him set up the technology, collect and pass out assignments. I did some grading and even helped him with his research. In this role I understood that for a higher education professor to truly do all that you think he or she does, they need some sort of help. One or more of your online classes may be large enough to have a teacher assistant who you can go to for questions on assignments. This can maximize your teacher’s time and not leave students hanging because he or she is too busy.

Guest Lecturers. Some teachers like to bring in different people that can help give students a wide range of exposure to real life market conditions and experiences. While your teacher is still your go to point for grades and class work, you should give some thought to the time a lecturer gives to the classroom. Many of these guests are unpaid, they mere come to give back and help a younger generation get a look at what’s really going on, instead of just having their head buried in a book for a couple years. Gratitude is near always appreciated by those who show up to share of their time and experience.

Librarians. It’s a wonderful thing to know a librarian. There are resources of untapped knowledge at your fingertips that you probably don’t even know about, but your librarian does. If your teacher doesn’t bring in the university librarian to help you see what’s available, take some time yourself to get to know one or more of them. You’ll be glad you did. Take to them a problem to solve and just watch them work. It’s a wonderful thing to watch a librarian work.

Administrators & Others. A good institution gives attention to helping professors improve their teaching ability. Depending on how your online education is set up, you may never see these people. You’d be more likely to notice a strange face in the back of the classroom than you would someone monitoring a digital one. These guys give feedback to the professors, help them make sure the class technology is running smoothly, bring structure to the whole system of online education, help the teachers process requests dealing with student academic performance, etc. It may be a thankless job at times, but not one that teachers can do without.

So just remember next time all of the cast & crew that go into making your online education experience a great one includes many more people than just the actors or teachers who present the curriculum.

Getting an Online Education – Consider the Time Commitment

In a business class I was once told that things are always going to take longer and cost more than you plan, so plan on it. I kind of forgot about that, but then noticed that it was coming true again and again. I don’t think it helps either that I have tendencies towards distractions. While I’m learning how to minimize distractions and more effectively estimate the time it will take to complete a task. I am also more realistic now about committing to things. When considering getting your online education take into account these several aspects that will affect the amount of time it will require to complete what you start.  If you do you may just avoid an unexpected and potentially frustrating experience.

While everyone is going to cruise through online classes at different paces, there are some general rules about how long you’re going to need to spend to succeed. Start with a 16 week course. If you sign up for 4 credit hours you can roughly expect to be studying 12 or more hours a week for that class. If the class is an accelerated one, doubling this estimate for amount of time per week is appropriate. This is why it’s often suggested for students taking accelerated online courses to do one at a time, it’s a part time job in and of itself.

How are your reading skills? If you are weak in this area, you may have to add a couple more hours to the above calculations. I’m a fairly slow reader, but I can make up for it in my typing strength. If you are a slow reader, consider taking an accelerated reading class. They will teach you techniques to dramatically improve the way you read. It will most likely be uncomfortable at first, but as you go along it will become second nature to you. Practice it often and you can cut down on the amount of time you spend studying each week.

In additional to general study time you should consider your proficiencies in the areas of typing, research, computer technology and in paper composition. If you don’t have much experience in one of these areas you may take longer to get up to speed. This can increase the amount of time you’ll be spending during the week to keep up with your online classes.

Lastly, you may have some online classes that require some face to face or live meetings. Make sure you find out ahead of time about these and if they’ll fit your schedule. It can be a constructive part of your education, but if you work during the times they are held, it’s not such a wonderful thing.

So, plan on spending more time than you anticipate. Multiply your best estimate by 2 or 3. Could you still handle it? If so and you do things quicker that’s all the better. It’s much better than doing the opposite and not having enough time to do all that you need to do. Good luck!

Selecting the Right Online Education – Think Ahead

I can still remember my first solo car buying experience. I was excited, but afraid at the same time. What if I didn’t make the correct choice? What if I got a lemon and the dealership wasn’t willing to take it back? So many variables seemed to loom on the near horizon. But determined to finally take my girlfriend on a date in MY car I persisted.

We found ourselves at the library one day and I picked up the Consumer’s Guide for cars for that year. It was a lot of information, but after a few hours looking through it I was able to narrow down my choice to a Nissan Maxima. I had a few restraints that helped to guide the process. I knew that I only wanted to spend a certain amount. I knew that would affect the year of the car. I knew I wanted something with good gas mileage. That would affect the size of the car. I also knew that I wanted something that I could use to take people places in. That crossed out the sports cars and super compact ones.

