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Career Colleges COVID-19 Online learning

It doesn’t matter where you go to college—really

In a day and age obsessed with getting into the best college, does the decision really matter in the wider scheme of life?

Overall, the answer is no.

This is particularly the case in the age of COVID-19. One survey of college presidents from mid-2020 found that 72 percent are very or somewhat concerned about “a perceived decrease in the value of higher education” because of the virus.

The on-campus frills surrounding college are gone—think of the ivy-covered walls, classroom interactions, the social groups, etc.—all replaced with Zoom classes and online message boards.

As we begin 2021 with the hope that life will eventually return to normal, now is a good day to assess the age-old question of whether the college you choose matters, and if so, how much. We’ll do so in this blog post. Read on!

What about better jobs and income?

First, let’s tackle the earnings question. Depending on your area of study, a degree from a more selective college has no bearing on your future earnings.

For students majoring in science-related fields, there’s no statistically significant difference in earnings between graduates of elite colleges and those from less-selective schools, according to research from Michael Hilmer, an economist at San Diego State University, and Eric Eide and Mark Showalter, economists at Brigham Young University.

The biggest difference in earnings comes for business majors. But even here, students who graduate from elite schools earn, on average, just 12 percent more than their peers at mid-tier schools.

As Elissa Nadworny and Anya Kamenetz write for National Public Radio, “An individual’s choice of major, such as engineering, is a far more powerful factor in her eventual earnings than her choice of college.” One poll found that attending an elite college doesn’t make you happier later in life, either.

And don’t forget that many of the world’s most financially success people—think Steve Jobs and Bill Gates—dropped out of college.

Remember, going to an elite university is more about prestige and social connections than anything else

For wealthy people, college is more about social connections than acquiring knowledge. Granted, those social connections are often the key to getting the right high-paying, influential job after graduation. And many of them do. (The U.S. Supreme Court, for example, is exclusively represented by graduates of the Ivies.)

But if your ultimate goal is to acquire knowledge—and more importantly, to continue to learn how to learn—headed toward a well-paying job in your field, then your choice of college begins to matter less and less.

What’s more, surveys show that hiring managers don’t really care where you went to college—just that you have the hard and soft skills to actually get the job done. Having an Ivy listed on your LinkedIn profile is a definite mental boost (and it can’t hurt during a job hunt), but the cost of getting in and completing a degree isn’t always worth it.

Focus on the main thing

In the vast majority of cases, the name of your college doesn’t matter. What matters is earning the credential. It doesn’t have to be a bachelor’s degree, either. Don’t give in to our culture’s obsession with getting into “the best” college, a preoccupation that needlessly stresses out young people.

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Career Colleges General Interest Online learning

Is self-employment right for you? A guide for distance learners

Being your own boss—at some point, we all dream of it. But so few of us actually take the leap to self-employment. The exciting part is that independent work can be an excellent fit for distance learners.

Regardless of where you are in your education journey—middle school, freshman in high school, on the verge of graduation, or entering college—this blog post provides guidance on the question of whether self-employment is the right choice.

More of us are ‘living the dream’ of self-employment

Independent work has been growing rapidly in recent years across the U.S. Today, there are around 16 million self-employed workers. And there is a lot of diversity here—covering everything from independent contractors and freelancers to “gig” economy workers to business owners. The average income for full-time self-employed workers is around $65,000—for Millennials (those in their late 20s and 30s) the average wage was $43,800.

College completion doesn’t appear to factor into the decision to pursue self-employment, either. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that among those 25 years or older in 2015, self-employment rates were higher for those with a high-school education or less or for individuals with a professional degree. The lowest rates were for those with bachelor’s or master’s degrees.

Millennials and Generation Z (loosely defined as people younger than 40 and older than 10) also show a propensity to lean toward self-employment as a preferred career pathway. So, is self-employment right for you? Read on to find out!

A look at self-employment five years in: My story

First, a quick intro. I’ve devoted my career to online marketing for small and medium-sized businesses and nonprofits. For eight years prior to making the jump to full-time solopreneur in 2015, I worked a traditional 8-to-5 job. While I enjoyed my duties and co-workers, I seldom felt truly stretched and challenged, and I craved more variety in my day-to-day activities. So that prompted me to try something new—voluntarily quitting my day job and launching my own business.

In the past half decade, I’ve nearly tripled my income compared to my old full-time job, had more time off, and enjoyed far more meaningful work. I’ve learned a lot and gained an entirely new perspective that continuing in a traditional employment path couldn’t have given me.

