Sara’s Go-To Library

My Favorite Places to Find Valuable Information

Information OverloadIndeed, the internet is a funny place. Funny meaning odd, not hilarious. It is a great time saver and we do have information at our fingertips without having to consult a printed book, or travel to the library. But at the same time, it can be a major source of bad information.

The key to effectively using the internet and all it has to offer is to weed out the bad from the good. Plenty of rumors, old wives’ tales, and radical views can influence your decision to choose an educational institute, or change your perceptions of a program. Remember that you have to examine the whole and determine a middle ground. Don’t rely on one single opinion or statement.

Also, if you are taking a free course, the requirements may not need to be too stringent. In other words, you can’t transfer any credits from having taken a recreational program, but they are great for hobbies and higher learning when you either can’t afford to go to college or university, or you just want some extra information about a topic. If, on the other hand, you expect the course to be part of a curriculum where you want credit towards a diploma or degree, be sure to find out before you register and take the course, if the credits are transferable. Will the educational institute accept this course as bonafide course material?

Further, I do want to say one more thing about websites in general, and that is you have to be careful in terms of veracity. Don’t send any money, and check things out first before giving your private details.

Accreditation is another area where you have to be quite wary. For schools, that you know personally and have heard of, you will have no worries in terms of their credentials, but what about the sea of other institutions that offer online classes and programs? Your immediate reaction should be to check a database to determine where and how the facility and its programs are accredited. Often, you will notice many certifications on the website, but they don’t really mean anything. They are not accredited by the right departments or state boards.

This video is from a nursing college, that does provide an explanation on accreditation:

Once you do find a database, you have another problem, because the site is more interested in advertising than providing real information. I won’t provide any links here because I don’t believe in giving any promotion to these types of sites, but the reality is some make the site appear as a database, but have all sorts of affiliate links to programs where they earn commissions. Needless to say, this business model is not about showing who is legitimate, rather, it is about making money from your searches. Here are two sites, however, that you should use to check credentials. Also look for state government pages.
US Department of Education Searchable Database | Council For Higher Education

Believe it or not, YouTube is a great place to get information. I don’t listen to everything I see or hear on there, as there is plenty of junk, but at the same time, videos from organizations and schools, as well as knowledgeable individuals can be quite helpful. On lots of occasions, I have had difficulty understanding a concept and searched out a video that showed me the meaning in detail, then I got it.

Again, you need to take the information with a grain of salt, but sometimes I get started with a search by looking at Wikipedia. What I do find the site is excellent for, is to point me in the right direction. Once I have some idea of a concept, then I can do further reading by searching out experts and tutorials. The site is also offered in different languages which is a bonus.

Next on the list… I don’t like to commit myself to recommending places when the end goal is so important, but I have heard others say they were able to get information about monies for school from Scholarships.com. It is supposed to be all free, but you must register with the site to access specifics. They have also been around a long time, over twenty years, it seems, so that says something.

A presentation on how to find and apply for scholarships:

Moving on… When you have absolutely no idea where to start, a Google search can help. Start with something broad, and then move to refine the search, meaning get more narrow and add more restrictions.

Another place that I think is great to peruse is EDX.ORG, which offers courses in many disciplines. I have mentioned them in one of the articles, but because the site is a collaboration of the top universities in the world, I felt it should be considered a valuable resource, as well. The project was founded in 2012 by Harvard and MIT. As of 2018, the platform had expanded to include one-hundred and twenty educational institutes worldwide!

Of course, one of the most obvious places for you to get information is from the college or university that you would like to attend. And, if you are an alumni, then you will surely be able to benefit from some of the services offered at the institute. Here’s Forbes’ list of top colleges and universities, along with their tuition costs.

Harvard and MIT Online Extension Programs:

In addition to the resources I’ve outlined above, I think it is important to discuss things like study habits. And while I have addressed this in a couple articles, it is nice to have something concise in the library so that you can find it quickly. So to help in this regard, here are some of the points I make throughout the site.

Procrastination is the bane of online learning. No question about it. It causes many students to fail. If you can’t overcome this weakness, you will have a hard time completing your program. The McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning at Princeton University has put together an essay on the topic with actionable tips. I would think their ideas are totally helpful for students considering who they are.

That brings me to another point about resources. If you are unsure where to find answers to your dilemmas, check any university website. They are bound to have a section on your exact problem, since they are in the business of guiding students. Here are the top ten study tips from Central Michigan University.

Lastly, the girl in this video also gives us some excellent insights for studying effectively. Be sure to have a look.

Now, I would like to speak about OpenCourseWare and what it means. Basically, this concept is the idea that universities would create and publish tutorials and other material online for a specific subject. Documentation exists to suggest that the first university to provide internet classes was the University of Tübingen in 1999. For whatever reason, the system was not highly used or at the very least not very popular.

Later in the early 2000s, several American universities launched their own OpenCourseWare programs which were well-received. Now, of course, they seem rather mainstream. It does seem to me that the original system was so far advanced and many people still didn’t have access to the internet, which could explain why it was not so popular.

As each year passed, more people got internet in their homes, plus others upgraded and got better connections. Consequently, you can see how the idea would become more popular as more people had the means to use it.

In any case, here are a handful of universities from around the world that offer OpenCourseWare. To find others, just think of a “university name and add OpenCourseWare” to conduct a search engine query.
Johns Hopkins University | University of Cambridge | University of Toronto

Indeed, I have spoken a lot about choosing classes, how to find the best schools, and ways to know if the program and school is right for you. But I haven’t really addressed the issues of reading reviews on instructors. There are several sites out there that do allow students to provide ratings on their teachers.

I have to be honest, though. I am not totally convinced that you want to base a decision solely on what you read there. Until recently, students rated the “hotness” of a instructor, which is totally useless to one’s education. That in itself suggests that the reviews are not going to be worthy of any decision making. It might be entertainment, but at someone’s expense.

Before I go on too far with this subject, I personally believe you have to take those sites with a grain of salt. I have read where well-known newspapers have given them the thumbs up saying things like you need to know who is teaching you before you spend your time. Well, that fact is true, at least.

On the other hand, whether or not those sites provide you that information is another issue entirely. So at this juncture, I will not be providing any links to any of these so-called resources. I am not saying don’t read them. I am just saying be cautious.

I do think you would be better served if you used the university apps if they offer them for evaluation purposes. Here is some detailed information from University of California Berkeley.

Without doubt, there are plenty of super online schools, but I do like highlighting things that I think are neat, interesting, or perfect for the scenario. In this case, I am talking about the campaign slogan for North Carolina State University. They say “Think And Do The Extraordinary” which is what this comes down to.

To finish up this section of resources, here’s a white paper to read on the pros and cons of online education.

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