Distance Learning – University of Phoenix Student Survival Guide

Foreword:

Often when a person recognizes that in order to earn what they are worth and secure their dreams they are going to first have to secure additional skills and education. For the purpose of this Student Survival Guide the author will focus on the Distance Learning Education or online education format rather than the traditional ‘brick and mortar’ collegiate learning format. Distance learning is an efficient way to attend school when you cannot quit your ‘day job’ to attend college. Once the student decides that it is time to continue their education, in today’s information rich environment there are a lot of options to choose from. We have all seen the ads and unsolicited emails for these degrees and institutions. t. First you must choose the school and format that fits best with your abilities and available time. This student guide, written by a student of Axia College of the University of Phoenix, will hopefully provide you with some relevant information as to how you are to ‘survive’ the new age classroom.

Before your first scheduled class begins:

Once the student has decided upon and applied to the College or University that they will be enrolling in, that the student then logs into the site where they will be receiving and submitting their coursework. It is imperative that the student familiarizes themselves with the forums with which he/she will be expected to interact. It is also important to log into the classes that you will be attending so you may view the course requirements, overviews, syllabus, and both instructor and “graduation team” contact information. Print this information out for a handy contact list in case you do not have access to the internet and need to get in contact your support team. This support team will be composed of an Enrollment Counselor, an Academic Counselor, a Financial Aid Counselor, and last but not least, a Technical Support Person or team. You will also want to familiarize yourself with the college or university’s policy statements pertaining to participation and attendance requirements, student rights and responsibilities, technical support procedures, use of class forums and other resources, and the basic expectations for the student per the institution guidelines on how to properly interact with their website and class forums.

Before your first day of class you should survey the workspace which is to be your “classroom”. Whether that classroom is a desk that is tucked into a family room, living room space or, if you are fortunate enough to have an entire in your home which you can devote to a “home office”, you will want to prepare that space for the tasks ahead. By this I mean, clean it up! Tidy away any stacks of paper or other materials that clutter most desks. If you do not already have one, establish a filing system for all of the papers and various articles that you need to keep on or near your desk. A tidy workspace is quite important for three reasons: (1) a clear and neat learning center will help you to focus upon your schoolwork and minimize distractions (2) psychologically it will aid you in feeling prepared and on top of things (keep in mind that an untidy workspace often denotes an untidy mental space (3) an uncluttered workspace will also help to keep you from misplacing or misfiling the significant amount of paperwork that you will need to print and file away for reference as you begin your courses, and as you progress from one set of classes to the next.

If you do not currently have one or if the one you have is outdated, or ‘tempermental’, purchase an inexpensive or “bare bones” printer for your office. The printer that you select need not be a top of the line model, and you may even look to purchase one of last years models or one that is on sale in order to minimize the cost of your new hardware. You will more than likely feel the need to print out a good-sized proportion of the documents and reference materials that you will need to keep handy. You will need to refer back to these documents on a fairly regular basis. Recommended also is an ink refill kit (much less expensive than purchasing new ink cartridges, which can often cost the same if not more than purchasing a brand new printer!), at least three(3) three ring binders, one for each course and one for documents and reference materials which will continue with you throughout most or all of your course of study. This binder will contain your correspondence with the college, via email and regular mail and any other documentation pertaining to your collegiate career. Also you will need a three hole punch, and tabbed dividers for your binders. Now admittedly, not all of those items are absolutely necessary for a student to be a success at distance learning, but if you can invest that small amount of capital (less than $75), you will find that your organizational ability and that the ease of locating reference documents will repay your investment many times over.

