JaShondra Kenney, 30
Fort Valley State University

Major: Organizational Leadership
Expected Graduation: May 2016

Why is completing your degree important to you?
It is important to me because it was always one of my biggest dreams to get my Bachelor's degree. Not from just any institution but from Fort Valley State University. My dream was put on hold after I had my son in 2008 and was no longer able to physically attend classes on the FVSU campus. This degree is important for my growth as well as the growth of my children. I want them to understand that even when life throws you curve balls, you can still dodge them and win the game.

What are your career goals?
I plan to start Grad school in about 6 months and get my Master's in Human Resources. From there, I plan to move up with the company I currently work for.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 
Growing up, I wanted to be a psychologist because I loved helping people with their problems.

Why did you choose to take online classes through eMajor? 
Because it was the perfect opportunity for me to finally realize my dream.

What eMajor class has been your favorite? 
My favorite eMajor class was Desktop Publishing

How would you describe the instructors you've had in your eMajor classes? 
Most of them were easy to talk to and communicate with, but some were hard and made my life a little stressful.

Besides being a college student, what do you spend your time doing?
I work full-time as an Office Coordinator, and part-time from home as a Data Entry Clerk. In my free time I'm spending as much time as I can with my kids, doing hair (when my schedule permits), and just overall trying to enjoy life.

How and when do you make time for your schoolwork?
I do my homework on my lunch break, some weeknights, and on the weekends.

Who inspires you and why?
My mother inspires me because she's strong, hard-working, and a go-getter. As a single mother, my mother worked multiple jobs to make sure her children had and that she had. She was hard on us, but her being hard made us all push harder to be great. She retired, went back to school and got her Bachelor's in Business Administration then turned right back around and got her MBA - all while she was coming out of retirement and returning to work. Her strength inspires me every single day.

What would you say to someone who is considering an online degree through eMajor? 
I would tell them to go for it. It's convenient and it's a great way to get that education that you've always wanted.

As those in the south can tell from the layer of yellow dust coating every outside surface, spring is in the air. And that means summer is just around the corner. For traditional college students summer means a break from late-night studying, a time to travel or maybe make some extra money at a part-time (or even full-time) job. However, there are many benefits for those who choose to continue taking classes during the summer; and with online classes you may even be able to have a little fun while you’re at it!

Here are just a few reasons you should consider taking an online class this summer.

  1. You can shorten your time to graduation.
    Why restrict yourself to taking the traditional 10 classes per year (5 in the Fall and 5 in the Spring)? Taking 1-2 extra classes each summer, along with a regular full load in the Fall and Spring semesters, means you can meet your graduation requirements sooner - sometimes by a full semester.
  2. You can take fewer classes in Fall and Spring semesters, and still graduate on time.
    If a full 15-hour course load is a lot for you to juggle, then stretching those 10 classes per year across three semesters instead of two may help. When I was in college, I always took 4 classes in the Fall and Spring semesters, and then two in the summer. I didn’t fall behind in my degree program, but I did lessen my load so I could devote more time to each individual course (and be far less stressed than some of my classmates).
  3. You can bring up your GPA.
    I don’t know the statistics on this, but I know for me, having less classes to focus on usually meant I could get a better grade in the class. If you need to bring your GPA up, consider taking just one class this summer. You’ll be able to spend all of your study time on that one subject and hopefully pull off the “A” that you need to give you a little boost before classes start back in the Fall.
  4. Keep your mind in “school-mode.”
    Anyone who is or ever has been a full-time college student knows that being in school is a state of mind. You get yourself into the mindset of going to class, working on projects, and studying for exams. If you get yourself out of that routine for a long period of time, it can be difficult to readjust. Taking just one class in the summer can help to keep you on top of your academic game year-round.
  5. You can bring it to the beach!
    Trust me - I love the beach just as much as anyone else. You should definitely enjoy the summer and treat yourself to some time by the ocean or the neighborhood pool. The great thing about online classes is that YOU CAN STILL DO THAT! All you need is a laptop and a wi-fi connection, and you can stay caught up in your summer class wherever you are.

So there you have it; with online classes you can get ahead in school, stay on track to graduate, increase your GPA, or simply keep your mental momentum going without sacrificing your summer. So why not give it a try? The eCore summer schedule is now available on our website. Students at University System of Georgia eCore institutions can register for these courses right in their campus registration system - no transient process required.

