Monday, April 30, 2007

Class Participation

Class participation is an integral part of the online-educational experience. Participation requirements vary from institution to institution and may be a graded part of the curriculum. At the University of Phoenix participation is a graded activity in every class and entails responding to class discussions in the form of Discussion Questions (DQ’s) or other posts to the main newsgroup.

Students must post two responses on four of the seven days in the class week to meet participation requirements. These responses must be “substantive in nature and add to the learning experience of the class”. Simply submitting “I agree” or other meaningless posts will not help meet the requirements.

Professors are free to determine the weight of participation toward the overall grade for the class and to assign partial credit if they wish. Some professors impose a minimum word count requirement for responses to be credited toward participation. Typical ranges in my experience were in the range of 100 to 200 words. Some professors only imposed the “substantive in nature” requirement.

My participation strategy was to complete my participation requirements by Friday of each week. This left time on the weekend to concentrate on other assignments.

Discussion Questions

Discussion questions (DQ’s) are intended to make students think. The subject of the DQ’s normally deals with the class material and will help test the students learning and understanding. Most class participation is in response to other student’s answers to DQ’s or other responses. The message group threads for DQ’s can become quite large depending on the size of the class.

DQ’s are either contained in the syllabus or assigned on a weekly basis. Most professors impose a minimum word count on the answers to DQ’s, typically in the 200 to 500-word range. Students are required to answer the DQ’s by a specific day in the week.

Some professors will require students to research their answers and some will not. Research activity always means the student must search for relative content outside the provided texts and the students must cite their sources to build credibility for the response.

My DQ strategy was to post my answers to all the assigned DQ’s by the third day of the class week. This eliminated the panic that would occur after putting off answering the questions then realizing on the last day of the class week that there was a weekly requirement that I had not met.

I never read or responded to another students’ DQ until I had answered the question myself. This was a sort of anti-plagiarism mechanism.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Friday, April 27, 2007

Will the Online Environment Fit Your Needs?

Before you dive into an online program to pursue a degree, you should answer some questions to determine if the online environment is right for you. There are some profound differences between attending classes online and in a brick-and-mortar institution. The following questions will help you make that determination:

  1. Is your chosen program of study offered at an online institution?

  2. Does a synchronous or asynchronous format better fit your time constraints?

  3. Have you chosen an institution?

  4. Do you prefer taking tests or writing papers?

  5. What method will your chosen institution use to rate your performance, taking tests or completing projects?

  6. Are you a self-starter?

  7. Do you have good time-management skills?

  8. Can you handle an accelerated timeframe?

  9. How do you handle stress?

  10. Do you work well in a team setting?

Your answers to these questions should help you determine whether an online environment is suitable for your needs or not. You should research a number of universities or colleges to help you answer these questions. Check the college catalog and consult with an academic advisor at the institutions you initially select.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Program Formats

There are two formats used for online programs of study, these are the synchronous and asynchronous formats. The differences between the two deal with the delivery techniques and class schedule.

Synchronous classes require students to login to class at preset times for class lectures or discussions. Multimedia computers with audio and video capabilities may be required for such courses. Students may view lectures in a video format on their screens.

Asynchronous classes permit students to login whenever they wish to complete assignments or participate in class discussions. These types of classes make extensive use of newsgroups for content delivery and class participation.

Programs of study may be exclusively synchronous, asynchronous, or a combination of the two. My undergraduate program at the University of Phoenix was entirely asynchronous. This promoted effective use of time for students and professors alike because participants could login at any time of day to attend class.

A perspective student should contact an academic advisor at the institution being considered to determine the formats for the program offerings. Time constraints may make one type of format more advantageous than the other. My personal preference is the asynchronous format.

Types of Degrees

There are strictly online universities and colleges as well as brick and mortar institutions that offer online alternatives. Many of these institutions offer degrees in which students may all degree requirements online.

The types of degrees available include both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Post-graduate programs are also available. Some post-graduate (doctoral) programs include residency requirements for online students but the majority of the work can be completed online.

Students may earn degrees ranging from an Associates Degree to a PhD in an online environment. There are also certificate programs that students may complete at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Types of Programs

Accounting, Business Management, and Information Technology are probably three of the most well suited areas of study to pursue in an online environment. There are Colleges and Universities that offer degree programs in these areas where students may fulfill their degree requirements in a totally online setting. I completed all my junior and senior year classes entirely online.

Programs that require intensive lab-work are not well tailored as online offerings. Some of these include programs in biology, chemistry, and of course, medicine for obvious reasons. However, many institutions with programs in these areas offer online alternatives for selected program classes.

Students should check with their academic advisors or check the university catalog for details.

About the Author

On September 10, 2002 the company that employed me made a business decision that resulted in a Reduction in Force. As a result of that RIF my position was eliminated and I found myself among the ranks of the unemployed. Before this unfortunate turn of events I worked in the IT industry for close to 20 years filling various roles the final of which was that of a Network Analyst. After loosing this position I found difficulty finding employment because I lacked a college degree.

I reentered college in 2005 to finish my BS degree and on March 31, 2007 I graduated with honors from the University of Phoenix with a 3.98 GPA. I am now planning to start pursuing a MSIT in the fall. I have not made a final decision on which university to attend but there are about five in my sights.
I started my undergraduate studies in 1981 and dropped out before I completed my sophomore year. Even so, I completed my Bachelors Degree in just over two years in an online program. My plan is to continue my graduate studies using the same format.