Investigating of your learning resources, and suggestions for the best strategic deployment:

Investigating and learning to navigate your student platform should be done no less than a day or two previous to the “first day of school”. When first accessing your class forums, you should find at least three separate forums provided to you. Your “class forum”, your “chat forum”, your “private forum”, and a class materials link should also be included. You should have each of these sets of asynchronous chat forums in each of your active classes. An asynchronous forum is one in which each party may log in at any time to respond to any posts that you have made. In your Course Materials section, you should easily find a 2 links labeled “Course Syllabus” one in PDF format (for Adobe Reader) the other in Plain Text or in HTML. There should also be a course overview and description. The plain text Syllabus will allow you to link to the listed resources. There are often links to outside educational or tutorial websites listed among the other required reading materials and appendices, these will bring a student quickly up to speed if it has been a while since last they had to conjugate a verb or identify an adjective. Normally these sites will also include testing or exercises to gauge how well you have “brushed up” on the basic skills that you will need to use to grasp the larger more involved concepts which are to be tackled in the course you are taking. These exercises are more for the purpose of helping the student and their instructor to assess where they are in terms of basic skillsets and what may need a bit more intensive attention. This first and much less involved syllabus you needn’t print out as its most useful function is to provide the weekly overview of materials you will need and links to access these resource materials. Usually the links will be imbedded in the text that describes the document or site You may wish to save this document as either a MS Word document, or save it to your desktop in whatever format it is offered. The second lengthier and more descriptive course syllabus will provide for you all of the specifics required to complete each assignment and then post it to the correct forum in the properly requested format (these include: a posted thread, as a posted thread with the main assignment attached, or multiple separate and distinctly marked threads posted one after the other to a specific forum, either individual or main forum. The only required post for the Chat forum will be your student biography. This second course syllabus you will want to print out, punch, and save in your binder as it is your “blueprint” for the successful completion of your assignments and as such for the successful completion of your course.

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After you print and bind this syllabus in one of your two class three ring binders keep it in a handy and easy to access location as you will need to refer to it quite often. It is also not a bad idea to redundantly save this PDF file to your desktop for quick and easy referencing. Each week before the class week begins, it is a good idea to read the section of the syllabus that refers to that week so as to familiarize oneself with the expectations and assignments of the upcoming week.

Performing successful web and library searches: You are, I am certain aware of the Dewey Decimal Method of Libraty Catolouging.

Table 1 for IT 105 Student survival guide

From http://www.lib.duke.edu/libguide/fi_books_dd.htm

Duke university Libraries>Guide to library research, Part 5: Searching for information>Books

HOW THE DEWEY DECIMAL SYSTEM WORKS

See also the outline of the Dewey numbers.

Dewey numbers divide humanity’s knowledge, ideas,
and artistic creations into ten major categories
spanning a range from 000 to 999:

000 Generalities

100 Philosophy & psychology

200 Religion

300 Social sciences

400 Language

500 Natural sciences & math

600 Technology (Applied sciences)

700 The arts

800 Literature & rhetoric

900 Geography & history

Each sub-category is further divided into nine specialized topics ranging from 1 to 9:

520 Astronomy

521 Celestial mechanics

522 Techniques, equipment, etc.

523 Specific celestial bodies

524 [Unassigned]

525 Earth (Astronomical geography)

526 Mathematical geography

527 Celestial navigation

528 Ephemerides

529 Chronology

Each major category divides into nine sub-categories spanning a range of 10 to 90. For example:

500 Natural science & mathematics

510 Mathematics

520 Astronomy & allied sciences

530 Physics

540 Chemistry & allied sciences

550 Earth sciences

560 Paleontology & paleozoology

570 Life sciences

580 Botanical sciences

590 Zoological sciences

By adding decimals, the specialized topics are broken down even further:

523.3 Moon

523.4 Planets

523.5 Meteors, solar wind, zodiacal light

523.6 Comets

523.7 Sun

523.71 Constants and dimensions
523..72 Physics of
523.73 Motions
523.74 Photosphere
523.75 Chromosphere and corona
523.76 Solar interior
523.78 Eclipses

Take a look at the complete breakdown of Dewey.

Thus the Dewey Decimal System is a hierarchical system,
in which the arrangement of books on the shelves
moves from the general to the specific.

Some of the Duke Libraries use other classification systems. For example, the School of Law Library, Fuqua Business School Library, and the Medical Center Library use the Library of Congress Classification System; Public Documents and Maps use the Superintendent of Documents (SU Docs) Classification System and other systems. If you need help using one of these classification systems, ask at that library’s reference desk.

