Choosing An Online Program

Online learning has seen an explosion in popularity in recent years. According to an annual report published by the Sloan Consortium (Sloan-C), nearly 3.5 million students were taking at least one online course in 2006. They also reported that one in five higher education students were taking an online course in the fall of 2006. The growth rate reported for online learning was nearly 10%.
To meet the demand, as of 2000 over half of the degree granting institutions in the U.S. offered some type of distance education. By 2002 the number was expected to rise to 84% .
Access is the reason most often cited for the increase in both interest and the number of online offerings. Online course offerings and programs provide greater access to education for potential students. This is especially true for working adults who are looking for ways to further or change careers. Access is also the number 1 reason cited by educational institutions for the increase in their online offerings, followed by attracting students from beyond their traditional service area, and growing continuing or professional education .
There are also studies by groups such as the Distance Learning and Education Council and Eduventures that indicate growing acceptance of online education programs. An Eduventures study indicated that more than 60% of managers or human resource professionals view online degrees favorably. Studies including Sloan-C’s indicate increasing levels of acceptance of online learning among professional educators as well.
Popular Online Universities
Here’s are a few of the larger universities that have a focus on online programs (see a longer list in the left column):
AIU Online provides degree and non-degree programs in business, education and other career-centric areas
Capella University is an entirely online university that maintains a focus on graduate programs
University of Phoenix Online is a very large and established online educator with a strong breadth of programs and degrees.
There are, however, still prejudices against online programs and degrees within both the academic community and the hiring community. A study conducted by Jonathan Adams (Director of Interactive and New Communication Technologies at Florida State University) and Margaret H. DeFleur (Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Research at Louisiana State University), indicates a much lower degree of acceptance of online education and degrees on the part of hiring managers and educational institutions .
Given the increasing popularity and proliferation of online learning and courses, as well as varying degrees of acceptance, it is important for individuals to have a framework with which to evaluate online learning offerings. Prospective students need to evaluate programs to maximize their potential for getting a good, sound, education that will be looked upon favorably by the academic and hiring communities. This paper will highlight the top factors that individuals should take into consideration when evaluating online learning.
Sloan-C defines an online course as one in which at least 80% of course content is delivered online. Courses with less online content are considered to by blended or hybrid (30-79% online content) or “web facilitated” (< 30% online content).
Top Considerations When Evaluation Online Learning
Is On-line Training Right for You?
Probably the best place to start is with a little introspection and self examination. Questions that you should ask yourself include:
Why do you want to take an online course versus a more traditional instructor delivered course?
Is online learning compatible with your needs and the way that you learn?
How comfortable are you with a computer and technology?
Many people look into online learning because they think it will be faster or easier. Both are common misconceptions. A quality online course or program should be every bit as demanding as its classroom counterpart. Also, because many online courses are self-paced, they may actually take longer for a student to complete, especially for working adults who are juggling other life commitments.
Online learning is a fairly solitary and self-directed undertaking. This is especially true of online courses that progress at a student's own pace as opposed to those on a schedule with specific deadlines. Online learning also requires some facility with a computer. If you are an individual who needs structure or direction, or who thinks that the social aspects of an education (live interaction with other students and faculty, campus events, etc.) are appealing or important, than online learning may not be the right vehicle for you.
Expectation issues may be the reason that so many students (15% at post secondary and degree granting post secondary institutions) actually never start their distance education course (2007 Distance Education Survey, DETC). Once over the initial hurdles, however, course completion rates (75% or better) and graduation (65% or better) are fairly high for distance education (2007 Distance Education Survey, DETC).
What is the quality of the institution offering the online course/program?
One of the main indicators of the quality of an educational institution is accreditation. Accreditation is a process of peer-review of educational institutions and programs against established quality criteria by an independent, non-governmental, private educational association known as an accrediting agency. At a minimum, a prospective student should consider programs that are nationally accredited by an agency that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Even better is to consider the programs of an institution that is accredited by one of the 6 regional accrediting agencies, and their 8 commissions. The regional accrediting agencies are generally believed to be the highest form of accreditation in the United States. For more on accreditation see: Understanding Accreditation of Online Education Programs.

