All posts by Lori Wendt

Three Good Reasons to Take an Online Course

Usually, when you see this headline, you expect to see reasons like “greater convenience” or “lower costs” or “a more comfortable learning environment.” And while all of these are true, here are three reasons to take an online course you might not have considered.

1. Technology education. Most, if not all students will be working with “others” sometime in their future careers. To be successful, the use of technology is very important. Taking online courses now at Parkland College helps prepare you to communicate with others using today’s technology, including virtual meetings and collaborations through email and social media devices. Business and management instructor Mark Kesler says he encourages all of his students to be comfortable in the online learning environment: “I highly recommend all my students take at least one online class before they leave Parkland.”

2. Cultural diversity. Students all around the world take Parkland’s online courses. By enrolling in an online course, you get the chance to meet students from other countries. Students benefit mutually from learning about each others’ cultures and educational and life experiences. Often, you can get a “study abroad” experience without leaving the comfort of your own home.

3. Career skill-building. Taking an online class requires discipline, punctuality, and self-motivation, all excellent skills to have in the workforce. Online courses create a solid foundation that prepares you for your next step, whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution or starting your career.

So, while online courses are recommended for their quality instruction, transferability, and affordability, they offer so much more than just that for students. Online courses can provide a broad experience that shapes the future of your employment and life goals.

What are you waiting for? Go ahead, sign up for an online class today!

[Lori Wendt is the learning management system specialist for the Professional Development and Instructional Technology department at Parkland College.]

***Parkland celebrates National Distance Learning Week, Nov. 7-11.***

Knowledge Base: DIY Online Technical Support

It’s no surprise that Parkland students take online classes for the convenience they offer: Students can work during the day and take their classes at night—at home, in their pajamas. However, taking classes this way can create an issue when students run into problems of a technical nature and all of the help desks are closed.

That is why Parkland now offers a unified support desk and a 24/7 DIY (do-it-yourself) knowledge-base that is full of articles to help students with simple technical issues. Here are some ways you can use the knowledge base:

Example 1: Say you forgot your password. You can go to http://kb.parkland.edu and type “forgot password” into the search bar (see below) and click Search.

kbexample1

You’ll find that the results link you to an article titled Resetting your ParklandOne password. Click the article link, and you’ll get a step-by-step guide, including visuals, that walks you through the process.

kbexample2

The nice thing about the ParklandOne program is that when you forget the password, the reset will be good for all Parkland systems (Wi-Fi, student email, and my.Parkland; Cobra Learning will be added to this list in December 2015).

You can also search for Cobra Learning assistance as well. The search engine for the knowledge-base will search WITHIN the article as well…so even if you don’t know the exact terminology of the issue, you should be able to get a smaller number of articles from which to choose to get a resolution.

Example 2: Say you lost your Internet connection while taking a timed quiz in Cobra Learning! If you go to the knowledge-base search and type in “lost Internet connection”, it will give you a link to an article titled Cobra Learning – Tips for Taking Quizzes (see below).

kbexample3

In this article, you can find steps on how to try to regain entry into a quiz after losing Internet connection or if your browser freezes up, as well as other recommended tips for taking quizzes in Cobra Learning.

kbexample4

So, while we can’t offer you 24/7 tech support, we can offer you the next best thing: a knowledge-base with articles written specifically for Parkland users and arranged in a way that is easy to search and locate the assistance you need when you need it.

We are always open to requests for additional article topics, so if you can’t find your answer, let us know, and we’ll work to create one and add it for future reference.

 

[Lori Wendt is the online support specialist for the Professional Development and Instructional Technology department at Parkland.]

 

2015: An Online Learning Odyssey

“Hello, Dave. You’re looking well today.”

These iconic words are from Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 science fiction movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Nearly 50 years ago, people were envisioning a time when we communicated with artificial intelligence in the same way we communicate with humans. And today, we are close to that, with Apple introducing us to Siri and Windows 10 giving us Cortana. (Hopefully, they won’t refuse to open the pod bay doors).

"2001: A Space Odyssey," MGM 1968
From “2001: A Space Odyssey,” MGM 1968. Images available at http://www.imdb.com/

Even the idea of taking online classes seems like a page from Kubrick’s screenplay. One of the benefits of taking an online class is the ability to take it alone, when it fits our schedule and without having to interact with others. One of the drawbacks to taking an online class is also the ability to take it alone, without having to interact with others. This creates a paradox, for sure, but is online learning truly AI communication? I don’t think so, and here’s why.

Every day we see more and more evidence of human-to-computer interaction: people with cell phones and other mobile devices. Even toddlers in shopping carts are being held captive by electronic devices. What we’re seeing less of is the human-to-human interaction, where people talk to each other without electronics in their hands. Often they’ll say it’s easier to communicate with texts and emojis than it is to talk. But they don’t realize that as long as there is someone on the other end, you ARE communicating with someone. You are interacting with others. In fact, you are interacting with others in ways our ancestors never dreamed of, and you are doing it frequently. So, this human-to-human-via-computer interaction can be a positive thing.