Example was copied from: The Duke University website
From http://www.lib.duke.edu/libguide/fi_books_dd.htm

When engaged in a regular library search or a digital library search you may find it helpful to refer to the DDS to narrow your searches for reference materials.

In order to fulfill the expectations of your instructors and to complete your final project for each course you will need to do research for topical data to include in your final essay assignments. Not all but most of your courses will require a final essay as a project for a point value that is worth one-quarter of your final grade, rather than a final exam. One cannot expect to test a student’s skills in an asynchronous atmosphere. Obviously there would be no way in which to keep the student from using his course materials to “ace” the test rather than testing from memory to ascertain what has been learned and how much of that information the student retains. The essay format is also one which provides for checkpoints at regular intervals along the course to insure that you are able to keep up with the instruction and the pace at of the class. There are several distinct and separate resources for the student to find reference materials and other relevant information. One of these will be the student library, which can be found on the college’s website. This library, functions in a wonderfully more efficient and readily accessible fashion than a traditional university library. It will provide multiple databases and search options for locating the materials that you will need. Another wonderful research forum is the World Wide Web. In order to perform a “successful” search it is often helpful to brainstorm on your topic or search term previous to doing the actual search. Now I can not stress this point enough, whether you brainstorm in a word processing program or on paper, you will need to take copious notes of the terms that you search and the results which you may wish to refer back to in the future. Document, document, document, because how successful is a search if you cannot find the materials you want again without an arduous and time consuming search. After you find and read a few of your articles or websites you will find it difficult to remember under which search term or link you located specific documents, especially after a few days or weeks have gone by.

During your brainstorming phase of your search you will want to list first the full term for which you are searching, then after that list related terms or words which will aid you in your search. Most students tend to think in sentences or more commonly in sentence fragments. For example: if your essay is about employee privacy in the workplace, you may shorten the search term into fragments such as:

Employee rights

Employee privacy

Workplace privacy

Employee monitoring

Workplace surveillance

Privacy rights

Internet access at work

Obviously you will also find additional terms as you go along but the list that I have just provided would be a good start on a productive and thus successful search. If you are looking for something specific, such as results from peer reviewed scholarly journals, while the college library has a place to request results only from these types of publications, the common search engine will not. What you will want to do to narrow your search is, previous to the search term you will want to include “Peer reviewed scholarly journal articles re:” previous to your search term. A good rule of thumb also, when searching the web, is to ignore the sponsored links and begin your search for relevant articles among the Search results which will be listed below the “Sponsored Links.”

When conducting library searches you will find yourself confronted by a multitude of databases. The easiest way to start off your search there is to first select the database in which you will begin your search. To select that database read the descriptions which are provided to describe the types of resources that are contained within. You will want to search multiple data bases to be thorough in your search. Once you have searched your first general term to prevent having to read page after page of the resulting references you will probably want to read the abstract, which prefaces each article, and which provides a synopsis of the article. It is important to weed out the articles which have little or nothing to do with your essay topic. Then you will want to mark and place into your library “folder” all of the articles which do pertain to your topic. Though not all of these articles will provide good reference material for formal referencing or paraphrasing in the body of your essay, one of the main purposes of reading through these articles is to gain a better understanding on the topic of your paper. You will gain valuable insights and possibly find data that will influence or even change your thinking in terms of your “stance” on the issue for your paper.

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When evaluating your reference materials you will need to analyze the strengths and bias’ of a source. In order to do this you will want to seek out the author’s affiliations and possibly other articles which they have written to gain a better idea of where their loyalties lie and whether or not their information is both reliable and worthy of reference in your academic paper. You also may wish to dig a bit deeper and find out who the institution, organization, and or business with which your author is affiliated also affiliates themselves with. You certainly would not wish to reference an article about the non practicality of alternative fuels that was written by an oil company representative or lobbyist as their information would be biased and not necessarily reliable.

Upholding academic honesty:

Upholding academic honesty is not difficult at all as it simply means, to my understanding, do not submit work that was written by anyone else as your own. Do not engage in plagiarism of any type or in any form. If you use someone else’s words at all within the text of any of your assignments you must properly cite the work that you are quoting or even paraphrasing. If you do not properly cite the information you run the risk of having part or all of that assignment thrown out and not receiving a grade for that assignment. So it is extremely important that you cite all references and any text or thought that are not your own, and that you do so in exactly the format and manner that is requested by your instructor.

