It’s Back to School Time for Adults

The 4th of July has just passed, yet most stores are now promoting Back to School sections. It might seem too early, but now is actually a great time for adults to consider a return to the classroom. In today’s economy, it’s important to refresh your skills, beef up your resume and possibly finish that degree you began many years ago. 

 TV, radio and billboard advertisements bombard us with options of returning to school.

Can these programs really work and fit into an already busy life? Are there means available to help pay for them? Yes, not only do these programs work, they are much more beneficial to the working adult than the traditional student.

Online programs are one option available to the working adult. These programs appeal to many because students are only required to meet in a physical classroom minimally if at all. This is quite attractive for those who frequently travel or would like to learn during odd hours. Don’t be misled, however. Online programs can often be much more demanding than traditional classes. You are not guaranteed immediate or in some cases even timely feedback from instructors. This may be frustrating and detrimental. You will be free to learn from the privacy of your own home, office, car or even while traveling overseas.

Accelerated programs are a fantastic option for those who are highly motivated and want to complete their degree as quickly as possible. Students may only need to commit to going to class one night a week and could complete an entire course in just five to eight weeks. Accelerated programs like these often require group collaboration on projects and move at a very rapid pace.

Blended programs offer the best of both the traditional and online classes. Many universities are including this hybrid as a way to entice would be students.

So if you have considered going back to school, now is the time.

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Technology in Today’s Classroom

As a college writing and communications instructor, I frequently utilize resources from YouTube, iTunes and Hulu in my classes. Today’s students demand media’s integration into the classroom.

Gone are the days when instructors lectured with slides or even more recently Power Point. Watching an instructor read every word on a 68 slide Power Point presentation is just as painful as sitting through an instructor ‘s lecture as he or she stands behind a podium and reads notes for more than an hour. Students don’t want to be talked at, they want to spoken to and then invited to discuss. Traditional lectures leave little room for student participation or discussion and have fallen out of favor with today’s students. Plus, they are just boring.

Modern classrooms are equipped with laptops or desktop computers, Internet access, SMART Board interactive whiteboards, overheads and LCD projectors. All this equipment begs to be utilized. Instructors must be up for the challenge of frequently updating their course materials and the best ones do just that.

I teach in a specific program tailored for working adults returning to school to earn their associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The program is accelerated and the students are highly motivated. Each class has to have real world application. I’ve found that weaving carefully chosen media into my lessons helps achieve my goals–to educate and entertain. There are those who find fault with the combination of education and entertainment (edutainment), but I think it makes perfect sense. How can you educate if you haven’t succeeded in engaging your students? You can’t.

When teaching students about the power of persona in persuasion, I show a clip of The Oprah Effect from the MSNBC special. Then we read the famous essay by Judy Brady entitled, I Want a Wife. Afterwards, I facilitate a discussion and ask for other examples. Students understand persona much better this way than they would if I just lectured about persona.

There are almost as many resources out there as there are opportunities to use them. I recently spoke with Dennis Carter, assistant editor for eSchool News about teacher resources that help instructors make education much more interactive and entertaining.

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