If I can do it, so can your homeschool student! In fact, there are so many ways that home education prepares a young person for the entrepreneurial life. And by entrepreneurial, I don’t mean kickstarting the newest Silicon Valley tech behemoth. It can be something as simple as hanging your shingle as a freelance photographer or programmer, launching a local lawn care business, or a host of other pursuits.

Six ways to know whether self-employment is right for you

#1: You’re a self-starter: When I first made the jump to self-employment, I thought my stress levels would plummet. They definitely declined overall, but I quickly discovered that one type of stress replaced another. True, I no longer had to commute, be at my desk from 8 to 5 each day, deal with office politics, and all the rest. But I did have to “make it all happen” each day. As entrepreneur Neil Patel writes, “To be self-employed is to trade one variety of stress for another.” The wonderful flexibility of self-employment meant that I had to be disciplined—not only to do well on my current projects for clients, but keep a steady stream of new projects in the pipeline for the future. If you’re a natural self-starter, self-employment is probably a good fit.

#2: You value flexibility: If you want to bring a high degree of flexibility into your work one day, self-employment is a wonderful path. Want to take an afternoon off? You don’t have to ask anyone’s permission. You can do it! Just remember that with that flexibility and freedom comes the need for discipline. And although you don’t have a boss in the typical sense of the word, with self-employment you really have a bunch of small “bosses” in the form of your clients! You are still accountable to them.

#3: You have unbridled enthusiasm for a work or business idea: It goes without saying that passion is essential for self-employment. That passion will help you make it through the tough times. It also will help you get up each morning and face challenges with enough resolve to keep moving forward.

#4: You’re comfortable in multiple roles, and can switch between them throughout the day: Regardless of what their core offering is, the self-employed have to wear multiple hats throughout the day: Accountant. Salesman. Project manager. Secretary. Customer service representative. To name just a few. My own workday involves switching between these roles multiple times, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I thrive on the variety. If you prefer a set routine and predictability, the self-employed lifestyle could be a challenge.

#5: You’re OK with risk: We’ve all heard the grim statistic that eight out of 10 entrepreneurs fail within 18 months of starting their businesses. Self-employment definitely carries more risk. That said, trying out self-employment early in a young person’s career gives them a chance to experiment without as much on the line. It’s much better to try and fail in your 20s without dependents, a mortgage, and other obligations. Right now is the optimal time to experiment.

#6: You’re comfortable with sales: A mentor of mine shared some priceless advice a few years back: “David, you’re a writer. But when you go into a job interview or pitch a client, you’re no longer a writer. You’re a salesman.” One of the most challenging aspects of self-employment is that you can’t just be good at your craft—whether that’s photography, programming, roof repair, or anything else. You also have to be an expert at sales. The good news is that sales is an acquired skill, like anything.

Self-employment isn’t for everyone

Of course, independent work isn’t all a bed of roses. Working for yourself means no employer-paid benefits (health insurance and retirement contributions are the big ones), no paid vacation (truly taking time off as a self-employed worker is super challenging), and the potential for a higher tax rate (depending on how a business is structured). But as we’ve explored in this blog post, there are so many upsides. And for distance learners who tend to be naturally self-motivated, the fit can be perfect.

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Family General Interest Online learning

How distance learners can protect their mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

It’s tough to maintain sanity as a remote learner during the COVID-19 lockdown. It’s clear that this pandemic is having a huge impact on mental health: A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that over half of U.S. adults (56%) report that worry related to the coronavirus outbreak has caused them stress-induced symptoms like insomnia, poor appetite or overeating, or frequent headaches or stomach aches.

And we are clearly seeing the impacts of social isolation in a 1,000% increase in calls to distress hotlines in April 2020 alone.

Kids and teens are struggling, too. So what strategies can you use to stay mentally healthy during the ongoing pandemic? We’ll suggest several tips in this blog post.

Signs that you’re struggling

According to Mental Health First Aid, look for these indicators:

  • Feeling stressed or overwhelmed, frustrated or angry, worried or anxious.
  • Feeling restless, agitated, on “high alert” or unable to calm down.
  • Being teary, sad, fatigued or tired, losing interest in usually enjoyable activities or finding it difficult to feel happy.
  • Worrying about going to public spaces, becoming unwell or contracting germs.
  • Constantly thinking about the situation, unable to move on or think about much else.
  • Experiencing physical symptoms such as increased fatigue or other uncomfortable sensations.

Here are some tips to help you cope:

1. Keep a regular routine

It can be easy to let a schedule slip during trying times—staying up late, sleeping in, and delaying schoolwork. But creating a routine and sticking to it as much as possible is a big step toward better mental health. At the same time, keep things flexible and give grace to jump off the routine from time to time.