Developing effective study skills:

Developing effective study skills is exactly what it states. The process of teaching yourself new study skills. While the study skills that you used in high school may still be mentally just within your reach, however you must ask yourself four(4) questions.

1. Were the study skills that I had in high school adequate?

2. Is my work schedule flexible or is it ‘set in stone’ reliable hours (ie. 8am- 4:30pm Monday thru Friday)

3. How willing am I to do whatever it takes to earn my degree online? Will I do whatever it takes to navigate my path to success? In 3 months? In 6-12 months? In 18 months?

4. Will I minimize every bump in the road and continue on my educational journey?

Everyone has a ‘support team’ in their lives, this may be your parents or siblings, your spouse and family, your mentor or close friends. It is said “Your friends are the family that you get to choose.”, my grandmother used to tell me that all the time. It is true, you are the nexus of a group of people who will support your every positive decision. These people will be glad to hear the news when you tell them about enrolling in a distance learning course. Let them know how exited you are about the prospect and some ways in which they may be able to provide you with help, or feedback, or advice on how to manage your life, work, family, and school and still manage during all of that to also get some sleep! Whom ever it is in your life that you find instrumental in helping guide you and/or ground you, will more than likely be willing to help you in ways that you may never have thought of.

Your family, if you have children, regardless of age, will not necessarily fall into the “Glad for you and happy about your decision to continue your education!” They may not understand the necessity of your furthering your education. Unless you are more financially comfortable than most “starving students”, they also may not really be thrilled when you try to talk to them about sacrifices that you and they may have to make in the course of your education. One very easy way to enlist their aid and support is to “show them the vision” of you with a better paying job, possibly and nicer house, or a pool, and some nice perks for them like vacations, summer camps, or whatever fits their fancy. What I mean by this is get your family to emotionally invest in your dream of a better life for you and them when you finish earning your degree. You may be surprised by the many various ways and by the amount of support that your family will give you when they can “see” where your college education is going to take you and them. They may give you a quiet hour or hour and a half of time before or after dinner in which to study and complete assignments. They may cook dinner for you so that while it is cooking, after a long day at work, you can do some studying or participation posting to your forums. If you have older, teenage children, they may take an interest in proofreading or editorial review of your essays and assignments by your spouse and teens as you engage in the editing and revising steps of the writing process, or any number of other ways in which they may show that they are united with you in your cause. Smaller children may not be much swayed or impressed but you already knew this right?

Effective study skills, as an adult, do not include:

· Staring at your boyfriend or girlfriend over your notebook of doodles.

·.

These are all distractions!

Effective study skills may include:

§ Studying in the morning, rather than reading the paper read assigned reading materials or make posts to the class forums over coffee.

§ Read reference materials and text book materials at lunch at work, or over dinner at home.

§(This can be 30 minutes or 1 hour depending on household) This break can be just after you arrive home, during dinner preparation, after dinner, while other family memebers are doing homework also.

§ Learning what type of learner you are through personality testing, which will probably be among one of your fist class’ checkpoints. After finding your learning type, learn the suggested tools for retention and study habits that accentuate your “type” of learning tools. Try multiple tools of both your type and secondary sub-type, which are the highest and next highest scores on the tests. Then take the first learning type and couple it with the dominant learning type from the second set of exercises. This will help guide you sets of “tools” to help grasp and retain the vast amount of information that confronts you in such a relatively short span of time. These tools may include putting main topics and points together in musical or rap arrangements to aid in retaining info via phonetics and repetition. Possibly you will need the tools of reciting back information aloud thus activating the auditory as well as the visual memory.