So, slowly as I read about certain functions of a car, what’s important for safety, how long cars usually last when taken care of well, I began to cross off the possibilities. All of a sudden I wasn’t as scared as I had been at the outset. There was a moment when I had selected the car that I wanted, the year and the price range I was willing to pay for it. Now all I had to do was go and look around to see who had it. Simple.

Similarly, when you are looking for an online college to further your education it helps to have an idea beforehand what your parameters are. If you only have a certain amount you’d like to spend, note it. If you have some interests, try narrowing them down with an aptitude test or reading more about each. The better idea you have in your head about what you hope to achieve the more likely you are to find exactly that. Conversely, if you just have a vague idea that you want to go to school, worse yet, if you have decided to go to college at the behest of a parent or another, chances are you’re in for a rougher ride than if the determination comes from within.

So, some questions to ask yourself before looking for an online school that matches your needs may be:

What kind of education do I want or need to receive to get where I’m going?

Of course if you don’t know where you’re going then you’re not likely to get there, but assuming that you have some idea. Narrowing it down allows you to pinpoint the schools that offer excellent training in that area.

Do I want to want to work and go to school at the same time?

You may say no, and of course that would be easier to simply go to school, but unless you have money saved up, you are most likely going to be borrowing money (scholarships are good option if they are available to you). So, do you want an easier time now or later? When you’re graduated do you want to be in debt or do you want to start your new career?

Do I want large class sizes or smaller, more individualized ones?

You may thrive in collaborative environments. Many students do. However, you may be more of the type that benefits from a lot more introspective reflection on a topic. Whatever your ideal scenario is, there is most likely an online education solution that fits that aim.

So, without analyzing it to death there are three questions you can ask before seeking out online colleges and programs. Good luck!

Creating Your Own Promotion with Professional Online Education

I once heard a very wise principle taught by a lady who once was once homeless and in $35k worth of debt, but who is now a multimillionaire, giving away much of her wealth to fund projects that help others in need. She taught that if you make your boss’s job easier, you are more likely to get a promotion. Think of it, if you were a manager and had an employee that came in each day and did everything in their power to make your job easier and more fulfilling, wouldn’t you talk them up to those you report to? Sure! Anyone would. And while there are many variables in getting a promotion, making yourself more valuable through online education will definitely increase your chances.

In some fields continuing education is required such as in the teaching profession or medical field. Here it’s required to keep your status and job. There are many fields however in which further education it is encouraged, but not required. In any field in which it’s not required, you will shine when take the effort to increase your skills and make yourself more valuable to your team, boss and company.

Whether continuing education is required or not in your field you can find specific courses and programs to help you maintain your position or to create your own promotion. Many online colleges cater to this type of professional development and can help you maximize your investment of time and money. You may also wish to ask your place of employment if they offer any type of aid or special accommodations to improve skills. They may have a special program they recommend to their employees. Alternatively, you may check the professional associations in your field to see what kind of programs they offer or recommend. Your employer may even pay for it! But even if they don’t, you will want to show them that you are motivated to contribute to the business.

You can gain much benefit personally from professional online education even if it doesn’t translate out right then and there into a promotion. You will be gaining the habit of learning and magnifying your abilities. As Brian Tracy, a personal productivity and life coach says, spend some time and money each on increasing your capacity in your field of employment. Said another way, he who is responsible over few things shall be made ruler over many. This is what I learned was called the law of promotion. If you improve your current lot, opportunities will open up to you.

Just one last word about professional development course credits. If your employment requires this, make sure you check with the licensing body in charge to see if the courses your considering will apply towards that. Most likely, if this kind of education upgrade is necessary for you, you will be able to learn about before you go searching for online classes to take.

5 Ways Exercise Improves Your Online Education

The quality of our work any given time depends on a lot of factors. We may have recently gone through some major stressful factors such as divorce, moving, the death of a loved one or a large medical expense. Although these things do and will occur in our lives, we can establish a pattern of healthy living that will minimize the effects of such stressors.

Exercise is one of those things that is talked much about, but of which many people still don’t take full advantage. If exercise were a drug, as Dr. Mark Hyman puts it, it would be the hottest on the market! The reason for this is simple, the benefits are many and extraordinary. Without focusing on every possible benefit let me share with you five ways that exercise can improve your online education.