Four Things You Never Knew About Graduation

This spring, millions of capped and gowned kids will proudly cross stages all over America in celebration of their academic achievements. But how much do you know about the origin of these traditions? Try our quiz below and find out:
1. An early version of the mortarboard, or cap worn by grads, was worn in the Middle Ages by A.) the nobility B.) the clergy C.) the military
2. Some researchers speculate that the robes of early scholars were black in order to A.) disguise ink stains B.) symbolize the death of the old self C.) mimic the dress of the nobility
3. “Pomp and Circumstance” was not originally meant for graduation; in fact, one of its earliest performances was for A.) a wedding B.) a coronation C.) a funeral
4. Diplomas were originally made of A.) rawhide B.) moleskin C.) sheepskin
Answers: 1(B); 2(A); 3(B); 4(C)
Need a refresher course? Read on to learn about the history behind some of our most time-honored graduation traditions.
The cap
Though the mortarboard is one of the most recognizable trappings of academic achievement in modern times, even your Kindergartner’s cardstock and paste rendition of it would probably have been recognizable to medieval scholars because of its telltale shape. Though its earliest origins are somewhat murky, the close-fitting bottom part of the mortarboard probably derives from the skull caps worn by early medieval clerics to protect their tonsured heads. Later, the style was adopted by scholars at England’s Cambridge and Oxford, and the biretta became one of several insignia conferred upon academic dignitaries.
The caps were sometimes worn with tufts on top, which find their contemporary equivalent in the tassel, which we now move from right to left to signify a change in academic status. The meaning of the odd square shape is still debated by scholars; some say it represents the books (which in medieval pre-backpack times were occasionally carried upon the unfortunate scholar’s head!).
The gown
Your senior boy may balk at having to wear a “dress” for graduation, but assure him that it too is part of a tradition that stretches back hundreds of years. Medieval classrooms were cold and damp, a far cry from the modern temperature-controlled and technology-equipped buildings that students of today enjoy. To protect themselves from the elements, scholars wore long, loose robes over their clothes. As guild system grew into the medieval university, gowns evolved in color and style to represent the branches of study pursued by their wearers.
Traditionally, the gowns are black–perhaps to represent the sobriety of academic study, but many scholars speculate that the black material might have had something to do with disguising the ink stains produced by such diligent scholarship. By the late 19th century, specific colors were adopted for the various academic disciplines—most of these manifest themselves in the special hoods worn at college graduations.
The music
Most kids know it as the “graduation song,” but Sir Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D” is actually just one part of his Pomp and Circumstance Military Marches, Op. 39. They were all written around the turn of the 20th century, and when Elgar was honored with an honorary doctorate by Yale in 1905, the “Land of Hope and Glory” trio section of the first march was played as a recessional. The tradition stuck, and over 100 years later it is the gold standard for both graduation processionals and recessionals. Though the song was inspired by lines from Shakespeare’s Othello and played at the coronation ceremonies of King Edward VII, it will forever be associated with alphabetized rows of fresh-faced grads for most of us.
The diploma
You may have heard people talk about hanging their “sheepskin” on their office walls. Some sort of bizarre cult ritual? Believe it or not, sheepskin—far more durable than fragile paper of the time—was originally used for diplomas. Diplomas used to be written by hand, akin to the beautiful fonts and calligraphy we see today in their modern counterparts. By the beginning of the 20th century, parchment became the standard for diplomas. Some of the older, more traditional colleges still use sheepskin and painstakingly handwritten Latin on their diploma, but now most of them are simply printed on ordinary A4 size paper.
Many of these traditions are so steeped in our collective consciousness that we don’t think to bat an eye when kids queue up for “Pomp and Circumstance” or move their tassels from right to left, but understanding the long, proud history of graduation truly underscores just what a momentous occasion it is.