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§ Learn the SQ3R (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review) method for learning to quickly gather information from textbooks and reference books and articles. This method will help you retain anywhere from 20-80% more of the information that you read (according to my daughter Stephanie, who is a Sophomore in High School and uses Jumpstart tutorials each summer previous to the fall classes beginning, I am not quite sure whether she got this statistic from one of her text books, or a reading and retention tutorial that she is using)

Learning to effectively manage your time:

Again, a fairly self explanatory topic. Along with your new study habits, as I have previously mentioned, managing your time is imperative to mastering your classes. Mapping out the “lulls” in your schedule, such as if you take a bus to work or other public transportation. Do reading assignments or write out discussion question responses on your breaks and lunch periods at work. Everyone has downtime in their day, print out the reading material and take it with you. If you commute with a carpool, at times you are not the driver you could read printouts of reading materials. If you work in a phone center or job that has lulls and occasional downtime and access to the internet. I would recommend downloading a tabbed web browser (1), and logging into the site during these dead spots in the demands of your job. If you have a laptop you could log in and post for participation and attendance during your lunch break. Finding times when you are just “hanging out” and using those times to your advantage for study time and computer time is as important to your studies as any assignments you will ever have.

You must map out your days or weeks in order to cover all of the posts, materials, participation and attendance posting requirements. Checkpoint assignments will be given either every Work week, and sometimes you will find that you must complete checkpoints in two or three successive weeks in a row, in addition to the other Discussion Questions and assignments which are listed in your course calendar. If you are one of those people who can map out their days, weeks, or months fairly consistently then effectively managing your time will be a breeze. However if you are like the author of this essay, no scheduling skills whatsoever. That’s alright, always keep in mind that in education the idea is not to test what you already know, but to teach you new ideas, concepts, habits, and skills and then test those skills. There are many templates that you can download online for this purpose. They have weekly and monthly planners, school year planners, calendar sheets, etc. A great place to get these templates is MicrosoftOffice online. It can be found on the main www.microsoft.com website. They are quite handy in helping you to organize your schedule. Especially if you read your syllabus for the week ahead on Saturday or Sunday so that you can loosely schedule these requirements into your week.

Also for the purpose of keeping up with your active posting requirements for each class, a good rule of thumb is: Each participation week will have at least two Discussion Questions, as you are required to post 3 times on three days during a Participation week, it is a good idea to also do your required posts at the same time you submit your DQ response. This means that you will automatically cover two of the three days required. This will leave you the choice of Friday, Saturday, or Sunday as the third day to log in and post. For work weeks you need only post 2 posts on 2 days that week to meet the attendance requirements for the class. That is simple, either choose your two least hectic days and plan to use them, or post Monday and Saturday each work week, in addition to the work that is due to be turned in that week. Also keep in mind that it never hurts to add an additional post at the same times for insurance.

Setting and achieving goals:

Learn to set short-term, median-term, and long-term goals. Make sure as you are reflecting on your goals that you make sure your goals are simple and attainable. Failing to meet or exceed the milestones that you have placed along your educational path, can cause loss of self esteem and feeling “left behind” by your classmates. So make sure before you add it to your list of goals that it is not just a “hope” but a reachable point where you can look back and review the steps that it took to reach that point and as you check off that goal you can apply those same steps to your next goal. These three types of goals are the building blocks or stepping stones towards attaining your educational goals and even professional goals after your degree is completed. Keep this list of goals handy, and refer back to it often. Check off or cross off goals that you attain and replace them immediately with another goal. Doing this exercise often will help to keep you motivated along your path to success, and will also raise your self esteem and your confidence in your ability to attain the things that you want to attain.

Conclusion:

When you enroll in a distance learning course these suggestions may help you to “survive” the experience. Hopefully by using a few of the suggestions in this guide you will not only survive your course of study but thrive in the learning environment. This is a process, not an ordeal or a way to show you how much or how little you may know about a given subject. Take it easy on yourself, do not become overly critical or if you start out well, try not to become overly confident in your performance. Each week is filled with new ideas and new challenges, try to shed the highs and lows of the previous week and strive to give your best efforts every single week. Pay attention, and do not fail to ask questions and to network and communicate with the other students in your class. The interaction of the classroom is one of the foremost learning tools that you can use to understand other perspectives and styles. Become a lifelong learner, learn to enjoy learning. The assignments that you are given are not to be driven only by a desire to attain a favorable grade, but to teach you things about your course of study, and more importantly to teach you more about yourself.

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