The Heart of Appreciative Andragogy: An Innovative Online Teaching Strategy

Online or distance learning has experienced continued growth and attracted millions of students as both traditional and online colleges and universities extend their reach by offering virtual courses and degrees. It has made education accessible to students who might not otherwise have access to any other options. Educators have had to adapt to this environment and learn how to communicate effectively through written words. The challenge is being able to help students feel connected to their class and their instructor. Traditional methods of instruction have to be adapted simply because instructors are not present and they are not able to have the benefit of visual cues and physical interactions. Some instructors are effective in developing a virtual presence and others find the online platform too difficult to navigate or they feel too distant from their students.

As an educator with extensive online teaching and faculty development experience, I am fully aware of the challenge that instructors face when they try to bridge the virtual distance. One of the inherent problems is that instructors develop a perception of students based upon what they see or what they read. If the students post an introduction at the start of class that does provide initial background information. But over time instructors see what is posted in the discussion boards and submitted in written assignments and those words represent the students, creating a lens through which they perceive them.

As an example, if an instructor sees continued writing mistakes in a student’s posts or papers they may view this student from a negative perspective. This can lead to a deficit-based approach when interacting with the student. The main focus of their interactions and feedback will be focused on correcting those errors and it tends to overshadow positive accomplishments. A student who experiences what they perceive as continued negative interactions may become disengaged from the class. While the intent of the instructor is to guide and teach the student this approach has a potential to alienate the student and create resistance on their part. Because I have seen firsthand the effects of these issues I decided that a new instructional strategy was necessary.

What I found in my research was an organizational developmental technique known as appreciative inquiry and I was immediately struck by its ability to help managers bring out peak performance in their employees. It is an approach that builds from strengths and seeks to affirm and build upon what the employee does best. There have been limited adaptations of appreciative inquiry for educational purposes so I decided to find a way to implement it as an online instructional strategy. My doctoral studies were focused on adult learning, which is based upon a term called andragogy that distinguishes teaching adults from children. The phrase appreciative andragogy was then born as a means of connecting the two concepts.

To test the potential for appreciative andragogy in online classes a research study was conducted. I enlisted online instructors as participants for the study and they tested this strategy in their online classes. This brought appreciative inquiry from an organizational environment into the online classroom. The results of this study have now been published so that other educators may adapt and utilize it in their online classes. Of course implementing appreciative andragogy is not done without challenges. From an educator’s perspective they have to take the time to interact with students and make an attempt to follow the process. It may also be difficult to show appreciation for a student who is not open to interactive communication or does not demonstrate appreciation themselves.

But what appreciative andragogy does is to help educators see their students from a broader perspective and learn more about their strengths so they can build from them. This is not to say that developmental issues should not be addressed but it can be done from a positive perspective and that will help to create a cooperative spirit as instructors and students collaborate together to improve their performance. The study also found that appreciative andragogy had a positive impact on students’ motivation and engagement in the class. The study concluded that appreciative andragogy had an ability to take the distance out of distance learning. Any educator teaching any subject will find this strategy useful.

How to Master the Stress of Every Day Life With Five Essential Strategies

What is the “new normal” like for you now, especially as related to your workday? Do you believe you will ever go back to business as usual, or work in the same manner you did, now that you have learned how to adapt and work in a different manner? Are you feeling that you are able to cope with conditions related to your job, or is a matter of just surviving each day of your work week?

Life for many has become a matter of adjusting and adapting, and doing this at a rapid pace, sometimes with the proper tools and resources, and often on the fly. The initial sense of confusion and uncertainty is now growing into panic and increased agitation for many. Those who are employed are attempting to work at home, in spaces they never imagined they would be working, and feeling somewhat off balance.

Right now, the demands and responsibilities have shifted for many people in a significant manner, some for the better and for others, it has become much more challenging. The thought of turning on a computer now may not be that exciting, and in fact, there may be a sense of foreboding, as many try to navigate working in a virtual environment for the first time. It may also be challenging to translate many jobs to a remote position, and this will compound the amount of anxiety experienced. For those who did not have a strong working relationship with their colleagues or managers to begin with, the separation or distance now can strain these relationships even further.

I realize there has been much written about the topic of stress already, and it may seem as if there is nothing more to write about it, yet I would like to once again consider how to master it from an internalized perspective. Most people are thinking about their jobs, responsibilities, and how to cope. I want to have you also consider what is going on in your thoughts as well, and how you are processing the situation and events around you. Whether you realize it or not, you are internalizing the events you are experiencing and the related emotions along with these events, and if you are not careful, you can quickly build up negative emotions. This is what leads to stress, anxiety, depression, and worse.

It doesn’t matter what type of job you have; everyone has an ability to experience pent up negative emotions as a result of what they are experiencing, just by trying to adapt to a new environment. This can be the culmination of small events, such as failing to access needed online files, building up to computer issues, resulting in built-up frustration. If you finally recognize you are frustrated, it may be at a point you are already feeling completely overwhelmed and have not taken care of your well-being. This is what I want to help you prevent, and I have some strategies you can implement to take care of your internal thought process.

The Internal State of Mind

Everything going on around you can potentially cause an emotional reaction within you, depending upon your connection with it. Right you are experiencing heightened emotions because of the events of our current crisis. You are more likely to become emotionally engaged the longer you watch or read the news and the headlines. You will also experience many emotions within as you attempt to adjust to new or adapted working conditions.

If you have never worked as a remote employee, or an employee who must now work within specified health conditions, you may react emotionally. These emotional reactions may not be noticeable at first, but if you are not happy with the changes, the negativity will build up slowly over time, until the residual effect culminates in a feeling of stress or anxiety. By the time you feel or experience any of these indicators, you may need significant self-work to recover and re-balance yourself.

Perceptual Influences

There is something else to consider and it is how you perceive the circumstances around you. During a time of crisis there is information and misinformation being shared. In the search for updates, you may find yourself perceiving events as they actually are or as you believe they are. There is a difference and it is based upon your worldview or mental model. What happens is that your emotions begin to influence what you see and hear, along with what you believe, creating a perceptual filter. This is also true for your job and the responsibilities which are associated with it. In your position you may perceive it to be challenging, or you may accept it is easy to adapt to before and now.

Strategies to Master the Stress of Every Day Life

Stress and anxiety, which are indicators of a problem, do not appear all at once. Both are a result of ongoing negative feelings which have been internalized for several days and/or weeks. It may gradually manifest in your job, perhaps in the tone of emails or other communication. Or it may result in feelings of being afraid, experiencing fear, or a general sense of hopelessness about your situation. If you do not manage what you are experiencing, not only can it become more challenging to resolve, it can eventually appear in your performance. You can use the following strategies to help you master what you are feeling and control the potential for stress.

Strategy #1: Am I experiencing a negative reaction?

As you are going about your regular work day, look for anything which produces a negative trigger. Pay attention to it. This is an emotion you are feeling right now. You do not have to analyze it, rather you just need to acknowledge you are experiencing it. This may occur during a busy work day, so for the time being, just make a note of the time and a general description of the triggering event.

Strategy #2: Do I need to examine why I experienced a negative reaction?

At the end of the day, take a look at the list of your events. Then examine in more detail what caused the trigger and led you to experience a negative reaction. To what degree did you react? How strongly did you feel negative emotions? You may find it helpful to write this out, depending upon the complexity of the triggering event. The purpose is to take away the negativity of the situation, so you are better able to understand it and give yourself a sense of relief as you take action.

Strategy #3: What do I have within my power to control now?

One of the challenges associated with built-up negative emotions is the feeling of hopelessness. It is possible to begin to feel so bad about the culmination of occurrences, you believe nothing is going to get better or change. Or worse, you may feel as if no one is going to help you. But what you always maintain control of are your thoughts. You can decide how to respond to each and every situation which arises, even if you are challenged at times. What you can do is to learn to stop before reacting, and use logic before emotions to evaluate situations. This gives you the power of control, acting in a controlled manner.

Strategy #4: How can I maintain a positive attitude?

If you are going to become proactive and master every day conditions which can lead to stress, you can also change your attitude as part of this approach. You can decide to face each day as it presents itself, good, not so good, or otherwise, and be able to manage it effectively. Why? Because whatever the day brings, you will find a way to be successful. If you cannot address something, you will ask for assistance. If you need a break, you will take it. But you are stronger than you can imagine, you have an ability to persevere, and you will rely upon your internal GPS to guide you through any time which requires you to be adaptable, flexible, and proactive.

Strategy #5: How can I make my present situation better?

Now that you have examined your triggering events, and your disposition, you can decide what steps are needed next to make your working conditions or job more manageable. As an example, do you need to have a conversation with your supervisor about how to adapt to the new normal? Or should you speak with your colleagues and ask for tips and recommendations related to the position? The purpose is to ask for assistance and relieve any potential for negative feelings which you have become accustomed to feeling. You may also need to consider how your home working environment needs to change or become better adapted to your required job responsibilities.

How You Feel Becomes Who You Are

Can you remember your jobs from a perspective of the time when you enjoyed it the most? Perhaps it was the first day you were hired and you loved arriving at work, eager to complete your job duties. But now the job responsibilities have changed to a new normal. A job you loved, or possibly grew to loathe, has now produced feelings of frustration, exasperation, and worse, because you are attempting to adapt to different working conditions. If you are experiencing negative emotions, and these feelings persist, it can decrease your ability to perform your very best. When you no longer feel a sense of peace or stability about your job, it can show up in your disposition and work product.

What you can do is control what you think about your situation, including your job and your adapted working conditions. If you look at this time as an opportunity to learn more about yourself, and discover more about your ability to grow, you will change how you view your job responsibilities. Without a doubt this is an extraordinary time in our lives, and yet it is time for you to re-engage with yourself and discover the best of your abilities. You do not need to deny or feel bad about the natural reactions you experience. But what you can do is to acknowledge your feelings and then be alert to address them, to prevent continued distress. You have incredible talent within you, the sum of your career and what you have learned. Once you adapt and view your job and yourself anew, you can once again return to enjoying your every day.

Engineer Continuing Education (CE)

There are currently 30 states that require Engineer CE courses to maintain valid licensure within those states. Only four of those states regulate and pre-approve the training institutions and programs that the engineers are required to take. The other states don’t have programs to pre-approve courses for engineer continuing education, so it is up to the engineer themselves to determine which programs are acceptable for continuing education in these states. This is usually done by applying with the state board that regulates the continuing education system to ensure that a program is allowed to be used for continuing education before the course is started.

Engineer CE programs are usually allowed as long as they are a course or activity that has a clear purpose to maintain, improve, and expand the skills and knowledge of licensees. Many states will also require the course to have engineering content that relates to technical information, ethics, and managerial skills. Distance learning and online courses are approved methods of continuing education for the engineering industry, as long as the program meets the requirements of that state and the completion of the course can be verified by an independent source. The independent verification means that the engineer has to pass an exam to complete the course, which is then kept of file by the course provider or institution, and can be proven to exist beyond just the engineer’s saying they took the exam.

Like any other continuing education program, it is the responsibility of the engineer to maintain their own engineer CE requirements, records, and submission of those records. Only two states require the provider to submit records to the state. Florida and North Carolina will obtain records directly from the school or course provider, while all other states require individuals to submit their records on their own accord.

There should be a certificate of completion issued for any engineer CE course that is taken, which should be kept by the provider and the individual both for a certain amount of time. Most places will maintain these records for up to seven years, which generally exceeds the requirements of each state that mandates continuing education for engineers. However, an individual should maintain all records of their continuing education throughout their career, just to have verification and proof of their license renewals and all of the areas that they are skilled and trained to work in. While there are 20 states that don’t require continuing education for engineers, it is always a good idea to learn more throughout a professional career even if it is only for the benefit of the individual.

5 Leading Online Schools

The internet has revolutionized many parts of our economy. You can shop, meet people online and, now, you can take college courses for credit. Five schools are influencing “distance learning” like no others before them. Let’s take a look at online education providers as offered by these leading schools.

The University of Phoenix was among the first accredited universities to provide college degree programs via the internet. Founded in 1976, the university began to offer internet degree programs in 1989. The program has grown to where 150,000 students are in the process of pursuing degrees on the Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral level at any given time. Programs in Technology, Business, Education, Nursing, and Management are offered and The University of Phoenix has now become the largest private university in the US.

DeVry University offers business and technology degrees on the undergraduate and graduate level. In addition, the school offers graduate level certificate programs. Headquartered in Illinois, the school allows students to work on their degree while online, at a local campus, or both. Indeed, campuses can now be found in 21 states as well as in Alberta, Canada.

Westwood College traces its roots to Denver, Colorado where it was founded in 1953 as the Denver Institute of Technology. Fifteen campuses in California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, and Texas comprise the physical campus with the internet opening up the school to students around the world. Westwood offers programs in Aviation, Business, Criminal Justice, Design, Technology, Health Sciences, and Industrial Sciences.

Kaplan University is a wholly owned company of The Washington Post Company, a publisher of one the nation’s leading newspapers, The Washington Post. Kaplan’s offerings include degrees in Arts and Science, Business, Criminal Justice, Education, Technology and Design, Nursing and Health Care, Paralegal Studies, and Financial Planning. The school offers students degrees on the Associates, Bachelors, and Masters levels as well as certificates for certain programs.

Founded in Naples, Florida in 1970 by a couple who wanted to offer a way for working adults to pursue doctoral degrees, Walden University has evolved into a large, online university offering students degrees on the Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral level. Now headquartered in Minneapolis, the university features five distinct schools: School of Education, School of Management, School of Health and Human Services, School of Psychology, and the NTU School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Online education is not for everyone and that is why the first three universities give to their students the option to study on campus, while the last two are strictly internet based. However, all five schools offer to students something that traditional programs do not have: the opportunity to pursue a degree at a pace the student determines and at a place [your computer] that is appealing to many. Unquestionably, online education has arrived as a viable alternative for degree seeking students around the world.

(c)2005; Matthew C Keegan, LLC

4-Year Colleges vs Technical Schools: Your Choice

College is not for everyone, but that does not mean you shouldn’t pursue some sort of higher education or job training. When you think about your future, what do you envision? Are you doing something you love, or are you just working for a paycheck?

If you are one of the many who is trying to make a decision about where to spend your money and invest your future, read on. This article provides a comparison of 4 year colleges and technical schools. Which one is right for you?

How to choose between 4-year colleges and technical schools:

Ask yourself these questions and then consider the benefits and disadvantages of each type of school.

What are your goals? Do you have a specific career goal? What are your educational goals? Do you want to learn as much as you can about a variety of subjects? Do you want to learn as much as you can about one specific topic (become an expert)?

What are your strengths? Weaknesses? Would you benefit from a shorter more targeted program?

Lifestyle. How will school fit into your life? Would you benefit from non-traditional scheduling such as online, evening, or distance learning? 4-year colleges and technical colleges both offer such options, but it varies by school so check with any schools you are interested in attending.

What do you need? Realistically, what sort of degree or training do you need to pursue your dreams? Research your desired field–know what the requirements are and how they compare to the programs you are considering. The US Department of Education website offers resources for career and training research.

Be a consumer. Check equipment; is it new and up-to-date? How does it compare to the equipment you will be using on the job? Trust me, this can be tedious but it is quite important. After graduation I realized I should have taken more time to research the computer programs employers expected me to know for technical writing jobs. Had I been better informed, I could have taken extra courses dealing specifically with those programs.

Investigate the following: campus size, current and former students, faculty and staff;

Find out if the school is accredited and licensed; Do they make extraordinary claims? Will your credits be transferable?

4-year Colleges

Some people like to learn just for the sake of learning, while some are more focused and driven and use school as a steppingstone for job advancement. If you are interested in more scholarly pursuits a traditional 4-year college might be your best option.

Benefits: liberal arts training applies to many fields, diverse topics to explore, prestige, “college life”

Disadvantages: expensive, time consuming, may get degree in area you no longer wish to pursue, high admission standards and prerequisites, job market may be slower upon graduation-may require additional training

Technical Schools

If college was for everyone, technical schools would not exist. Some people may feel a stigma is attached to technical schools. In a society where attending college has become standard, we lose sight of the value of skills training. People feel abnormal and may be angry if they don’t want to go to college but feel pressured to do so anyway.

Benefits: shorter duration, focused programs, easier admission standards, flexible scheduling, certifications not necessarily offered at 4-year colleges, hands on training

Disadvantages: may be viewed as less prestigious, can be expensive, may be less room for exploration of other subjects, accreditation, for-profit institutions

Many of the fastest growing jobs do not require a bachelor’s degree but do require post-secondary education (education beyond high school) These jobs include:

o Medical Assistants

o Social and human service assistants

o Home health aides

o Medical records and health information technicians

o Physical therapist aides

o Physical therapist assistants

o Fitness trainers and aerobics instructors

o Veterinary technologists and technicians

o Hazardous materials removal workers

o Dental hygienists

o Occupational therapist aides

o Dental assistants

o Personal and home care aides

o Self-enrichment education teachers

o Occupational therapist assistants

o Environmental science and protection technicians, including health

o Preschool teachers, except special education

o Respiratory therapists

For more information on job growth statistics see the Bureau of Labor Statistics webpage.

Remember, the best way to determine what is right for you is to simply know yourself and be informed.