Special Ed Teacher Tips To Try At Home

From figuring out how to help a child with a learning disability manage their homework to dealing with public behavior outbursts on even the best of days, raising a child with a disability is challenging. Special education experts have years of expertise when it comes to handling academic and behavior situations. Use our expert tips to handle everything from homework to dinnertime.
Homework Help
Set Structure. Ellen Arnold, education consultant, suggests using a visual schedule with movable parts to help your child see what’s going to happen, and any changes in the routine. Choose a daily Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) or a more general magnetic calendar depending on what your child needs (both options found at Amazon.com).
Set Structure Within Structure. When it’s homework time, Dr. George Giuliani and Dr. Roger Pierangelo, executive directors of the National Association of Special Education Teachers, suggest ranking assignments to help kids prioritize. Have your child check in with you every five problems or five minutes so you can check their progress and correct mistakes early, without pressuring them.
Use a Timer. For easier transitions, Mary Z. McGrath, PhD, former special education teacher and author, recommends using a Time Timer. This timer has a red section that shows time passing and gives kids a visual idea of how much time they have left.
Figure Out Your Child’s “Smarts”. Figure out which kind of “smart” your child is by watching him play. What toys does he choose? Which activities is he most successful at? If he’s older, ask about a time when he was successful and how he stayed focused enough to succeed. Once you figure out how kids learn and what keeps them focused, says Arnold, you can adapt any homework assignment or project to make them more successful.
See the Big Picture. If your child gets stuck during homework time, don’t worry as much about the details of the assignment as what your child is supposed to do, says Arnold. Once you know what skill your child is supposed to demonstrate, adjust the assignment so your child can meet the same learning objectives using her strengths.
Make it Multi-Sensory. “Research indicates that the more sensory input children receive, the greater the chance the information will be retained,” says Giuliani. Find audio books, record textbook passages, or invest in a set of math manipulatives to help kids get more information into their brains.
Behavior Busters
Acknowledge the Disability. The first key to understanding your child’s behavior is to understand him as a person, including his disability, and set behavior expectations he can meet. It isn’t fair to expect that if your child works hard the disability will disappear, says Arnold. But, he can learn how to compensate for his disability and succeed.
Take Notes. Special education teachers use notes to track patterns of behavior and come up with ways to change them. Take notes on the behavior you want to change and answer these questions: What is the purpose of the behavior? What need does it meet? What environmental conditions might affect the behavior? What socially acceptable things could your child do to meet that need? Once you have your answers, use them to create a plan to address the behavior.
Keep Your Cool. If you do get into a behavior “situation” (think: public tantrum), breathe. “I tell teachers to breathe every time they hear the bell,” says McGrath. When you hear your child starting to get upset, take it as a cue to breathe. Then, give clear, calm directions and explain what will happen next. Your calm voice will tell your child that you’re in control.
Use Limited Choice. Instead of open-ended questions (What do you want?) give your kids two acceptable options to choose from (Would you like to drink from a pink cup or a blue one?).
Don’t Over Invest. Save energy and pick your battles by treating energy like money, advises Giuliani. Decide which behaviors are worth $2 and which are worth $200 and you’ll deal with the behaviors that matter the most.
Use Punishment Effectively. Make sure that punishments aren’t too harsh or too long (one minute of “time out” for every year of a child’s age, for example). And, make sure you bring the punishment to a close with a debriefing so your child understands how to behave differently the next time.
Choose to Wait. Instead of dealing out consequences when you’re fuming, Giuliani and Pierangelo recommend waiting. Use this script to buy yourself some cool off time: “I am so angry now that I don’t want to deal with this situation. Go to your room and I’ll deal with you in 15 minutes.”
Special education professionals know the tricks to keep kids like yours moving in the right direction. Use these tips, and you’ll be tapping in to a lifetime of ready solutions that will make your life easier, and your child more successful at school and at home.