Exercise improves brain cell communication, releases endorphins to generate positive motivation, creates a hunger for good healthy food to replenish your body & mind, leaves you tired at the end of the day so you can more easily get the necessary rest you need to bring focus to your studies & it clears your mind & gives you energy to concentrate. Let’s look a little at each of these online college enhancers:

  1. One of the most wonderful benefits of exercise is that it increases the oxygen flow to cells throughout the body. Oxygen is most essential for healthy communication between nerve cells in the brain. When we take the time each day to increase our heart rate a little more oxygen is sent to the brain, allowing it to do its job more easily.
  2. Another benefit of exercise that you most likely have already experienced is the feeling that comes after a good solid workout. That feeling comes from the body releasing endogenous or internal opiates called endorphins. These endorphins are known to elevate mood and increase motivation. What student doesn’t seek increased motivation to excel in their online college studies?
  3. Exercising also, as I’m sure you’re well aware, burns calories. Burning more calories does not only help you lose weight, but it also increases the need to replenish those calories lost. I find often after a good solid workout that I more regularly crave good healthy foods. It’s almost as if my body knows what it needs to replenish itself. Go figure! When we feed our body healthy and nourishing foods we set the stage for clear thinking and a greater overall sense of well-being.
  4. A wise man once told me in order to keep out of trouble I might try a strenuous workout each day so that I come home tired and eager to go to bed. Now his aim was to keep me out of late night trouble, but I’ve found this simple advice more valuable than I first realized. I often stay up late and the ripple effect is that I either wake up late or find myself very tired in the morning unable to focus on the day ahead of me. However, when I have spent time each day in at least 30 minutes of solid exercise I find it easier to turn my brain off at night and get the sleep my body needs. Sleep is more important than we often realize. We’d do well to consider it an important part of our online educational success strategy.
  5. In the short term I have also found that immediately after exercise my mind is much more clear and calm. In this state of mental acuity I am much more excited to study and indeed, I learn more readily. I have found it extremely helpful in breaking up my day into two halves as it were by placing a good workout right in the middle. If I’ve gotten a good sleep the night before it’s easy to wake up, concentrate hard on my studies and just when I start to lose my best focus I can break and bring the focus back with a good work out and healthy lunch.

So as you can see, there are many benefits for online college students to scheduling exercise into their day. Even if you are not attending online classes I would highly suggest incorporating exercise into your life for short-term gains as well as long-term health.

5 Tips to Help Busy Parents Get an Online Education

Those still with babies obviously will have sleep schedules that are very erratic. But once they get past those initial sleepless infancy stage, schedules settle down to something much more reasonable. It’s during these times that study and classes make more sense.

But what’s a parent to do if they work? A 9-to-5 job can make it feel like it’s impossible to continue your education; however, even those who work all day can find opportunities and windows in which they can improve their education. Below are a few examples of how busy parents can further their education in the midst of such erratic schedules.

  • One of the most obvious ways to find the time to pursue your online educational goals is to make time. If you’ve created a regular schedule for children where they can go to bed and wake up at the same times each day, you may find waking up an hour before they do a helpful way to approach your online classes.
  • Depending on your employment you may be able to discuss with your boss the option of spending lunch hour on the computer to do your classes. Some jobs even allow for some downtime throughout the day in which you might pursue your education. However make sure to discuss with your boss possibility of these options before using work time to study. If your path of education can help improve your skills at work you may find your boss more than willing to give you a little time each day at work to study.
  • Depending on the length of your commute to work you may find studying during this time valuable option. If you use public transportation this is obviously the best scenario to allow you to work on your class material, but even if you are driving yourself to work, you have options. Some classes have downloadable video or audio podcasts of course material that you could listen to while you drive.
  • Consider making a set time during the day where your children study with you. If they are young they can use this time for coloring or other creative projects while the older kids work on class assignments from school. Making education an important family is activity during the day can yield many more benefits than just you earning your degree.
  • Similar to the first idea, you may consider staying up an hour or two passed your children’s bedtime to work on furthering your education. If you decide on this, it’s important to maintain consistency in your children’s schedule so that they more readily go to bed each night at the same time. You may also let them know that daddy or mommy has study time when they go to bed so they start to gain an understanding of the responsibilities you are taking care of.

However you make time to continue your online education it’s important to remember that a schedule is essential. Without a schedule common time wasters easily slip in. By preventing these as much as possible you can typically find a lot more time during the day of than you thought you had. In closing, in most situations it is possible to make time to go back to school and get your degree from an online college.