2. Stay connected socially

It goes without saying that one of the biggest downsides of the lockdown is not being able to maintain social connections. Social media can be a good alternative, or you can work to set up social time between friends while practicing social distancing.

3. Grieve your losses

Your family might be directly impacted by COVID-19 through the loss of a loved one. But even the indirect impact of extended lockdowns could mean that you have experienced other types of loss as well. For example, high school seniors are missing out on graduation ceremonies, proms, and other milestones and rites of passage. Even missing the regular routine of regular social activities is hard. Working through these emotions of loss is a big step.

4. Keep moving

One of the best ways to fight the blues is by moving your body. As the weather warms up in a few months across much of the country, outside physical activity will get even easier. Or you can try out one of the countless streaming exercise videos available online.

5. Be OK with things not being perfect

Life will get back to normal eventually, even if it’s a modified “new normal” that looks a bit different than what we’re used to. In the meantime, it’s important that you give yourself room to struggle. Things won’t be perfect, and that’s OK.

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Colleges General Interest Online learning

How to pick a college major in 2021

Are you a high-school student preparing to go to college in 2021? Chances are you’re still debating the huge decision of which major to pursue. Maybe you’ve narrowed down your list to two or three but haven’t finalized anything yet. The global COVID-19 pandemic might’ve added even more uncertainty to your decision, as you and your parents debate what college will actually look like going forward.

We get it—picking a major can be intimidating, especially in a year like 2020! To help out, we’ve put together a few ideas below to guide you through the process, plus a handful of majors and career fields that will be in high demand in the coming years (even in the crazy pandemic world we find ourselves in today). Read on!

Before you begin: 5 questions to ask

Let’s start by asking a few questions. 

1. What do I enjoy doing?

This can be anything from playing basketball and video games to shopping for clothes. List all of it out. Your answers can help you realize where your interests lie.

2. Out of what I enjoy doing, what am I good at?

This is where you have to be honest with yourself, meaning neither too positive (“I’m good at everything!”) or too negative (“I’m not good at anything”). This is about finding where your hobbies and your skills intersect. So if you love playing basketball but don’t do well with it, then “playing basketball” shouldn’t go on your list. Or you may have a good fashion sense, but have no desire to work with clothing, so leave “fashion” off the list.

3. What do others think I’m good at?

You’ll need to talk to your family and friends to answer this question. Allow them to be frank with you. Don’t be defensive or attempt to argue. Just hear them out and take note of what they say. How others perceive our abilities can sometimes give us greater insight into what we’re truly talented at doing.

4. What do I like learning about?

Out of all your schoolwork, what subject feels less like a chore? Maybe they all seem like chores, in which case, ask yourself, “What do I like learning in my free time?” Even if you don’t read books outside of school, every time you watch a movie, go to a basketball game, or take a walk in nature, you’re learning something. So what is it that most interests you?

5. Once you decide on a major to pursue, do you enjoy the classes?

If you take a class or two in a major and you don’t enjoy the subject, you may want to consider a different path. You may be able to count any courses you take in the major you leave behind as extracurricular classes, so the hours can still go toward whatever degree you eventually pursue.

High-growth job fields

So what jobs should you consider for the future? Here are five jobs to think through. Keep in mind that the projected job growth is through 2029. Most of this data comes from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

1. Position: Nurse Practitioner

Projected job growth: 52%

Average salary: $115,800

College degree needed? Yes, plus graduate school

Major: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) 

Graduate school needed? Yes

2. Position: Solar Photovoltaic Installer

Projected job growth: 51%

Average salary: $44,890

College degree needed? No, but you might stand out better if you have a bachelor’s degree or an associates degree from a technical college. According to OwlGuru.com, nearly 56% of folks in this position have only a high-school diploma.

Graduate school needed? No

Major: Solar Energy Technology

3. Position: Statistician

Projected job growth: 35%

Average salary: $92,030

College degree needed? Yes

Major: Bachelor’s degree in Statistics, Mathematics, Economics, or Computer Science

Graduate school needed? Yes

4. Position: Information Security Analyst

Projected job growth: 31%

Average salary: $99,730

College degree needed? Yes

Major: Bachelor’s degree in Cybersecurity or Management Information Systems

Graduate school needed? No

5. Position: Speech-Language Pathologist

Projected job growth: 25%

Average salary: $79,120

College degree needed? Yes

Major: Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD)

Graduate school needed? Yes

Parting advice: Don’t stress!

In closing, here are two additional points to keep in mind when choosing your major:

1. You don’t have to choose a major right away

Plenty of folks don’t know what they want to do when they first start college. So you can start out by taking some general-education courses that every student needs to take while you consider your options.