Psychological Climate In An Online Course

“We had started calling the program the “The Revolving Door,” because things had gotten so bad. Students would take a few classes, disappear, and then reappear. We never had any idea why.” Kelsen, the manager of the department’s online programs was describing the situation in the office. The tension in her voice was notable, and she twisted a piece of paper in her hands.
“It didn’t make sense. Enrollments were at an all-time high, we were getting all sorts of positive publicity, and we had been approved for an increased budget. We had money for more activities, online textbooks, faculty training. But, the students did not seem to be happy.”
Why is morale bad when online courses are getting better and better? Many institutions experiencing a boom in their online course enrollments are confronting this issue. Because of the rapid growth and rate of change that characterize most online learning programs, morale within the student body may be very low. No one knows about it until it’s too late. Vroom’s expectancy theory helps explain it, as does the concept of “psychological climate.” This article explores the theory and applies it to the online learning program.
For many years, V.H. Vroom’s 1964 classic, Work and Motivation, has been pointed to as a model for how the expectations that individuals have of their workplace, their coworkers, and their employer, can deeply influence motivation. In the second edition of Work and Motivation, Vroom writes that “the choices made by person among alternative courses of action are lawfully related to psychological events occurring contemporaneously within the behavior” (Vroom 1982: 14-15). In other words, there are psychological “laws” that govern the way a person feels and acts.
Kelsen’s experience supported what Vroom found. “It starts with students starting to email their advisors. They start by blaming the recruiter. Later, they say it’s not like the experiences they have with FaceBook MySpace, and their iPhones. The were hoping for something like the things they’re used to.”
“In the past, though, students had low expectations. They were always happy — perhaps because they found the courses better than they thought they would. Now, in the age of iPhones and BlackBerry, everyone thinks they should be able to access their courses any time, any place. They also expect raw, spontaneous video clips, like the ones you might find in YouTube.”
Vroom goes on to articulate his “expectancy theory”: “The force motivating a person to exert effort or to perform an act in a job situation depends on the interaction between what the individual wants from a job (valence) and the degree to which he/she believes that the company will reward effort exerted (expectancy) on that job with the things he/she wants. Individuals believe that if they behave in a certain way (instrumentality), they will receive certain job features (Vroom 1982).” This definitely helps explain why it is so important to not arouse expectations unnecessarily, and that if managed well, expectations can be huge motivators, and can connect to one’s behavior and/or performance.
Recent studies have expanded Vroom’s expectancy theory, and have pointed out that expectations have a great deal to do with how the “psychological climate” is formed in the workplace, classroom, or even virtual meeting space. The psychological climate, which can be positive or negative, is made up of various aspects which contain expectations. Lawler and Suttle (1973) developed various categories of expectations, and many researchers, such as Darden, Hampton and Howell (1989) and Sims, Szilagyi, and McKerney (1976), further connected them to leadership qualities. According to Litwin and Stringer (1966), leadership style is critical in managing expectations and one of the most important determinants of psychological climate.
In 1988, researchers Good and Sisler conducted a study of individuals in retailing to determine the components of psychological climate. Here are the resulting categories:
Note that these can also apply to online learning.
Role clarity
Role harmony
Task autonomy
Task variety and challenge
Task importance
Role assignment
When Kelsen heard the description of psychological climate, she gave a wry smile. “Yes, that’s precisely it. We have a very toxic psychological climate. I’m not proud of it, but that’s what it is. I’d like to know what to do.”
She also related to later studies. For example, Woodard, Casill, and Herr (1994) completed a study which required employees to rank the components of psychological climate and to assign relative importance to each one. The results are strikingly applicable to the management of an online program team which includes support staff, administrative personnel, faculty, and administration. Here they are, with comments that make connections between the original results and apply them to the online learning organization:
#1 — Role Assignment: Team members are given sufficient time, training, and resources are provided to perform an assigned task so that it is clear what outcome is expected of them.
#2 — Role Harmony: Student receives information about what is expected of him or her in the execution of the job, and it is compatible with job expectations; and later, when detailing the behaviors involved in the performance of the job, expected behaviors are consistent with the employee’s understanding of the job. The expectations, requirements, and desired outcomes are clearly spelled out and updated regularly. Models of successful behaviors and outcomes are provided.
#3 — Role Clarity: Expected role behaviors have been clearly defined to the employee, and everyone involved has the same expectation.
#4 — Organizational Identification: In reviewing his or her role in the organization, the student believes his/her organization performs an important function, and in doing so, offers unique opportunities for growth and reward, resulting in the fact that the employee takes pride in the organization. Risk-taking is encouraged, and if an idea does not work, team members are encouraged to explore how their expectations were different than the outcome, and how lessons learned can help salvage or repurpose the results.
#5 — Leader Goal Emphasis and Work Facilitation: The instructor encourages and stimulates individuals to become personally involved in meeting learning goals by stressing high performance standards, creating an atmosphere that rewards high performance, and then participating in the work himself or herself, therefore setting an example. The leaders does not co-opt or deliberately outperform the individuals.

Bilingual ELearning: Challenges And Opportunities

With more than 35 million Spanish speakers in the United States, it makes sense for educational providers to make courses available in Spanish as well as in English. Further, it makes sense that training could be offered in a bilingual environment to facilitate communication between people of different groups and foster an environment of mutual understanding.

It’s a great idea, but there are many challenges, as well as opportunities. Almost everyone agrees the demand exists, but identifying where and how to approach this massive issue continues to be an area of some disagreement.

Here are a few of the challenges and opportunities: