Professors’ Expectations: Helpful Writing Tips for College Students

Professors’ Expectations: Helpful Writing Tips for College Students

 

Students often struggle with writing essays.  Some have difficulty with structure. Others dread dealing with APA formatting. I teach everything from bachelor-level to doctoral-level courses.  The following contains some helpful writing tips that I have found may make writing essays a little easier.

Continue reading “Professors’ Expectations: Helpful Writing Tips for College Students”

Top 5 Secrets for Online Student Success

Online education is growing at a pace that far exceeds general education enrollment.  Because of the popularity of online learning, many traditional universities are offering online courses.  Forbes recently reported that MIT will soon offer free education for everyone. With all of the online options available, students may be confused as to where to go for helpful information.  There are plenty of sites available to help online students find schools, locate loans and even determine majors.  What is not as readily available is information about how to be a successful online student once he or she is enrolled.

The following is the top 5 list of things that can help the new online student succeed once they have already chosen their school and major.  Click on the blue links for more information about each topic:

  1. Learn Goal Setting – Read about setting S.M.A.R.T. goals.  The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant (sometimes also Results-Based), and Timely (or Time-Bound).  Students should set S.M.A.R.T. education goals. Those that neglect to do this may find that it takes them longer to graduate, while they waste time and money.
  2. Learn Tools Offered – Most online universities offer some extremely helpful writing, editing and plagiarism-checking tools.  The school’s online site may also have helpful tutorials to explain how to use the software (also known as the platform) that delivers the classroom information.  Learning how to navigate in the online classroom may take a little time.  However, after taking the first class, many students feel more confident in their navigating abilities.
  3. Use the School’s Library – Students may forget that their university has an online library.  It is important that students do not get in the habit of searching for information using Google, Yahoo! and other similar engines. A well-written paper is supported by peer-reviewed articles.  These may be easily found using the school’s search engines located in their online library.
  4. Learn APA – APA stands for American Psychological Association.  For college students, APA refers to the format in which papers should be written.  While APA may seem daunting to the new learner, there are some very useful examples of APA papers online that can help explain the requirements.
  5. Learn How to Cite – Professors often require students to cite research in his or her papers.  Most often they must cite in APA format.  There are some helpful sites to help students learn how to cite correctly.  Students must also learn how to paraphrase, include in-text citations and avoid plagiarism.

Click here for more useful tips about how to be a successful online college student.

Related article:

Online Classes So Important: Mandatory for Graduation

Times have certainly changed for high school education.  Alabama, Florida and Michigan are just some of the states that now require students to take at least one online course to graduate.  According to the article 10 Online Ed Trends Coming to a High School Near You, “Administrators believe that getting students to take online courses will better prepare them to work with the technologies they’ll face in college and the workforce.”

In Memphis online classes were increased due to an upswing in the desire by students to take these courses.  Online courses are available for both high school and middle school students.  An advantage for the schools is that they are less expensive.  In the article Online Class Required for Graduation in Memphis, the author points out that there will be some stringent requirements.  “The structure calls for accountability requiring students to log on, finish assignments, and participate in hour-long live chat sessions with an instructor and classmates. Teachers speak with students after each module to verify their identity. Proctored semester exams are administered on school grounds.”

The number of states adding online requirements continues to grow.  Idaho has a tech-focused school reform program that will require students to take two online courses.  Indiana has also jumped on the technology bandwagon.  Indiana state superintendent, Tony Bennett, recently announced that students will be required to take at least one online course in order to graduate.  In the article United States High Schools Including Online Coursework as Graduation Requirement, the author stated, “Mr. Bennett explained his rationale for an online course requirement by stating that he felt like experiencing an online course would help to prepare Indiana students for the technology they will be using at colleges and universities, as well as in the workforce.”

Related Articles

Employers Embracing Online Education

How do employers view online degrees?

Online degrees are often in the news.  When I first began teaching online, there were far fewer schools offering an online education.  This led to some negative interpretations when employers were considering applicants with an online education.  

Thankfully it is 2011 and people are waking up! In today’s AOLjobs.com article, the author noted, “While online degrees were once largely seen as being second-rate, recent studies have reported that employers are not only more open to, but are even showing a favorable sentiment toward candidates with online degrees these days. Besides the increase in reputation these programs are experiencing, online degrees have also become so popular, that if employers were to disregard candidates with such degrees, they’d also be disqualifying a significant portion of the work force.”

How popular is online learning? According to Campustechhnology.com, “Nearly 12 million post-secondary students in the United States take some or all of their classes online right now. But this will skyrocket to more than 22 million in the next five years.”  

With the growth of the Internet, the ease of accessibility to computers and the flexibility that the online environment affords students, online learning has become more popular than ever. The advantages of not having to buy gas to get to class, not having find a car park or pay for parking, and being able to attend class at any time of the day or night have all contributed to its popularity.