2. Your major isn’t a lifelong sentence

If you graduate with a degree and then realize you hate working in that field, you have the freedom to go back to school if you want. But that may not be necessary—many folks don’t have a job related to their degree. And increasingly, people are switching careers entirely. The point is, don’t feel like the rest of your life hinges on the major you choose, because it doesn’t. 

Well, that’s all for now! We hope you’ve been able to find some useful information here, and we wish you the best of luck in choosing your major.

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Colleges General Interest Online learning

10 qualities of successful people: A guide for distance learners

Success comes in many different forms. In North America, we tend to define success in monetary and vocational terms—how much you make or how far you’ve advanced in your career. But success extends to so many other areas: relationships, faith, character, and health, to name a few.

As a distance education student, you want to be successful in life. You know that getting there takes hard work. In this blog post, we’ll explore 10 of the top attributes of successful people. Whatever your future plans include as a high-school graduate, these characteristics will serve you well.

1. Resilience

How do you deal with failure? If you’re anything like me, it can be easy to retreat and sulk. But in my better moments, I view failure as a necessary step toward success. “Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure,” said American author Napoleon Hill. A defining characteristic of successful people is their unrelenting habit of bouncing back after failure.

2. Flexibility

The ability to “pivot” is crucial to success. Pivoting simply means that you have the willpower and foresight to release a path you’d planned to walk in order to pursue something better. It’s a scary thing, but this type of flexibility is a trademark of successful people. Flexibility is particularly essential for young people just starting out—you might think you know the right direction to take, but opportunities and life circumstances will present a different way forward.

3. Self-discipline

Flexibility and adaptability might be important, but so is self-discipline and the courage to stick with something even when it’s incredibly hard. Yes, knowing when to quit (or “pivot”) and when to persevere is the real test. But the fact is that so many of us give up well before we should. “With self-discipline, most anything is possible,” said Teddy Roosevelt.

4. Others focused

The most successful people in life are radical servers. They look to meet the needs of others and excel at doing so. It’s counterintuitive that serving others would bring you success, but it’s true. Some practical takeaways from this? A big one is that as you build your network, make your interactions with others about what you can give, not what you can get.

5. Frequent reader

A personal story: I quit my day job in 2015 to launch a full-time self-employed career. In the months leading up to that pivotal decision, I read through a series of crucial books that gave me the knowledge and confidence to make the jump to start my own business, including The 7 Habits of Highly Effective PeopleThe Millionaire Next DoorYour Money or Your Life, and The 4 Hour Workweek. These books gave me the fuel to try something new and expand my horizons. The ultimate lesson? Successful people—think of Bill Gates, Mark Cuban, and Elon Musk—are also habitual readers.

6. Humility

Truly successful people don’t feel the need to boast about their accomplishments. They are secure in themselves and in their abilities. They don’t wear their success on their sleeve. Successful people bring others together to accomplish goals and for the greater good. “With pride comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom,” says Proverbs 11:2.

7. Abundance mindset

An abundance mindset means you believe there are plenty of opportunities and resources in the world for everyone to enjoy. You don’t need to steal success from someone else—when someone else is successful, that doesn’t mean they are taking success from you, and vice versa. An abundance mindset pairs well with resilience, because you realize that failure isn’t final. More opportunities are out there.

8. Calculated risk taking

Playing it safe leads to mediocrity. Most of us with more than a few years under our belt can look back and see that our greatest achievements in life came when we stepped out and took a risk. That being the case, don’t neglect the “calculated” part of this advice. Being a calculated risk taker means that you don’t fly blind—you examine the situation and make the right move, even a bold one, but it’s always grounded in reality, not pie-in-the-sky thinking.

9. Prioritization

We all have a limited amount of resources in our lives, time being the most precious. Figuring out your priorities and sticking with them is a prerequisite for success. Prioritization helps you know when to say yes and when to say no. If you’re anything like me, your to-do list never gets done. That’s why we have to put the highest priority items on the top and focus on those first. Everything lower can wait, or even not get done at all.

10. Love of life-long learning

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel,” Socrates said. Education in high school and college is not so much about the knowledge gained‚ as important as that is. It’s more about perfecting the ability to learn—and to continue in that ability for a lifetime.

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Colleges Online learning

It’s almost time for back-to-school: 6 tips to help your student thrive during the COVID-19 crisis

As a parent, you’re likely dealing with concerns about how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting your student. As in all things, opportunities can be found even in the worst of times. It is possible for your student to thrive in the midst of a pandemic, even though society may seem upside down right now. Let’s look at 6 tips for helping your student succeed in a COVID-19 world. 

1. Get out of your home every day

If the weather permits, consider going to a park or on a walk with your student so you can both get some exercise and sunshine, both of which can help fight depression. The benefits of exercise have been shown to improve learning and help with mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, and ADHD. 

