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6 Ways to Sample an Online Degree Program

When Lisa Dowdell heard about the for-profit, online Capella University through her daughter, a student, she was excited about the prospect of earning a bachelor’s degree on her own schedule.

But Dowdell, a web application developer living in the Chicago suburbs, wasn’t sure whether the online format was suitable for her. Fortunately for Dowdell, Capella offers a free weeklong sample course to give students a taste of what to expect.

“I said, ‘OK, let me just take this so I could see what I’m in for,’” says the 51-year-old information technology student. Taking the sample course, she says, would also tell her whether she would be able to successfully manage her time.

Dowdell completed assignments and engaged virtually with classmates and faculty, she says. Ultimately, she decided online learning worked for her.

For prospective online students, sampling an online degree program is key to determine whether the format is right for them and choose a program based on structure and flexibility, many experts say. These opportunities are often available on a program’s website or by contacting an admissions or enrollment counselor.
“I think sometimes, perceptions of students don’t necessarily align with the actual reality of what a program is,” says Vickie Cook, director of the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service at the University of Illinois—Springfield.

Online learning requires self-motivation and the ability to communicate with peers and instructors from a distance, experts say. And each program is created differently.

Here are six ways prospective online students might sample online degree programs, depending on what’s available at different schools.

1. Find course demos or trials: While Capella has a weeklong mini-course format, Oregon State University Ecampus and Marist College – along with many other online programs – offer online course demos on their websites.

For OSU, students can access the online classroom, and each lesson focuses on a different aspect of online learning or answers a key question that prospective students often have, says Shannon Riggs, OSU Ecampus’ director of course development and training. They can also view sample online lectures.
Other institutions, like Northeastern University, publish videos that walk through online courses and their features.

2. Take orientation courses: For some programs, students can first enroll in an online class that familiarizes them with what online learning entails, Cook says. They might complete assignments to gauge their readiness and communicate with other students on discussion boards.

Pennsylvania State University—World Campus hosts a nine-week course titled “Transitions” primarily for prospective online students to experience online education, says Pat Shope, the online school’s prior learning assessment coordinator.

“It, as close as we can, acts and looks and feels like a Penn State course,” she says. Students write essays, interview with career counselors and explore available resources.

3. Audit an actual online course: Prospective students can, in some cases, attend live portions of an online course, where actual students communicate in real time through videoconferencing, before they enroll – though this isn’t as common as in the past, Cook says.

Still, it’s a popular option at the University of North Carolina—Chapel HIll Kenan-Flagler Business School online MBA program, says Douglas Shackelford, the school’s dean.

“The likelihood of their being enthused and excited and wanting to attend the program goes up dramatically,” he says of prospective online learners.

4. Enroll in one course: Starting with just one online class can help prospective students evaluate a program without paying for an entire credential, says Khusro Kidwai, assistant dean of distance learning at the Northwestern University School of Professional Studies.

In some programs, students can start as a nondegree-seeking student and then transition into the full program, experts say.

After taking a course, students can also decide whether to pursue the online degree or several smaller credentials such as certificates to build their way there, Kidwai says.
5. Access course materials online: Actual online course syllabuses and lecture previews are accessible on the internet for some programs – similar to what prospective on-ground students might use to research traditional classes.

Syllabuses and, in some cases, lectures for upcoming on-campus and online classes at Harvard University are available through the Harvard Extension School. Temple University’s Fox School of Business offers sample lectures on YouTube.

6. Consider massive open online courses, or MOOCs: These are full, recorded lectures from real university faculty, usually developed by a provider such as edX or Coursera along with a university.

Many can be accessed online for free by anybody with internet, though there are also options for paid certificates.

Prospective students should “take a look at one maybe in a program that they’re considering studying,” says Cook, “or maybe a program that they would just like more information about to find out if online study is something that would be of interest to them.”
source usnews.co

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3 Ways High School Counselors Can Help Students, Parents

No day is typical for high school counselors.
“You can have a student walk into your office and they could be homeless,” says Tawnya Pringle, a school counselor at Hoover High School in San Diego. Or she may need to counsel another student stressed about making straight A’s and worried his or her parents will be upset if that doesn’t happen.
School counselors help students thrive academically, personally and socially, and assist them in exploring their options after high school. The American School Counselor Association, a professional group, is sponsoring National School Counseling Week Feb. 2-6 to promote the profession.
“The absolute biggest misconception, without a doubt, would be that we’re just there for scheduling,” says Shelby Boisvert, a guidance counselor at Lowell High School in Massachusetts. She thinks most people don’t understand that most school counselors are therapeutically trained to counsel individuals.
Find out below what else school counselors have to offer students and parents.
Academic support: Services for students who are struggling academically often go underused, says Pringle, the counselor in California, who was also a finalist for the national 2015 School Counselor of the Year award.
“I think sometimes students are embarrassed,” to ask for help, she says, or some students may have had a bad experience with a school counselor. Counselors can sit down with the student’s teachers, for example, she says, or connect students with peers dealing with similar struggles so they can learn from one another.
Freshmen at Boisvert’s school in Massachusetts take a seminar that includes content on establishing good study habits and patterns, which students can use throughout their academic careers.
Parental counseling and support: Counselors can offer families strategies on parenting and helpful advice on how to connect with their children, says Pringle.
“I’ve had a lot of parents come in over the years that just have said, ‘I don’t know what to do. How do I handle when my teenager is doing this, this and this at home?’” she says. Sometimes she’ll recommend family therapy if there are more series issues at home.
Boisvert’s school offers after school training for families on how to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and how to access mental health services, among other topics, she says. But connecting with working parents can be a challenge.
Pringle recommends parents arrange a one-on-one appointment with their child’s school counselor as a good first step in establishing the parent-school counselor relationship.
Individual counseling: Students can seek one-on-one help from their school counselor to discuss personal issues, such as bullying, or seek crisis counseling, says Pringle.
“Sometimes there’s a myth that we do therapy in schools and that’s not it,” says Pringle. School counselors are trained to be the front line in terms of assessing what the issues are in a child’s life, she says, but if they feel something more in-depth is going on they’ll refer the student to a therapist.