A large percentage of students who are studying online are working on their associates, but there are baccalaureate, master, and doctoral programs available online as well. Much of the growth that has occurred in online learning has happened since 1999. With the recent changes in the economy, online classes have seen a surge in enrollment. “Bad economic times have often been good for education, either because decreased availability of good jobs encourages more people to seek education instead, or because those currently employed seek to improve their chances for advancement by pursuing their education” (Sloan, 2008).

There is no mistaking the popularity of online education. Even Bill Gates praised online learning in his 2010 Annual Letter stating, “A lot of people, including me, think this is the next place where the internet will surprise people in how it can improve things.”

If you are thinking about going back to school in 2011, check out some of the following articles for more advice:

Wall Street Journal Partners with Unigo to Create a Site that Offers Potential College Students Some Sound Advice

 

The Wall Street Journal has teamed up with Unigo’s student correspondents from more than 2000 colleges across America to produce a site they call WSJ on Campus.  If you are not familiar with Unigo, you can watch a video that explains what they do by clicking here.  Their system helps student match their interests and values with appropriate universities.  Their offer help to prospective students by providing reviews written by past students regarding the schools they have attended.  This information is used to help prospective students decide which school is best for them.

If you to go to WSJ On Campus, you will find that they offer the following information about getting prepared for college:

  • What matters when choosing a school
  • What it will really be like when you get to college
  • The perfect school for you
  • Are Ivy schools are really worth it
  • How to master the admissions essay
  • How to deal with school’s turning your requests for admission down
  • How to prepare for the SAT
  • What to do if you can’t go to your first choice school

They also offer the following information about what to expect once you get there:

  • How to choose the right classes
  • How to choose the right major
  • Who earns the most money
  • How to handle doing the assignments
  • Understanding academics
  • How to succeed in your Freshman year
  • How to get an A on your papers
  • How to use textbooks on your iPhone

 

I tried searching by online, online colleges, distance learning and other terms but found no information about online education on the site.  I even typed in some of the top online universities to see if they would come up and there was nothing.  It appears this site is very helpful if you are considering going to a traditional college but not so helpful if you want to use it to choose an online university.  Even if you do decide to attend an online college or university, you can learn a lot from their articles about how to be a successful student.

For more information about being a successful online student, click here.

How to Market You or Your Product Using Social Media

Today’s Ask Dr. Diane: I just wrote a book that is available through Amazon.  I’m just not sure about the best way to market it?  Any suggestions?
 
That is a good question.  The tips I’m about to give can also be used to market things other than a book. 
 
You could market it through several ways.  I would create a link to it on your site like I have links on my main website to Amazon.  If you don’t want to do that, you could offer it directly from you as a PDF through your site and charge them using PayPal
 
You might want to make a video (3-4 minutes at most) and put it on Youtube.  At the end of the video make mention of a free offer or newsletter and where to go for more information.  If they go to that site, it should be a capture page to get people signed up  to receive free newsletters (through a site like aweber.com) to get them interested in you and your book. 
 
You definitely need to be on Facebook and create fan pages like the ones I have for each of my books there.  See:
 
 
I would be on Twitter as well.  You can tie all of your Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, etc. accounts into one area on sites like Hootsuite . . . but I like to use Posterous a lot. It is like a blog but it has a great share information toolbar that you can get that and it also allows you to share your updates on multiple sites like Hootsuite does. 
 
If you want to learn about social networking and “how to do it” . . .for a reasonable price you can go to  Letsgetsocial and sign up to get their videos.  I watched them and they are really very informative.  They are designed to teach people how to be media managers but people who don’t want to do the job of media management can learn how to do their own media management from them. 
 
I gave a presentation yesterday to a local group here where others were presenting to career-seekers … they all agreed that Youtube is one of the biggest things you can do to get noticed. 
 
I watched a video a while back on Pitchengine.com about videos and they had some good information.  They are more costly though. You might watch their video for information.  If you are going to spend that kind of money, you need to have a major product to promote.  Books probably won’t have the return to support that. 
 
Talks are another great way to promote your book . . . so are radio interviews.   You can go to radioguestlist.com or other sites like that to find people looking to interview you.
 
Blogging is one of the best ways to get your name out there.   I like to use WordPress because it is free and uncomplicated. 
 
You can also release press releases on prweb or other such sites.  I am on wooeb who also has press releases that are not as expensive.  You can send out free releases on pitchengine.
 
You might check out some books . . . .I liked a book called Career Renegade . . . had some good ideas.  (on a different side topic . . .I liked the book The Happiness Advantage written by ex Harvard professor – very entertaining)

How Online Learning Compares to Traditional . . . Continuing the Debate

The New York Times recently reported, “An analysis of 99 studies by the federal Department of Education concluded last year that online instruction, on average, was more effective than face-to-face learning by a modest amount.”

However, in this same article, they noted that not all results have shown this to be true.  Mark Rush of the University of Florida’s researched students who watched lectures online vs. traditional students who attended regular live in person lectures. Their study showed more online students let the lectures pile up and got behind.  To find out more about this study, check out the New York Times Article.  

While I find this to be an interesting study, almost none of the online classes I teach include recorded lectures.  Therefore I don’t find this data to be representative of the online experience that I have witnessed in my over 5 years of teaching for many different online universities.

