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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 September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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