While you can’t always spend time outdoors, you should be able to find a place to go. This may be driving or riding with your student around the neighborhood or making a quick trip to a store, even if just to browse. Having a variety of scenery will likely help your student (and you) feel normal, at least in part. 

2. Stay connected with others

If you can’t or are uncomfortable meeting face-to-face with others, your student can stay digitally connected with their teachers, family, and friends. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, or another live-streaming service.

3. Take advantage of free or inexpensive online courses

Now more than ever, online courses that you once needed to pay for are now free or at a reduced cost. While they are geared primarily towards adults, sites like Udemy and Coursera are offering such courses. To find free courses on these sites, simply type in “free” in the search bar. Especially if you have a high school student, you might be able to find something for your student on these sites. 

Lynda.com, which is also targeted towards adults, has similar content to Udemy and Coursera, but you’ll need to become a member to take advantage of their courses. The first month is free.

You could also search for specific tutorials on YouTube. If you don’t already do this, I recommend you screen each video you want to show your student, or at least the YouTube channel that contains the video, before showing it to your student. This is due to the varied nature of YouTube videos, both in terms of quality and content.

4. Make sure to keep communication open between you and your student

Set aside a time at least once a week to sit down with your student and give him or her an opportunity to talk with you one-on-one. The focus here is not on having a conversation, but rather providing an opportunity for a conversation to occur. As such, this time could consist of playing a game, putting together a puzzle, baking something together, or doing another activity your student enjoys. 

If your student doesn’t want to talk much, that’s fine. Providing each student a weekly opportunity to discuss what’s on his or her mind with you can reinforce that they are loved, cared for, and listened to. 

5. Stick to a schedule

Schedules provide a welcomed sense of normalcy for your student. Younger children tend to thrive on repetition and routines. And no matter your student’s age, he or she will likely benefit from a structured schedule. 

If your students are older, you may want them to create their own schedules—from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed. They’ll need to block out times for eating, exercising, and resting/doing something fun. You can then look over their schedules and provide feedback. My wife got me hooked on this practice while I work from home, and I’ve personally found it helpful.

6. Have something fun to look forward to

It’s important for your student to have something he or she can look forward to doing, either alone or with others. I recommend having two different types of fun things planned:

  • Fun things planned for each day, such as watching a favorite TV show alone or getting together with friends.
  • Fun things with the family that are planned days, weeks, or months in advance, such as taking a day trip to the beach or staying a few nights at a favorite vacation spot.
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Colleges General Interest Online learning

15 of the best online tools to support your student’s learning during coronavirus

Online learning is on the rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The great news for families is that thousands of tools and resources exist to support your student’s E-learning adventure, now more than ever. From curriculum building and organizational tools to archival records and online museums, it has never been easier to enrich your student’s educational experience. 

Let’s look at 15 of the best tools and resources available for your student’s digital classroom.

1. Bulb 

Bulb is an app that allows high school students to build a robust digital portfolio of their accomplishments and work completed. A portfolio is a fantastic way for your student to present a body of work to their college of choice when they begin applying. With its robust workspace and gallery features, Bulb can help them get a head start in creating one.

2. Digital Public Library of America

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is an online repository of 6,300 books and textbooks. They’re all available for direct download, with no need for a library card or login. Additionally, the library features over 37 million images, videos, texts, and audio recordings that span U.S. history. DPLA also features primary source sets—a fantastic resource for students who want to experience history through the eyes of those who lived it. 

3. Google Teach from Home

Google Teach from Home offers families a wide array of tools to support and supplement online learning. From organizational tools to coding activities and AI academic help, Google has you and your student covered.

4. Interactive Constitution

Interactive Constitution by the National Constitution Center is an online hub where your student can take civic learning courses and brush up on essential Constitutional knowledge. The Center offers sessions and courses in U.S. elections, Constitutional amendments, notable Supreme Court cases, and U.S. history lessons.

5. Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a free online learning portal with a wide array of subjects for students to study. Course materials range from pre-K through high school and cover all subjects, including college prep, entrepreneurship, and growth mindset. APⓇ courses, computer programming, and other advanced course options are also available.

6. Library of Congress

The Library of Congress catalog and digital collections are a great online resource for older students engaging in historical research. LOC’s extensive collections also include concert series, online library exhibitions, current news, and more. 

7. LibriVox

LibriVox is a library of free public domain audiobooks. They’re read by volunteers from all over the world. LibriVox’s books are available via mobile app and web browser.

8. MathGames

MathGames is a vast directory of math-based games for students from pre-K through 8th grade. The Math Games Arcade gives students a new perspective on math, helping them learn essential concepts in fun ways. 

9. MetKids

MetKids is an online introduction to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met’s galleries feature artwork, historical artifacts, clothing, pieces of architecture, and more. Students may click on the interactive map to view and learn about specific pieces of artwork in the Met’s collections and galleries.

10. National Archives

The National Archives offers an online library of founding documents, records, photos, primary sources, and other educational resources that support a well-rounded American history education. This resource is well suited to high school students conducting U.S. history research and parents who want to put together primary or supplemental materials for their students’ online learning curriculum.

11. National Geographic Kids

National Geographic Kids is a great addition to any student’s science curriculum. The site features a wide array of scientific topics including space exploration, zoology, botany, biology, and more. Younger students will enjoy vibrant videos and games that reinforce their studies. 

12. Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg is a collection of over 60,000 free published works in the public domain. The majority of the works featured on the site are literary works published prior to 1924. Books may be easily downloaded for reading via web browser.

13. Smithsonian’s History Explorer

Smithsonian’s History Explorer offers students an interactive look at artifacts, media, interactives, books, activities, and more. Parents can download lessons for their students, and students can spend time exploring the artifact galleries online.

14. Smithsonian Learning Lab

Smithsonian Learning Lab is a massive library of Smithsonian Institution resources and learning collections across more than 6,000 topics, including science, social studies, language arts, and many more. Teachers and parents can compile collections of specific resources for their students to study and experience. 

15. Storybird

Storybird helps students of all ages improve their writing skills through writing short- and long-form books, flash fiction, and poetry. Your student will have the opportunity to participate in writing challenges and flex their creative muscles, all while brushing up on composition.  

Wrapping up

Although this list is a great starting point, there are hundreds—if not thousands—more resources available for your student’s online learning. So let us know: are you going to give any of these resources a try? What are your favorite online learning resources? Leave a comment below!

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Online learning

7 reasons why online learning is here to stay

The COVID-19 crisis will pass, but K-12 online learning could be here to stay for the long-term. Online learning has experienced tremendous growth recently—even before the pandemic—but now it’s exploding in record numbers due to school shutdowns all over the country.

According to Bernhard Schroeder’s Forbes article, “Disrupting Education. The Rise of K-12 Online and the Entrepreneurial Opportunities”: “Types of online education programs being implemented in the USA are state virtual schools, charter schools, multi-district programs, single district programs, programs run by universities, blended programs, private schools, and consortium based programs.”

As of mid-2019, according to Schroeder, more than 2.7 million K-12 students were engaged in online learning—many of whom were already attending online schools full-time. As online learning continues to grow, there will be a wider array of options, from full-time online school to hybrid school arrangements. 

Even when COVID-19 has passed and schools reopen again, it’s likely many students will continue learning online in some capacity. Let’s take a look at 7 reasons why online learning is here to stay.

1. Flexible schedule

For many K-12 students, flexible scheduling is possible. If online classes have been pre-recorded, students can—to some degree—structure their days in an order that works best for them. 

Although your student is likely to have some measure of structure implemented, they’ll likely have a greater chance at flexibility than students in a traditional school setting. For example, instructors may have structured lessons and online class times, but your student may be able to complete assignments on his or her own schedule, whatever that may look like.

2. Customizable curriculum

Online learning allows students—particularly older students in middle school and high school—to design a customized curriculum. Many high schools offer career development courses that allow students to explore the subjects and professions they’re interested in pursuing after graduation. 

Additionally, some community colleges allow high school students to dual enroll. Between an array of high school and college courses to choose from, distance learning students can build a curriculum that fits their strengths and interests. 

If a high school student has a part-time job, they may also be able to flex class schedules around work. 

3. More extracurricular options

When students are engaged in remote learning, they’re sometimes removed from many of the traditional aspects of school, including physical education classes, sports, clubs, band, and chorus. When students learn completely online, they can supplement their courses with extracurricular activities of their choice.

Beyond the basic activities typical at most high schools across the U.S., your student could engage in martial arts, dance, fencing, gymnastics, community theatre, one-on-one music lessons, or an array of community team sports.

4. Location independence

Online learning opens up a wide world of possibilities for students, including studying at schools outside their immediate area. The ability to learn from institutions all over the country—and even the world—is an exciting prospect for many students.

5. Affordability

All told, online learning can be much less expensive than attending public school. It all comes down to the activities your student is involved in and the course curricula you decide to invest in. Additionally, dual-enrollment courses are often offered to high school students at a low price or even no charge—so the students gain access to higher education at a dramatically reduced rate.

Parents with younger students engaged in online learning will save money on the supplies they would normally buy for an elementary school classroom throughout the year. Instead, they can save that money—or invest it in specific activities their kids are interested in doing.

6. Accessibility

Students with special needs can experience an online learning environment and materials that are completely accessible. While many traditional schools go above and beyond to accommodate students with special needs, parents have an extra hand in overseeing the accessibility of their materials and learning environments at home. 

Parents who enroll their students in online learning may also select the best tech and curricula for their student’s particular needs. Rather than relying on a traditional school to provide the accessibility solutions, they can tailor each detail at home.

7. Parental guidance and increased safety

Online learning also opens the door for increased parental involvement in the education process. Parents can help their students with assignments, comprehension, and review. They can also act as a guide through the curriculum each day.

Additionally, setting up a home learning environment is, in many ways, safer than attending traditional school. Students are more likely to be protected from many of the issues that arise from attending traditional school, such as bullying and peer pressure. As a parent, you can use distance learning as an opportunity to supervise your student’s friends and take a more active role in guiding them to healthy friendships. 

The bottom line

Online classes open doors for students who might have been limited by their location or the resources available in their areas. It’s likely that many more schools will continue offering online classes long-term, even after the pandemic has come to an end.

In the near future, parents and students will have more readily available access to online learning than ever before. This will open up a wide range of educational and career opportunities for students from every walk of life.

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Apprenticeship Colleges Dual Enrollment General Interest

How to work your way through college like a boss

Google the phrase “pay your way through college,” and you’ll be bombarded with a lineup of articles, news stories, and blog posts bemoaning that, in today’s economy, it’s simply impossible. But is it really?

The idea of working your way to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree harkens back to a time when tuition was comparatively cheap matched against median salaries. There’s no doubt about it—the cost of college has risen astronomically. In 1971, a year at Harvard would set you back $2,600. Today, it costs $45,278. If that figure had merely kept pace with inflation, the cost would be only $15,189. Clearly, tuition costs have spiraled out of control.

While college is nowhere near as inexpensive as it used to be, working your way through school isn’t as impossible as pundits would have you believe. Of course, it all depends on how you define “working your way.” It’s true that you can’t work 15 hours a week at minimum wage and expect to cover all your tuition, materials, and living expenses for school. But there are other options.

Here are four tips that can make working your way through school a reality:

1. Public, in-state schools are your best friend

In most cases, you’ll need to stick with a community college or a local state university. Unless you have a job from Daddy Warbucks, you won’t be able to make a private school work.

The numbers are straightforward. Working full-time year-round at the federal minimum wage, you’ll take in $15,080 per year before taxes. That won’t cover the cost of a private school, but it will at state-run schools. Average tuition at a public two-year community college is $3,347; at a four-year college, in-state tuition is $9,139.

Granted, working a full-time schedule while in school is seldom feasible, and you’ll probably need a lot more financial margin than minimum wage allows. But as we’ll explore below, there are other ways to keep costs in line.

2. Stay local, buy cheap

To effectively work your way through school, you’ll probably have to live at home (preferably rent free) and be selective in how you purchase school materials. If you simply can’t live at home, take on two or three roommates and split the rent. In many areas of the country, you’ll be able to live quite cheaply this way.

Another must: purchase your textbooks used, and look for good deals on school supplies and equipment. Don’t be afraid to buy a used laptop—Craiglist is full of them at significant discounts.

Remember, to make this plan work, you’ll have to live like a college student—or at least, how college students used to live! That means keeping your costs low and forgoing luxuries and perks. For some ideas on how to keep costs down, click here.

3. Go online

The popularity of online learning and distance education has exploded during the past decade. Tens of thousands of students are earning degrees exclusively online, while the vast majority of all college students regularly take online classes as part of their degree plan.

Pursuing your degree through distance education can be one of the best ways to make working through school feasible. Online learning allows for expanded schedule flexibility during the day. Even if you work a traditional nine-to-five job, you can get in your classwork in the evenings and on the weekends. How cool is that?

4. Pick up financial aid and scholarships

Don’t just work on the income part of the equation. Also consider ways to reduce your overall tuition costs, either through financial aid or hard-won scholarships. If you can, begin that process in high school. Apply, apply, apply. It just might carve a significant chunk off your tuition bill.

Conclusion

While working your way through school is certainly feasible, remember to keep first things first—your academics are crucial, and you don’t want them to suffer because you’re worn out from burning the candle at both ends working a job.

In fact, the best path might be to work a part-time schedule during the school year (15 to 20 hours per week) and then reorient to a full-time schedule during the summers. Better, if you can find work that is academically and vocationally relevant to your field of study, you’ll come out better prepared for your career.

For more reading on this topic, check out Georgetown University’s report Learning While Earning: The New Normal.

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Accreditation Apprenticeship Colleges Dual Enrollment General Interest

You don’t have to be a genius to speed through college

In 2017, Raven Osborne was one of thousands of students who graduated from Purdue University in Indiana. But something about Raven made her a little bit different—she graduated from Purdue two weeks before she also graduated from high school.

How’d she do it?

Raven began taking dual enrollment classes in eighth grade, eventually moving from her local community college to Purdue. By the time she reached her senior year in high school, she was on track to earn her degree, too. In the fall, she returned to her high school—but this time as a teacher. 

As Raven proved, with persistence and careful planning, it’s possible to earn your college degree in tandem with your high school diploma, saving time and money in the process. Even better, you can start while you’re still in high school. 

If you love the idea of speeding your way through college, here are a few unconventional ideas to help you along the way.

1. Dual enroll in college courses during high school

Generally, high school students may begin dual-enrolling in community college courses during their sophomore year of high school. This allows you to earn both high school and college-level credit on your transcript that may then be transferred to your university of choice. This approach can save you up to a year or more of introductory courses that you won’t have to complete during your freshman year of college.

2. Take Advanced Placement (AP) courses and exams

Challenging and rigorous, AP exams could give you the opportunity to skip remedial college courses and move on to more advanced classes. This could save you a significant amount of time and money in the long run. The main downside to AP exams is that they’re only offered once every year. You’ll have to plan and schedule carefully to make sure you don’t miss the sign-up deadline and the testing date.

3. “CLEP” out of courses

CLEP exams are another method of testing out of certain college courses—and earning class credit in the process. Bear in mind that some colleges don’t accept passing CLEP scores. There are also certain majors and study concentrations that do not offer the option to CLEP out. It’s important to note that CLEPs can render you ineligible for certain scholarships, but the money you save when you test out of classes could be worth the loss.

4. Choose a college that has flexible policies regarding testing out of courses

Not every college accepts exam scores in place of sitting through an actual course. If you’re interested in testing out of some of your classes, do your research beforehand to find out whether it’s allowed at your school of choice. In addition to AP and CLEP exams, there are other tests like the DSST®TECEP®, and UExcel®, which also allow you to essentially build a DIY degree for a fraction of the time and money (you can find a list of additional exams here).

5. Enroll in a college where you can follow a competency-based curriculum

Competency-based higher education has been gaining traction over the past several years, offering college students more flexible options for accelerating their educational experience. The concept of competency-based education is simple: If you’re already familiar with the material in a particular course, you should have the option to test out of it. As an added bonus, many of these degree programs are offered online. Before applying, research the degree requirements and the cost. Some colleges charge a “subscription fee” that could be costly if you don’t complete your course work in a timely manner.

6. Plan your course load carefully and far in advance

If you’re attending a traditional college, take a careful look at the course catalog and make notes regarding what classes are required for your degree, and when they’re offered. Some courses are only offered every other year (and sometimes, only odd- or even-numbered years!), so you’ll want to carefully consider where those classes fit in. One or two poorly-planned course enrollments could cost unnecessary time and money, so consult your catalog and your advisor to make long-term plans for accelerating your degree progress.

7. Take as many classes as possible per semester

Another way to shorten the total amount of time you spend in college is by taking a heavier course load than the average recommended load (12 credit hours, or four courses). Try your hand at taking five or six courses (15 or 18 credits) instead. Be cautious not to overload and burn yourself out—only you know what will work best for you as a student.

8. Participate in a portfolio review

As you build a portfolio of work samples in college (particularly in design, fine arts, architecture, etc.), add them to your digital portfolio and plan to attend at least one portfolio review session. Some colleges offer portfolio review days—a day similar to a job fair, where employers meet with students for short interviews and rapid-fire portfolio review. When you participate in portfolio review, you’ll sharpen your professional-level interview skills, as well as share your work samples and resume with potential employers. With viable work samples and interview experience under your belt, you might decide to accept a job offer before you’ve completed your degree.

9. Opt for an alternate route

One size does not fit all. Some students may not wish to attend college and opt to build their careers in a different way. Programs like UnCollege provide students with the opportunity to explore their passions and interests, build a skill set that compliments those passions, and gain experience where they put their skills to work in an internship environment. Other students may enter the workforce after high school based on their experience and work samples alone.

The bottom line

Accelerating the college experience is definitely possible, and any combination of the above methods could be right for you. As you choose your path, research carefully to avoid any of the potential pitfalls of each option. With cautious consideration, strategy, and meticulous planning, you can fast-track your way to a degree and move on to build your dream career.