Success in online classes is NOT ‘Mission Impossible’
By Cindy Miller, director, Columbia College-Kansas City
The mission of Columbia College and the Kansas City location is to educate its students. For students who take online courses, this can only be achieved by complete engagement in the online class environment.
Student engagement is critical for courses delivered online. Without the usual physical and verbal cues that come with a face-to-face class meeting, it is difficult for participants to know everyone else’s response to course content. Lacking direct personal contact, students must demonstrate their involvement in other ways. What does that look like? Active, frequent and timely interaction with the instructor and fellow students, as well as the quality of work submitted, will provide the best indication of your engagement in an online class.
Online classes have some built-in barriers that must be overcome to ensure the richest educational experience possible. One of those is social in nature. You must be proactive in reaching out to your instructor and fellow students. It is common to come to an online class being fearful and self-conscious as the class environment and other students are unknown factors. You may be concerned other students are smarter, more experienced or more advanced in the class. Be aware, though: They are feeling the same things you are! In fact, take heart in knowing you are a unique individual who brings a wealth of life knowledge into the class environment to share with others from all over the country and world who have different prior experience. Where else can one have an opportunity to interact academically with such a variety of diverse people?
Get fully involved in your class! Jump in with both feet and be willing to share who you are and what you think. When you get stuck, share your difficulties with your classmates and your instructor. Again, you may feel you are the only one struggling with a specific concept or assignment, but know that is NOT the case. Get to know your fellow students. Show your presence continually in class by posting meaningful comments to the discussion threads. Find areas to provide positive as well as critical comments. Respect each person’s right to post his or her own thoughts and beliefs.
The other barrier you may experience is organizational or technical in nature. Keep in mind the rules of online interaction differ from those of the traditional classroom. Recognize not everyone will be on the same page or at the same level of familiarity with online activity. You may experience technical issues at times, but be patient! Know how to contact your instructor and where to go for technical support. Reach out to your fellow students to determine if anyone else is having the same issue. Pay attention to the tools your instructor provided in the D2L class shell – is there a “frequently asked questions” document, for example? When you do have to seek assistance, be sure to provide accurate email, phone and text contact information and the best time that you may be reached.
Familiarize yourself with how the class will be structured and what accountabilities you will have as a student. For instance, know how often you will be expected to log in, how much time to spend on homework, which online tools will be used, important due dates, exam proctoring requirements and any additional expectations. If group projects are required, be sure to make early contact with classmates, knowing that folks from different time zones may not be able to interact synchronously. Be flexible!
In order to ensure a productive class experience for yourself and your fellow students, make it your mission to be completely engaged, involved, interactive and positive – in that way, you will not only make the experience more pleasant for others, but you will find it beneficial as well. Learning how to communicate in an online environment will be a tremendous tool as you translate that skill to your work environment after degree completion!
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By Maria Haynie for Ready.Aim.Hire.
Finding the time you need to get through your to-do list, let alone your wish list, can seem impossible for working adults and students. Here are four time management tips from Columbia College managers to help you tame the calendar.
Build your team
Assuming that time management problems are yours alone to fix can be problematic. Taking the time to express your goals and your situation to others can help them understand how important your education is to you and how hard you are working to achieve your goals, said Debra Hartman, Region II and Crystal Lake location director.
“When others see, they are much more likely to make sacrifices on your behalf,” Hartman said.
Jean Simmons, Evening Campus and Region I director, agrees that sharing your struggles and successes is important to help you find support. “Get your family on board. If they feel like part of the solution, it makes life easier for you, and they will tend to be more supportive,” Simmons said.
Tools for you, tools for the team
Whether you prefer pen and paper for scheduling or type it all into your digital calendar, you need something to help you keep track of dates, block out hours of time and keep you aware of what’s coming up. But more importantly, your team needs to know, too. If you can communicate the big test you have coming up on Friday to your team, they will understand why you need extra time to prepare that week and can work out a plan. Because digital calendars such as Google Calendar are so easy for multiple people to share, they’re a great option for families.
“My husband and I share documents, calendars and message all day long so we stay on the same page about where to be and when and who’s picking up which kid from where,” said Brandi Herrman, instructor of business administration. “We also have Google Hangouts on our phones — making sure that it’s easy to contact each other and we have a record of it.”
Only balance the right things
It may be tempting to try to keep everything on the schedule and treat school as an add-on, but that will lead to “emotional and physical wear and tear,” said Mark Bowles, Student Support Services director.
Instead, consider a blank weekly schedule. Add in your most essential items, such as work hours, child care hours and most important appointments. As you add each item, consider the impact it will have on your day and if there are any ways to reduce the amount of time or effort it would take to accomplish that task.