She informs her students upfront that their conversation is confidential – unless the student divulges something that relates to his or her safety.
Both counselors say the number of students they are responsible for can make the job a challenge. Nationally, the ratio of high school students to a school counselor is nearly 500 to 1, The New York Times recently reported.
But that shouldn’t deter families from seeking their services.
“School counselors are in this profession because we want to connect and because we want to help, and help them and make a difference in their lives,” says Pringle.
source usnews.co

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Studying at a U.S. Graduate School

After earning her bachelor’s degree from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, Carmen Ronnie set her sights on graduate school in the U.S. But when preparing to apply to four different U.S. schools, Ronnie, a South African national, learned she first had to get her foreign undergraduate degree evaluated.
A credential evaluation is a report that provides a comparison of a student’s academic credentials earned in another country to the U.S. educational system. Admissions counselors require it to determine if a degree or other credentials earned overseas meet their standards for enrollment.
Here are some things prospective international students with foreign credentials should keep in mind as they plan for grad school in the U.S.
Differing university criteria: U.S. universities set their own standards for admission. As such, students should check with school admissions offices for their specific requirements regarding foreign credentials, says Gareth Fowles, vice president for enrollment management for the admissions office at Lynn University in Florida.
Some schools like the Satish & Yasmin Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas, for example, allow three-year undergraduate foreign degree holders to take extra coursework on campus to meet the school’s graduate admissions standards. Other institutions like Northwestern University and the University of North Carolina—Charlotte accept candidates with a three-year foreign degree but may have graduate programs that require credential evaluations.
“Some U.S. institutions perform the evaluation themselves with an in-house credential evaluator, but most will refer you to a third-party credential evaluation agency,” says Fowles.
Schools like Southern Oregon University and the University of Arkansas do in-house evaluations. Other institutions refer students to approved credential evaluation companies, such as those that are members of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services and similar organizations. NACES members commit to an enforced code of ethics and undergo an in-depth prescreening and yearly recertification.
Credential evaluators: While several companies perform credential evaluation, universities often have specific organizations’ reports that they accept. For example, the University of Central Florida only accepts evaluations from Josef Silny & Associates Inc., a private organization based in Miami, or World Education Services, a nonprofit based in New York and Toronto.
Experts say students should choose an evaluator affiliated with an association like NACES, which can ensure the quality and reliability of a credential evaluation service. NAFSA: Association of International Educators suggests students ask all potential evaluators about the types of evaluation services they provide, their training and experience and their documentation policies, among other questions.
Sam Ahn, founder and CEO of Ahn Academy, an educational consulting company based in New York, suggests students make a list of all evaluators required by schools they are applying to, choose the evaluator noted by most schools “and start the process as soon as possible.”

“I did ask an admissions counselor what were some of the most used companies and WES came up as one of them,” says University of Witwatersrand graduate Ronnie.
She selected WES, in part because all four grad schools she applied to accepted its evaluations. But not all schools accept the same evaluators. Ahn says students should ask whether schools will accept another company’s evaluation report. For those that don’t, Ahn suggests students use the school’s chosen evaluator.
Credential evaluation process and fees: The process and length of time required to complete the evaluation can vary among evaluators, as can the cost.
Matthias Bretschneider, international credential evaluation specialist and CEO of A2Z Evaluations LLC, an independent service in Davis, California, says students using his services must provide an original official transcript and degree certificate by mail, in person or through their institution.
He says students must complete an online application and choose either a general evaluation for $175, which measures degree equivalency, or a course-by-course evaluation for $315. Once all documents have been received, applicants will get an email confirmation with the estimated time of completion, which is typically two weeks but can be rushed for an additional fee.
Bretschneider says for students with foreign credentials, “the course-by-course evaluation, including the general evaluation, is usually required” since it identifies the equivalent U.S. grade; U.S. semester credits; U.S. level, such as lower division or upper division and graduate level, of each course; and U.S. grade point average. A2Z Evaluations charges $25 for each additional official copy of the evaluation.
Other evaluators may charge less for course-by-course evaluations but more for other services. Milwaukee-based nonprofit Educational Credential Evaluators, for example, charges $160 for course-by-course reports and has differing fees for additional copies, depending on quantity and when they are ordered.
Ronnie, the student who used WES’ services, says, “I paid $160 for a course-by-course evaluation and then I had to pay an additional $30 for each of the extra three schools I requested it get sent to.” She chose to attend Lynn University, where she earned a Master of Education and is now pursuing a Doctor of Education.
Having been through the credential evaluation process, Ronnie recommends students plan ahead to avoid any unforeseen problems. During her process, Hurricane Sandy hit the U.S., which caused delays in mail service.
source usnews.co

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