If you’re considering taking online college courses (or you’re already enrolled in a program) the tips and advice below can help you address their unique challenges to get the most value out of your online program.

  1. Treat an online course like a “real” course

When it comes to online classes, you need to have the discipline to sit down and say, “I am going to work on this,” as well as the dedication to actually follow through. Though you can be flexible as to when you choose to complete your work during the week, you can’t put it off indefinitely.

One of the easiest ways to ensure follow-through is to remember that you are paying to take this online course, just as you would for a traditional, in-person class. You must “show up” if you’re going to get real value out of your class. Treat your online classes the same way you would a face-to-face class—or, better yet, a job—and you’ll be off to the right start.

  1. Hold yourself accountable

Set goals at the beginning of the semester, and check-in with yourself weekly. In a traditional classroom setting, you’ll often receive verbal or visual reminders of an assignment’s upcoming due date. But without a professor actively reminding you, it’s up to you to make sure you’ve allotted enough time to complete the work so you’re not starting an assignment the day before it’s due.

If you’re having trouble holding yourself responsible, pair up with a fellow classmate, or enlist the help of a spouse or friend to check in as an accountability partner. By being organized, proactive, and self-aware, you can get the most from your online class even when life outside of school becomes chaotic.

  1. Practice time management

The flexibility to create your own schedule is often one of the biggest appeals of taking online classes. But that freedom can also be detrimental if you do not have solid time management skills. Without them, you might easily to find yourself cramming before classes or handing in subpar assignments.

Though how you manage your time will depend on your schedule, learning style, and personality, here are some universally valuable tips to help you practice and improve your time management skills:

 

  • Look at the syllabus at the start of the semester and make note of major assignments. Mark them on a calendar you check regularly so you know what workload is coming in the weeks ahead. Don’t forget to factor in prior commitments that may interfere with your regular study schedules, such as weddings or vacations, so you can give yourself enough extra time to complete assignments.
  • Create a weekly schedule that you follow, designating certain hours each week to read, watching lectures, completing assignments, studying, and participating in forums. Commit to making your online coursework part of your weekly routine, and set reminders for yourself to complete these tasks.
  • When working on your assignments, try time-blocking, allotting yourself a certain amount of time for each task before moving on to the next one and setting a timer to keep you accountable.
  • Check-in periodically throughout the term, and look at how you’re spending your time. Ask yourself: How much time am I dedicating to course reading and assignments? Am I regularly underestimating the time it’s taking me to get things done, forcing me to cram the nights before the exams? A little self-reflection and adjustment can go a long way.
  1. Create a regular study space and stay organized

Set up a dedicated learning environment for studying. By completing your work there repeatedly, you’ll begin to establish a routine. Whether your workspace is your kitchen table, a library, or the corner booth in a local coffee shop, it’s important to determine what type of environment will work best for you. Experiment to discover which type of setting boosts your productivity. Wherever you choose, make sure there’s high-speed internet access so you’re not trying to take an online course over a lagging connection.

Setting up a regular workspace or office will also help you to stay organized. Knowing exactly where important dates, files, forms, syllabi, books, and assignments live will help keep you on track towards hitting your goals. When setting up your study space, make sure you:

  • Have a high-speed internet connection
  • Have the required books, materials, and software for the course
  • Have headphones for listening to lectures or discussions (especially important in shared spaces)
  1. Eliminate distractions

From Netflix to social media to dishes piling up in the skink, you’ll be faced with many distractions that can easily derail your studies. The best online students know how to lessen these distractions and set aside time to focus.

Exactly how much of a challenge these distractions will prove to be will depend on your own unique personality and situation. Some might find that they can tune out a noisy home by listening to music. Others might choose to work from a local coffee shop or library to eliminate their urge to multitask at home. Ultimately, you will need to find a strategy that works best for you.

Regardless of where you choose to work, consider turning your cell phone off to avoid losing focus every time a text message or notification pops up. And if you’re still having trouble resisting the temptation to check your email or surf the web, try downloading a website blocker. Using applications like Cold Turkey and Freedom can help eliminate distractions by blocking the apps or websites that tend to compete for your attention, such as Facebook and Twitter.

  1. Figure Out How You Learn Best

Once you’ve established where you’ll learn, think about when and how you accomplish your best work. If you’re a morning person, make time to study first thing. More of a night owl? Set aside an hour or two after dinner to cosy up to your computer. If the kids require your morning and evening attention, try to carve out a study session mid-day while they’re at school. Brew your usual cup of coffee, put on your go-to playlist, and do whatever you need to get into the zone and down to business.

Not everyone learns the same way, so think about what types of information help you best grasp new concepts and employ relevant study strategies. If you’re a visual learner, for example, print out transcripts of the video lectures to review. Learn best by listening? Make sure to build time into your schedule to play and replay all audio- and video-based course content.

  1. Actively participate

Participate in the course’s online forum to help you better understand course materials and engage with fellow classmates. This might involve commenting on a classmate’s paper on a discussion board or posting a question about a project you’re working on. Read what other students and your professor are saying, and if you have a question, ask for clarification.

Make sure you are checking in as often as you can, too. The flexibility of online learning means that if you have 30 minutes before dinner plans, you could squeeze in a discussion response around your schedule. Set a goal to check in on the class discussion threads every day.

And if you do feel yourself falling behind, speak up. Don’t wait until an assignment is almost due to ask questions or report issues. Email your professor and be proactive in asking for help.

  1. Leverage your network

Online classes may sometimes make you feel like you are learning on your own, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Most online courses are built around the concept of collaboration, with professors and instructors actively encouraging that students work together to complete assignments and discuss lessons.

Build relationships with other students by introducing yourself and engaging in online discussion boards. Your peers can be a valuable resource when preparing for exams or asking for feedback on assignments. Don’t be afraid to turn to them to create a virtual study group. Chances are good that they will appreciate it just as much as you will.

Practice Makes Perfect; Online classes are an excellent option to help you earn that degree you need to fulfil your goals. Though they come with their own unique challenges, following the advice above can help you be successful even in the most chaotic of times.

Source: northeastern.edu

Third-level education is becoming increasingly accessible to adults on both a full-time and a part-time basis.
Many colleges and universities hold information events for people who want to study as mature students. The Qualifax website (www.qualifax.ie) has a calendar of career events that run throughout the year.
Mature student places
Third-level colleges reserve a small number of places specifically for mature students who want to participate in full-time day programmes. If you are over 23* you can apply for one of these places. This means that you will compete for your place on a different basis to those who are just leaving school. The number of places reserved for mature students are limited, however, so it is likely that you will still have to compete with your peers.
Generally, you are considered to be a mature student if you are at least 23 years of age on January 1 of the year you enter your course. If you are interested in a particular college you should check how it defines a mature student.
If you opt for a full-time course in this way, you will be expected to attend classes or lectures every day and you will be assessed in the same way as the other students on your course.
Part-time options
However, if the full-time model does not suit you, there are other options available, including part-time courses, modular programmes and distance learning.
If you choose to study on a part-time or modular basis, you can spread your studies over a number of years. This gives you the opportunity to organise your time and to study in bursts when it is most convenient for you. It has the obvious drawback that it will take longer to complete than a full-time course, but it also has the advantage that it allows you to work at your own pace, gradually building credits towards your qualification.

Modular programmes
A modular programme is made up of separate modules, which are self-contained units within a course. You can study and complete each module separately at different stages during that course. Modular programmes can take place in regular classroom settings or can be part of a distance learning programme. Modular courses are available at degree level in some universities.
Distance learning
The term distance learning covers a wide range of learning programmes that take place away from the physical presence of the classroom and the tutor. If you participate in a distance learning programme, it is likely that you will use a wide range of packaged materials and media throughout your course.
Some courses organise periodic classes where students come together for a day, a weekend or a week at a time, in order to study intensively.
University access programmes
University access programmes aim to increase the participation of under-represented groups at third-level. They do this by supporting young adults and mature students to study at third-level colleges. Students attending access or foundation courses that are on the Department of Education’s approved list of PLC Courses may be eligible for funding under the Student Grant Scheme. However, students attending a foundation or access course in any other college or university will not be eligible for funding. An access or foundation course is considered to be a second-level course for the Back to Education Allowance. You should check your options around access programmes with the university of your choice or local Education and Training Board.
Rules
Generally, you will need to have completed your Leaving Certificate. However, if you are applying for a place as a mature student, you will not be asked to meet the usual entry requirements. Different courses operate different entry procedures, but, in general, the colleges will take into account your educational background, work history, community involvement and other achievements and interests. This system is known as the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) or Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). It is useful to find out whether the college of your choice uses the APEL system before you apply.
In some cases, you may be asked to take an entrance exam.
Full-time study
You will not have to pay fees in publicly funded colleges if you qualify for the Free Fees Initiative. However, you will have to pay the student contribution unless you also qualify for the Student Grant. You should also find out if you qualify for the Back to Education Allowance.
If you are planning to study at a private third-level college, however, you will be charged fees. These vary from college to college. You can apply for Tax Relief, if you are paying for the course from your own income or another person can claim if they are paying fees on your behalf.
Part-time, modular and distance education
You will have to pay fees for all part-time, modular and distance education courses. The costs vary from course to course. However, you may apply for Tax Relief if you are participating on an approved course.
In order to apply for a third-level course as a mature student, you should first contact the college of your choice directly and send them an up-to-date curriculum vitae (CV). Some colleges require you to apply through the Central Applications Office CAO and you must apply before 1 February of the year you start your course. You will be in competition with other mature students for a place on the course so make sure to include as much detail as possible regarding your educational background, work experience and other interests. If your CV gets through the first part of the application procedure, you will be called for interview. At this point, you may be asked to bring along work that shows your aptitude for the course in question or you may be required to sit an aptitude test.
You can find detailed information about college requirements and supports for mature students in the Mature Student Directory of Irish Third Level Institutions.

Source: citizensinformation.ie

An apprenticeship is an exciting and proven way for employers to develop talent for their company and industry. Apprenticeships are designed by industry-led groups, supporting growth and competitiveness.

Apprentices earn while they learn and build valuable work-ready skills in a chosen occupation. Apprenticeships open up exciting and rewarding careers, with learning grounded in the practical experience of undertaking a real job.

Apprenticeship has long been an accelerator for individual and corporate development in Ireland. Generation Apprenticeship is a major expansion project to more than double the number of learners of all ages and backgrounds taking the apprenticeship route. See Action Plan 2016-2020. This promises to be a huge source of inspiration in opening apprenticeship into a full range of twenty-first-century industries and skillsets.

Helping more people discover and develop their talents through training is at the heart of the national apprenticeship system.

The key features of apprenticeships in Ireland are:

  • Industry-led  by consortia of industry and education partners
  • Lead to an award at Levels 5 to 10 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ)
  • Between 2-4 years in duration
  • Minimum 50% on-the-job learning
  • Flexible delivery – online, blended, off-the-job learning in increments/blocks
  • Apprentices are employed under a formal contract of apprenticeship
  • The employer pays the apprentice for the duration of the apprenticeship

Apprenticeship is defined as a programme of structured education and training which formally combines and alternates learning in the workplace with learning in an education or training centre. It is a dual system, a blended combination of on-the-job employer-based training and off-the-job training.

The national apprenticeship system is governed by legislation, principally the 1967 Industrial Training Act. The legislation sets out the overall structure of the national system and the protections for as well as the responsibilities of apprentices, employers, and education and training providers.

Apprenticeship is overseen by a national Apprenticeship Council. The further education and training authority SOLAS is the lead agency responsible for apprenticeship on behalf of Government, working in close partnership with the Higher Education Authority, Quality and Qualifications Ireland, industry and education and training providers across further and higher education. SOLAS’ responsibility includes maintenance of a national register of employers approved to take on apprentices and a national register of apprentices.

The 2012 Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act also underpin apprenticeship, supporting validation and quality assurance arrangements for programmes nationally.

The national apprenticeship system is funded through the National Training Fund and from the Exchequer.

The Apprenticeship Council was launched by the Minister for Education and Skills in November 2014. The establishment of the Council was a key action in the implementation of recommendations from a 2014 Review of Apprenticeship Training in Ireland. The Council is tasked with the expansion of apprenticeship into new sectors of the economy and identifying sectors where new apprenticeships can make a real difference to both employers and employees.

The Apprenticeship Council, in accordance with the Apprenticeship Implementation Plan:

  • Develops Calls for Proposals for apprenticeships in areas outside of the existing apprenticeships
  • Examines and analyses proposals arising from the Calls for Proposals
  • Reports to the Department of Education and Skills on viable new apprenticeships – having particular regard to the sustainability of the proposals received
  • Monitors the development by industry and education and training partners of the successful proposals into new apprenticeships, including curriculum development, awarding arrangements, duration and entry-level.

In carrying out its role, the Council takes account of ongoing and future skills needs, including through data and reports produced by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs and the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit.

The Council is enterprise-led with representatives from business, trade unions, further education bodies and the Department of Education and Skills.

A National Apprenticeship Advisory Committee (NAAC) advises the Board of SOLAS on apprenticeships in place prior to 2016. The Committee includes representation of employers, trade unions, education and training providers in further and higher education via an Institutes of Technology Apprenticeship Committee (ITAC), the Department of Education and Skills,  SOLAS and the HEA.

To support its work, the NAAC establishes working groups representative of the main stakeholders to develop guidelines on curricula, and a small group of experts, also representing the stakeholders’ reviews and develops apprenticeship curricula in accordance with the guidelines. The Committee also provides advice on the designation of new occupations in apprenticeship training, drawing on scoping studies.

Many apprenticeships are available in the following disciplines

  • Auctioneering
  • Biopharmachem
  • Construction
  • Electrical
  • Engineering
  • Finance
  • Hospitality and Food
  • ICT
  • Motor
  • Logistics
  • Sales
  • Hair

Source: apprenticeship.ie

How to sharpen your study skills

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The Irish Times newspaper wrote an article back in September 2004 entitled ‘How to Sharpen Your Study Skills’, that is detailed below and is still relevant today. The CAO Application Process is now closed for a few months, so it is time to knuckle down, get stuck in and make the most of the last four months in Secondary School as you prepare for June 2020.