Hartman encourages the use of carpools as one schedule-saver. Then schedule school time in, right with these essential activities, to show yourself and your team that it is a priority.
Before you try to squeeze in anything else, carve out space for a little self-care and family time. “When one steals from downtime to try to catch up somewhere else – that’s a cure that does more harm than the disease itself, which is the problem of not having enough time for other responsibilities,” Bowles said.
When you schedule in time for some fun with your family, “this gives everyone something to look forward to as they work through the responsibilities of their week,” said Becky Gordon-Bocklage, director of the Fishman Center for Entrepreneurship.
See the big picture
With any luck, after essential activities, school and a bit of downtime are on your calendar, there may be a few hours left. Decide what you will spend on social life, volunteer service, personal projects and other activities. If you don’t have as much time as you’d like to dedicate to those aspects of your life, be patient with yourself and remember that you won’t be in school forever.
“Do not hesitate to explain that you may need to take more than you give at this time,” Hartman said. “We all go through seasons in our life when that imbalance occurs and when you are able, when the degree is done, it can be your turn to give more than you get.”
By Department of Student Success and Money Stacks
It’s never too early to start thinking about preparing your taxes. And, with tax day a little more than three months away, the time will be upon you before you know it.
With that in mind, Rachel Smith, Project & Student Services Specialist for Columbia College’s Department of Student Success and Money Stacks, has some advice on what you need to stay prepared.
Consult a checklist
Articles such as this one on NerdWallet.com run down all the things people need to have handy in order to fill out their taxes. A checklist can help you keep track of what you need to know about your personal data, yearly income and possible deductions and credits for your paperwork.
Detailed rundowns like this can also help alert you to deductions and credits that you may not have known about, such as claiming a deduction for tuition and fees for your schooling and applying for American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning credits that benefit college students.
Have last year’s tax documents available
This is especially handy, according to Smith, when you’re receiving a number of tax documents from different sources.
“I personally find it helpful to pull out my tax documents from the prior year so I can remember what forms to expect in the mail or what I might need to log in and print out,” Smith says. “Sometimes just reading a list of documents isn’t enough to spark my memory. I need to see the form from the organization from the prior year to really remember what I’m waiting on.”
Check into IRS resources
If you’re planning on preparing your own taxes, seek out software that could help you along the way. The IRS has a Free File site that includes a list of free software tools for applicants who meet certain criteria.
Understand your withholdings
Have you ever gotten a bit of an unwelcome shock when your taxes come back and you see what you owe? Want to do something about it?
The IRS has a site that can help you understand how to fill out your W-4 form and the withholding options for which you could be eligible.
If you need any more guidance about preparing for tax season, the Columbia College Department of Student Success and Money Stacks is here to help. You can contact the Department of Student Success and Money Stacks at (573) 875-7860 or email@example.com.
By Grossnickle Career Services Center
All except one, the one they usually save for last: “So, do you have any questions for me?”
The staff at Columbia College’s Grossnickle Career Services Center gets this all the time: people who come to them seeking advice on how to respond when asked if they have any questions for the interviewer.
“It’s critical that you ask questions during an interview,” director of Career Services Dan Gomez-Palacio says. “If you don’t, the subtext might be that you just want the conversation to be over ASAP and that you really aren’t curious about the position.”
But you shouldn’t just ask any question that comes to your mind. You should prepare with questions beforehand, much as you’ve prepared answers to the questions your interviewer might pose of you.
Articles such as this one from Forbes.com offer helpful advice on the right and wrong types of questions to bring to a job interview.
If it’s a first interview, “anything that smells even a little bit like it’s self-serving,” in Forbes’ words, should not enter the equation. It’s too early to start asking about salary, vacation time, work schedule and other logistical questions.
Instead, focus on questions that delve more into the opportunity the job presents, as well as the work environment at your prospective place of employment.
Gomez-Palacio suggests questions such as:
- Can you tell me what you enjoy about working here? What do you appreciate the most about working here and if you could change one thing about your company, what would that be?
- What attributes make the ideal candidate for this position?
- What do your clients say about your company?
- What are the opportunities and challenges the organization will face in the next six months?
These questions could serve as an opportunity to further align yourself with the employer, as well as opening the door to more information into the company’s culture and the expectations placed on the position. Alternately, they show a deeper level of thinking, consideration and interest in the job that is attractive to interviewers.
So don’t fret about that dreaded “any more questions?” portion of the interview. Prepare yourself and seize the moment!
If you’re in need of advice, you can also reach out to the Grossnickle Career Services Center at (573) 875-7425 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.