Online chemistry courses with labs take place at home Wikipedia

If you aim to earn a science degree online—chemistry, biology, anatomy, physics, health sciences, engineering or environmental studies—you’ll need to complete one or more online science courses with labs.


In the past any online degree program that offered a lab science major, or an applied science major such as chemical engineering, would require students to take a course on campus, often through a summer residency or weekend study.


Today, a new generation of lab science courses are available online, many of them involving home lab kits or virtual simulations. Some online science courses even allow students to access to lab microscopes and machines remotely via an online web browser interface to analyze specimens or program complex machines to test things such as viscosity or surgical techniques.


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An engaging class can keep online students from getting distracted David Ghoering/Flickr

Keeping online students engaged in an environment filled with distractions is one of the chief problems in distance learning today. Online students attend class in their living rooms, in coffee shops and at the park. Many students work via smart phones while on the move.


Ultimately, one of the main differences between taking a class online and in a lecture room is the degree to which other aspects of life remain in close proximity to the student. Distractions abound. Online instructors can help to solve this problem by incorporating student engagement strategies. Here are five techniques that work well.


How to Increase Online Student Engagement


1. Microcast


A microcast is a short podcast of no more than 5 minutes. Microcasts can be parts of longer lectures, broken down and made into a series so that students can listen in short bursts, or they can be designed to be independent, concise discussions of specific parts of your online course content.


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Being unprepared for taking classes online can lead to consequences einalem/Flickr


There is no doubt about it—online learning is awesome! It provides a world of opportunity for students who otherwise could not easily access a college education. But there are some ugly truths about taking classes online that students need to be aware of before they register.


Work Load

In a traditional classroom, students can choose when they wish to participate in discussions. If they feel they have nothing significant to add or, dare I say, they didn’t get through all of the reading for that class period, they can stay silent, yet still learn from what their professor and peers contribute.


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Dakota State University LogoHow would you like to earn an online degree from a respected university without touching a computer? You can, using Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software through a special adaptive learning program offered by Dakota State University online.


The Larson Foundation in Brookings, South Dakota, has awarded a generous grant to Assistant Professor Chris Olson (who is a quadriplegic) allowing him to develop a series of voice-narrated tutorial videos for the online college course CSC-105-D31 (01467) Introduction to Computers. This online college course, targeted at students with access issues or disabilities and their counselors, will be offered through Dakota State University in the summer of 2014 (May 19 through August 8, 2014).


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Leaders of online group projects build workplace skills ijerf/Flickr


Online group projects (OGPs) can be very stressful and students often cite them as one of their top complaints. It’s not so much that your instructor wants to torture you—in fact, as a graduate student, I’ve learned there are great benefits to participating in group projects online. Don’t dread your next group project. Instead, look to OGPs as fertile training grounds to build critical leadership skills you’ll use in the workplace later.


3 Lessons on Building Leadership Skills


1. Don’t Wait for Anyone to Fix Your Problems


Part of the reason online universities assign group projects is to help working students master the art of teamwork. For projects to be successful someone needs to step up and lead the group. Why not you?


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Studying for an Open Book Test Darice/Flickr

When I first started graduate school as an online student, I remember three words that I thought would make my semester a piece of cake: Open. Book. Test.


While many online courses feature proctored exams taken at local test centers, other classes use open book or note exams instead. Terrific! No need to study ahead of time. Open book test means “easy A,” right?


Sadly, I found this was NOT the case. Although having my textbooks and notes available during online exams proved helpful, many of my open book tests were just as hard as the in-class tests I had taken during my undergraduate career.


If you’re an online student, or looking to become one soon, don’t dismiss an open book exam as easy to ace. Having an open textbook is great, but here are three big reasons why you need to study for an open book test.


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The Best MOOCs Take You Right Inside the Classsroom Prima Vista/Flickr

Remember all those “cool” courses you could never fit into your degree plan? The same ones everyone told you would never lead to a high-paying job or a reliable career?


My ideal college major would have been one part political science, two scoops nutrition and a heap of fashion merchandising with a dash of web design. In reality, to graduate on time with a coveted bachelor’s degree, I had to clock most of my hours working on major course requirements.


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Use These 8 Free Resources to Learn to Code GavinMusic/Flickr

The number of learn to code online resources has grown exponentially, and for good reason—web developer is #10 on CareerBuilder’s list of the best-paying jobs of the 21st century! The good news? A computer science degree isn’t necessary to snag a coveted coding job. Most employers look for proof of technical chops in the form of completed projects rather than a piece of paper issued by a college.