However, it seems that students in online courses stop just short of that interaction when in their classes. They log in—alone. They do their work—alone. And they log out—alone. So, the challenge for Parkland College’s online teaching faculty is, “how do we get students to interact with the course and with other students?”

Faculty are working on this. They are creating courses online that are rich with engaging content. They are creating adventures (video lectures, study guides), mysteries (assignments, quizzes), and conversation (discussions, groups). The key for students is to engage with the content and with other students. And provide feedback to faculty. (Remember those emails you get asking you to complete a course evaluation form?)

Parkland students should never feel like Dave, all alone in the vast space that is online learning, because online learning is not like HAL. The pod bay doors will always be open and welcoming. All you need to do is come in.

Three Key Reasons to Take Online Courses at Parkland!

Parkland College has offered online/distance learning for a long time and, for many reasons, we are still one of the top schools in the state of Illinois for online instruction.
Reason #3 – Quality: Online courses at Parkland are taught by the same instructors who teach in our classrooms.  And many of them have undergone additional training to help them to become effective and efficient online instructors.  So, we can proudly say that we have quality instruction happening at Parkland College, regardless of the method of delivery.
Reason #2 – Transferability:  Our online courses meet all of the same criteria for our classroom courses and are, therefore, accredited and accepted at most transfer institutions.  As always, we defer to the transfer institution for how they will accept the credits to be applied to a baccalaureate degree, but our courses are fully compliant with the Illinois Articulation Initiative and undergo regular review for continued compliance to ensure the quality of our courses.
And Reason #1 (And probably the most important reason) – Affordability:  It’s been said that you can expect to pay the same for an online degree as you would for one at a “brick and mortar” institution.  And for in-district students at Parkland, that is true.  Our online course rates for in-district students is the same as for the classroom instruction.  So, that makes Parkland an easy choice for getting your degree in a timely fashion—no worrying about conflicting class schedules.  Just take the online version and work at times that are convenient for you.
But wait… it gets better!  Out-of-district and international students pay substantially more per credit hour for classroom instruction.  However, Parkland is able to offer the online courses at a much more affordable rate than the classroom version.  For out-of-district students, the cost is $192.50 per credit hour; for international students the rate is $282.50 per credit hour.  Even at these rates, Parkland is the smart choice compared to other online institutions.

Tuition1

 

Further good news with the affordability of online courses is that they are fully eligible for federal financial aid.
So, make your money go further this summer and take your courses from anywhere in the world.  Parkland College will go with you and ensure you are getting quality, transferable courses at the best possible price.
Get started by choosing the link on this page that best describes your situation.  If you have any questions, please contact admission@parkland.edu.  See you online!

What is Online Learning, Anyway?

Distance education.  Distance learning.  Online learning. Virtual learning.  People use these terms interchangeably to mean a “mode of delivering education and instruction to students who are not physically present in a traditional setting, such as a classroom” (Wikipedia).

Distance education
Distance education. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

It may surprise you that the first distance education class in the U.S. took place about 300 years ago! In the 18th century, students could gain secretarial skills through mailed lessons (later called correspondence education).  Mailed lessons eventually evolved into televised courses: Schools recorded lectures on VHS tapes and made them available for students to check out and view in their homes.  Students would then send the completed lessons back to their instructors.

As the Internet became more prevalent, distance education offered the ability for “real time” interaction between instructor and students.  The Web brought about the opportunity for peer communication as well, much like students in a classroom, except for being in a virtual environment. Parkland College has offered this type of learning since the 1990s and is one of the top community colleges in the state of Illinois in online offerings.  We also believe that we have some of the best online faculty as well.

What does this mean for you? It means that, while its delivery systems are evolving, distance education is still serious business, and the rules for success at it remain the same:

Online learning is NOT always easy; it’s not just “browsing the Internet” or “chatting.”  You must research, write, and submit papers, just like in the traditional classroom.  You take quizzes, tests, and exams using a special software or learning management system (Cobra Learning at Parkland).  Faculty interact with you through topic boards  and class discussion, and they post grades of your online work.

Online learning takes discipline; there are generally no set hours to “attend” class or instructors in front of the room reminding you of due dates.  Faculty will give you the tools to help with your success, but it’s up to you to use them efficiently and effectively.

Not enrolled in online courses?  It is still a good idea to know how to use the Cobra Learning system for your classes. Many of our classroom faculty utilize Cobra  to distribute and receive materials as well as for testing.  So, log into the Cobra system and, along the right side below your profile settings, you will find a widget called Help for Students.  There you will find video tutorials to help you learn how to use Cobra.

Your success in all courses–classroom and online–is important to us.  Please take advantage of services we make available to ensure that success.  The STAR help desk, the Library, and CAS (Center for  Academic Success) are just a few of the services that we recommend, whether you’re taking an online class or not.