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The 10 Best Practices to Complete An On-line Degree

The 10 Best Practices to Complete An On-line Degree

Today technology has changed our lives from birth until we are ready to enter college and beyond. The internet has placed the knowledge of the world at our fingertips. Yet with the vast amount and access to the knowledge, the other on-line distractions have decreased our time to absorb and apply the wealth of information. Universities have done a wonderful job gathering knowledge and structuring it in an integrated way that is useful and practical. With our limited time to find and translate this mountain of information into workable knowledge, we can use what universities have done for us, and capitalize on the on-line medium. This on-line model is fundamentally changing the way we learn and acquire knowledge and earn degrees. As this trend catches up with prospective students looking to maximize their time by balancing work and study, the on-line model offers the best opportunity for success. The continuous growth of on-line learning is still in its infancy and we should expect the explosion of on-line degree offerings to continue.

If you are an on-line student, or consider becoming one, here are the 10 best practices to help contribute to your success and help you complete your on-line degree:

1. Choose a degree that fits your passion

Draw from your experience and imagine yourself in a field or program that can ignite your passion. Then, search out such opportunities within your institutions or universities’ boundaries. You will be amazed at what you can discover.

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Here are questions you should ask yourself when you are choosing a degree: Do you have passion for the degree, maybe not about all the subjects, but for the job, it will prepare you to do? Does the university’s style, approach and accessibility align well with who you are? Do you have a good chance of completing the degree so you can build your own knowledge brand and make you more sought-after?

Knowledge from the topic studied is important, but the degree is what says, “I am marketable”. The degree completion shows others that you are persistent and not a quitter. Knowledge from the topics studied is important, too. The combined set of subject knowledge and application provides both breadth and depth for this field of study.

2. Begin with the end in mind

When planning to embark on your on-line studies, it is essential to start with the end in mind. You should start by asking what you want from this pursuit. Will you stick to schedule and follow the program to completion? Do you have enough capital? Can you arrange financing?

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You need to think over these questions to lay down a good foundation. Understanding this will enable you to work through the study process more efficiently. Today, the Internet provides the opportunity to browse through dozens of web-based portals dedicated to educational grants and financing and the avenues to access and apply what suits you best. Do not be discouraged by the array of requirements. By digging deeper, you will likely come across other great opportunities.

3. Be flexible

On-line education delivers knowledge without the constraint of time or place, thereby; students have the adaptability needed to plan their daily schedule properly. Make sure you do well with flexibility and that it will not keep you from being successful.

4. Plan and prioritize

To stay connected to the learning community is paramount. Your interaction level builds confidence in on-line learning. Building a student-instructor relationship that is akin to classroom learning is important. Become known by class mates, and get to know their strengths and weaknesses. This provides a deeper sense of belonging to the on-line class community.

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5. Block your time

Once you have planned and prioritized your success path, it is important to block your time to perform all you need to do to be successful. Going to school is hard work and you should treat it the same way you would treat a job. There are certain hours you need to invest and you should expect to get a return on your investment, which in this case, is through the course grade.

6. Develop great study skills

You should have or create a study guide that encompasses critical thinking and writing skills. Find people who have been successful at studying and learn from them. Look for patterns of what others have done and match those that work with your style and preferences. In addition, you will be working with different information sources, so accessing and appropriately citing the various types found, will help you use these “experts” to contribute to your knowledge.

7. Stay Focused

The work and effort a student puts the on-line classes determines the quality of the learning experience. How well they read the material, how prepared they are to engage in classroom discussions are important factors to the quality of the learning experience. Do not let the unimportant and urgent stuff distract you from the important, urgent and non-urgent stuff. It is your focus that will keep this in check.

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8. Get an accountability coach

Most of us have the belief that we can do it all, and we own our own success. Asking for help has a stigma of weakness or laziness which has been drummed into us since we were children. We are held accountable for our successes. This does not mean we have to do it alone. Find someone who is relentless and invested in your success to help keep you on track. Often, that other person needs some of the same prodding to stay on the course of success that you can offer. You can repay the favor by being an accountability coach for them as well. The trick is to communicate as frequently as possible without it feeling like micromanaging or taking more time to check-in than it does to complete the real work.

9. Apply your knowledge

We often compartmentalize our time and see a strong divide between work, life and school. Once you realize that all the compartments can benefit each other and start applying what you learn in school to your work and freetime, the faster the schoolwork will take on meaning. The reverse is true as well. Taking the time to tackle the challenges from work and freetime using your schoolwork can create an integrated system for solutions.

10. Use technology

Being familiar with computer technology is essential to undertaking on-line classes. The ability for you to use the course management system comes into play. Thus ensure that you can easily navigate and improve on your computer skills overtime. In on-line learning, developing ways to do more with less complements is a factor in working toward a desired on-line degree. Becoming skillful in using computer technology to search, evaluate and produce the content needed to show your competence faster and better is your differentiator in your field. This “working smarter, not harder” is a practice that will be equally important once you have completed your degree.

In the end, convenience and flexibility-factors will prove handy giving students the lasting satisfaction to lay the roadmap to the completion of their on-line degree program. Balancing family life and work at the same time makes the whole experience worthwhile. However, having more interaction with fellow classmates and creating a network can help to engage actively in the on-line learning community. Do not put off until tomorrow, what you can do today.

More by this author

Dr. Kevin Gazzara

Senior partner at Magna Leadership Solutions

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

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