Below are eight sites that offer a wealth of information to give you a solid understanding of HTML, CSS, jQuery, Javascript and more. The best part: they’re totally free! Mix and match courses from different sites, and then show off your new talent by building a sample website, mobile app or interactive game.


We can’t wait to see what you create!


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Teach Online With These 5 Best Mobile Apps World Bank Photo Collection/Flickr

Ah, the life of an online teacher. Just because you’re going on a family or work trip doesn’t mean you get to take a recess from class. In fact, it’s just the opposite: wherever you go, you have to make sure you can teach online.


It’s not just about uploading your assignments and updating gradebooks, either. When you’re an online teacher, you have to remain available to answer questions about coursework for ALL your students.


I discovered this first-hand over Labor Day weekend, when my wife, daughter and I spent a five-day trip in New Mexico visiting family. We enjoyed traveling, but there was one nagging detail…we were staying in a place with no Internet (gasp!).


What to do?
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Competency-Based Learning Requires Focus and Determination |Chris|/Flickr

You may have read the story of Zach Sherman, a 21-year-old janitor in Ohio who earned his competency-based online associate degree in 100 days. Sherman speed-studied his way through two years of college to earn his degree online in about three months as opposed to the traditional two years.


Sounds great, eh?


Competency-based learning programs promise students faster, cheaper college credentials. But that promise is not always met. Buyers beware: choosing a competency-based degree program can represent a costly step toward college failure.


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Find the Best Research Sites for Statistics on Non-Traditional College Students Newman University/Flickr

Once upon a time, the majority of American college students were too young to request a credit card in their own name. But, hey, that was a long time ago—back in the pre-Internet days of higher education.


Today, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that the vast majority of higher ed students—73 percent, in fact—fit under the non-traditional college student umbrella.


Non-traditional students have changed the face of higher education. The rise of this new college majority is driving innovation online and on residential campuses. Life experience degrees, corporate universities and prior learning assessment (PLA) all have roots in the market demand for a new type of college—one that is built for and responsive to the adult learner.


Below are my favorite sites for statistics, research and news about this emerging college majority. Want to get educated about the demands of non-traditional college students, both on campus and online? Visit these sites.


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Learn How to Teach Online and Still Travel the World nerissa’s ring/Flickr

Teaching online offers the convenience of working from home. However, it also offers the convenience of working from anywhere in the world that has a reliable Internet connection. As soon as I secured work as an online teacher, my motto became “Have Internet card, will travel!”


I started traveling often and far in 2011. That’s when I also began mastering the critical elements of teaching online while traveling. Below are my six rules for how to teach online and travel the world. Follow these rules and you too can keep teaching full time without ever missing a class, e-mail, meeting or paycheck.


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Faculty Harbor Negative Attitudes Toward MOOCs katiew/Flickr

Skepticism about massive open online courses reigns supreme in higher education, according to the latest findings about faculty attitudes toward online learning.


These massive open courses, more popularly known as MOOCs, are the bright new stars in the education world.


But research from Inside Higher Ed’s 2013 Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology indicates America’s educators aren’t so keen on MOOCs.


The Inside Higher Ed survey sought to understand how faculty members and educational technology leaders use online learning and new technologies, such as MOOCs and learning management systems, in delivering course content.


Their findings revealed skepticism about the value of these courses, even if hosted by a university.


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Find Cheap Textbooks in Used Bookstores and Online Wesley Fryer/Flickr

Textbooks are not getting cheaper, but resourceful students can still save money on required reads for their online degree.


Below are seven easy ways to find cheap textbooks and beat one of the most costly college expenses.


7 Ways to Find Cheap College Textbooks


1. Used Textbook Stores

Campus bookstores sell used books at reduced prices, but they aren’t the only game in town. Used textbook stores often spring up near colleges. Don’t live near a university? Look online, where numerous retailers also sell used textbooks.

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For Online Student Success, Use Best Practices in Distance Learning PJMixer/Flickr

College students arrive in online degree programs with varying levels of competencies, but success in higher education requires many different skills.


In addition to the basics, such as numeracy and literacy, certain soft skills associated with virtual work, including adaptability and teamwork, are critical to online student success. Distance learning students must also master technical skills, such as using computer platforms and Internet systems, to function effectively in school.


Below, I highlight five best practices in distance learning that will help online students develop the skills necessary for success. Schools that adopt these selected best practices will see students experience greater levels of success and online engagement.

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