Article start – :

Your memory is going to be your friend. Good study techniques are the key to exam success. Plan now for the summer and you will achieve better learning in less time. Here’s how!

People who study well are often accused of being swats, grafters, nerds or workaholics. The reality is that good study techniques lead to better learning in less time. If you’re in an exam year, do yourself a favour. Adopt effective study habits and save yourself hours of frustration, wasted time and panic.

The first thing you need to do is change your attitude to the exam. It’s not a colossal test of everything you’ve ever learned. You don’t have to memorise every last line of every textbook in order to succeed. Think of the Leaving as an Olympic event. If you are competing in the 100 metre sprint, you don’t train for the marathon. Find out what your event is about and practice exactly that.

Your best friends are your books of past exam papers. Buy these early in the year and make sure they are dog-eared by June. If you regularly test yourself with questions from past exams, you are training correctly for your event.

Charles Garavan has spent years studying effective memory techniques. He started out as an average student himself. He admits to an undistinguished career at second and third level – barely scraping through exams despite putting in the effort. He decided to take on the Institute of Taxation examinations at around the same time that he started to study memory techniques. He came away with the highest marks in the country and an award for outstanding achievement.

“I learned that my approach to study was all wrong,” says Garavan, who runs an training programme for students called the Memory Academy. “I was reading material over and over, trying to get it stuck in my head. It was a frustrating and ineffective technique, and when you look at how the brain works, it simply doesn’t make sense to try and learn that way.”

Anyone with a mobile phone will admit that they don’t remember phone numbers like they used to. Why? Because the brain knows that the information is available in your phone. Every time you go to make a call you look up the number. You have trained your brain not to retain this information. If you looked at the number once and then tried to write it down, however, you would quickly tell your brain that this is information that must be kept. Effective study works on the same principle, says Garavan.

“If you are not consistently testing your learning as you go, your brain will not save it,” says Garavan. “We receive so many messages from our senses and environment every day that our brains learn to discard any information that it does not regard as important. You tell your brain what’s important by testing the knowledge as you go.”

So how does this method translate in a study setting? Rory Mulvey, director of Students Enrichment Services, describes the method.

“Before you begin studying a topic, quickly test yourself. Jot down roughly on a piece of paper everything you know about the subject, no matter how little. Spend about three minutes on this exercise and then open the book. Quickly read through the relevant section, taking brief notes. If you come across an important diagram, close the book and practise it quickly, then open the book and correct your attempt. When you have worked like this for about 20 minutes, close the book and notes.

Now comes the important part. Quickly test your knowledge by jotting down all you now know. This can be done in two minutes – don’t write sentences, just key words. Then check your notes to see how you did.”

This method works for two reasons. Because you call on your brain to retrieve the information before and after the session, your brain learns that this is information it needs to store. The act of testing yourself before and after gives you a clear idea of where the gaps in your knowledge are. That way you don’t waste time reading over information that you already know. By the end of the session, you have a clear idea of what you have learned and what you still need to learn. This sense of progress and awareness of work to be done is the essence of effective study.

This whole exercise should take about 25 minutes. By the end you are ready to move onto something else, knowing that you have made the most of this session.

However, 25 minutes can easily be wasted tidying the desk, responding to text messages, nipping down for a bite to eat – by the end of the session you’ve achieved nothing and you feel a sense of dread because the end of your study session is nowhere in sight. Sound familiar? Once you get into the habit of studying in the way described, three or four 25-minute sessions per night can yield great results. That’s less than two hours. You could easily spend three or four hours at your desk daydreaming, procrastinating, worrying and fiddling. It’s no fun so what’s the point? The way to get the best from the method is to plan each session in detail. It’s not enough to say “In this session I will study physics”. You need a clear goal such as “In this study session I will learn about the Doppler effect”. Write what you know, open the book, read the chapter, taking notes and testing yourself on diagrams as you go, close the book and notes and test yourself by writing down keywords. Follow by attempting a past exam question on the Doppler effect in the next session.

Rory Mulvey recommends preparing a weekly timetable every Sunday. Map out your study sessions in 25-minute blocks with five-minute breaks in between. Timetable breaks for TV programmes, phone calls, taking a walk etc. Be specific about what you want to achieve in each 25-minute block. Even if you don’t stick religiously to the plan, the weekly act of making the timetable helps you to focus on your goals.

If you follow these guidelines, test yourself regularly and get familiar with the exam papers from day one, the Leaving Cert/Junior Cert cannot throw you a curve ball. You’ve been examining your progress for months and the exam will just be another test of what your brain can do. And just in case you think you’re not bright enough, remember that if you can commit anything to memory, even a phone number, your memory is working and you can make it work for you.