Although many people find the lecture experience a big part of education, not everyone finds this to be the most effective way to learn.  When I attended a traditional college, I personally did not enjoy having to sit through long lectures.  Perhaps that is why I was drawn to online learning later. 

I am more inclined to look at the 99 studies from the Federal Department of Education than one study that looks specifically at how well students keep up with watching lectures in determining the effectiveness of online learning. I personally think that people are drawn to the type of education that fits their needs.  For those that enjoy long lectures, traditional universities may be the best optino for them. For those who don’t, online has a lot to offer.

For those considering taking an online education, check out:  The Online Student’s User Manual:  Everything You Need to Know to be a Succcessful Online Student.

Recommended Articles:

How Employers View an Online Education

Online Schools using Skype, Tinychat, Video Conferencing, Wiki and Other Technology

How are Online Degrees Perceived

The Top 10 Most Common Writing Mistakes

 

Ask Dr. Diane: What are the most common writing mistakes that your students make?

While it is not unusual to see spelling and grammar issues, I’ll assume that readers realize that they should check for such things and just list the top 10 most common other issues I see here. I hope this posting will give some insight into how to set up your papers so that you can avoid making these common mistakes.

  1. Papers not set up with double-spacing – To set your paper to be double-spaced, be sure you are on the home tab in Word and go to the paragraph section of the tool bar.  There is an up and down arrow icon that you can click on.  When you do this, it will give you choices of how to set up your spacing. Pick 2.0 to set double-spacing. 
  2. Papers should not have an extra space between paragraphs – Remember that papers must be double-spaced throughout in APA.  Word sometimes defaults with an extra space between paragraphs.  To change this, click here.
  3. Papers must have headers/numbers set up correctly through the header/number function in Word – To learn how to do this, click here.
  4. Papers must be set up with an introduction/body/conclusion – Your introduction and conclusion need to be strong summaries of what the paper will or has included.  For more about how to write an essay, click here.
  5. Papers should not be written in first person – Remove the “I” or “Me” from your writing. For an explanation of the meaning of first person, click  here.
  6. Citing and References confusion – Citing is the act of quoting a source.  For example:  “Citing is the act of quoting a source.” (Hamilton, 2010)  This is not to be confused with references.  References are included on a separate page with the title References at the top.  You must include references whenever you cite.  The reference explains who deserves credit for the citation.  Many students list references but no citations.  That is not correct.  You need both. 
  7. Paragraph length confusion – Students often either write in overly short or overly long paragraphs.  A good size paragraph is at least 3-4 sentences but should not be so long that it takes up an entire page or more.
  8. Papers should be left justified and not blocked – Students sometimes write in blocked format.  That is not correct.  Papers need to be left justified.  The setting for this is on the home tab under the paragraph part of the toolbar.
  9. Over citing – I see a lot of students who tend to write entire paragraphs of citing and forget to include their own writing in their work.  Although citing is important, it is also important to have your own points and statements.  Remember to make your point and then follow that up with citations to back up what you have written.  As a professor, I am looking to see that you have learned the subject and are not simply restating what others have said.
  10. Forgetting title page – Students often forget to include a title page.  It is very important that all papers include a title page that is correctly formatted in APA format. For helpful examples of APA formatting, click here.

For more help, see the following articles:

15 Ways to Improve Writing Skills for Students and Everyone Else

Removing Extra Spaces Between Paragraphs

How to Add Headers and Page Numbers in Word

APA Style:  5 Essential Tips for APA Style Headings

Citing Long Quotations in APA 6th Edition

Sample APA Paper – 6th Edition

Adding 2 Spaces After a Period to Meet APA 6th Edition Requirements

What is the Difference Between a Citation and a Reference?

Is Wikipedia Reliable?

PowerPoint – Resources and Examples to Make the Perfect Presentation

The Top 100 Vocabulary Words Adults Should Know

Sample APA 6th edition paper in PDF Form

Explanation of First, Second and Third Person Writing

Anthropomorphisms:  When Not to Use Them

Have Some Fun With Common Grammar Mistakes

TerriblyWrite Blog

What is a Peer-Reviewed Journal?

How to Paraphrase and Avoid Using Direct Quotes

How to Get a Job Marketing You as the Product

Click on the picture below to watch the video of Dr. Diane Hamilton’s presentation:  “How to Get a Job Marketing You as the Product”:

College Costs . . . Good News Bad News

[Tuition]

image via online.wsj.com

If you are considering going back to college, you may be interested to know that tuition rates are going up.  That is the bad news.  The good news is that the Pell grants are on the rise.  I give a lot of advice about paying for college in my book, The Online Student User’s Manual.  For more information, you can also check out some of my recent articles by clicking here.   

According to an article in WSJ.com by Stephanie Banchero, “The average price of tuition and fees for in-state students at public four-year institutions is $7,605 this school year, a 7.9% increase over last year. At private nonprofit colleges and universities, the average price is $27,293, a 4.5% rise. Two-year state colleges saw a 6% rise to $2,713.”  To read the entire article, click here.