It’s a simple concept - students who are more “involved” in a class are more likely to successfully complete the course. In a traditional face-to-face classroom, opportunities for engagement are obvious - ask and answer questions in class, participate in group discussions, or it may be as simple as consistently showing up to class. In an online class, however, students sometimes find it difficult to feel like an active participant in the course. At eCore, we have worked tirelessly to figure out how we can help students become engaged in their online courses across both distance (online learning) and across time (asynchronous online learning). We are continually working to strengthen and connect the eCore student services across student engagement.

As a student, you may wonder what you can do to stay engaged as an online learner and increase the likelihood of passing the course with the grade you want. Here are some tips that will help you not only in eCore and eMajor online courses, but in online courses in general.

1. Login to class!
This may sound like a no-brainer but when you don’t have to actually “go” to class at a specific time, it’s easy to put it off. You should log into class on DAY ONE and make a commitment to login and work every day or almost every day. Think about logging in as “showing up” for your online class. To stay engaged, you need to “show up” to class fairly often.
2. Familiarize yourself with the course
Log in to the course on DAY ONE and take a tour to familiarize yourself with the layout and structure. There are a few things you may even be able to review before the first day of class. You should look for:
    • Syllabus & Instructor’s Contact Info: Be sure to review the course syllabus; it is your contract with the professor. Here, you will find your grade point accumulation table, your instructor’s name, and external contact information. For eCore and eMajor classes, you will find it in the top left of the course syllabus.
    • Course Calendar: Important dates and deadlines critically influence your performance in college. Review the course calendar and make note of important due dates. Also note important dates like the drop/add window, texting windows, and midpoint withdrawal deadlines. Most institutions provide an academic calendar to help you keep all those vital dates and deadlines straight. eCore and eMajor follow the common statewide Calendar, which can be found here.
    • Textbook Requirements: If a textbook is required, you should plan to obtain the book prior to the first day of class. Having the book ahead of time means you will have more time to review the material and therefore participate in discussions. Some online courses may not have a textbook requirement. eCore, for example, offers free open educational resources in over half of their courses. In this case, the materials are linked inside the course and are often available for review prior to the first day of class inside the eConnection tutorial course. For eCore courses that do require a textbook purchase, some are available in eBook formats. Purchasing an eBook will allow you to receive the materials quicker. However, if a student does need to purchase a physical textbook, one can be purchased in any manner - new, used, electronic, or even rental.
    • Testing Requirements: Most online classes have some sort of testing requirement. It is important to determine the requirements at the beginning of the course so you can be adequately prepared. In eCore courses, at least one proctored exam is required (but not more than two) in each course. Typically, the midterm and/or final exam for the course are proctored. Proctored exams are taken in the presence of an approved test proctor and are usually held at a testing center. Visit the eCore website for more information about proctored exam requirements.
3. Manage your time wisely
The number one reason students withdraw from an eCore class is time management. Before you enroll in an online course, it is important to consider if you have enough time to devote to your studies for the duration of the class. Be sure to estimate correctly for accelerated terms like eCore’s 8-week sessions. In accelerated sessions, the same amount of material is covered in half the time, so it requires double the amount of study effort.

The first few days of a course are typically designated as a drop window. For eCore, this is a five day period where you can drop the course without receiving a “W”. You can save yourself a lot of worry by thoroughly exploring the class during that five day period and determining whether or not  you can keep up with the course assignments. If the time commitment is too challenging for you, consider dropping the class before the drop window closes.
4. Communicate
Once you determine you have the time to commit to the class, you have the book, and you have your syllabus - it’s time to participate! Closely monitor all forms of communication in the class - calendar, news items, discussion posts from the professor, and your email inside the Learning Management System. For eCore/eMajor courses, this is your GoVIEW email.

    • Discussion Board: The discussion board is the conversation flow of the class. Read and respond consistently and on time. You can use this forum to make a connection with your professor and your classmates. Try to be the first or second poster in your class on a topic!
    • Email: Check both your campus email and your GoVIEW email (for eCore/eMajor students) daily. eCore can only officially notify students at campus email addresses. Be sure to watch for eCore announcements throughout the semester. eCore emails are sent weekly to remind you of important deadlines, provide student success tips, and keep you informed of general information.
    • Diversity of Online Learning: Embrace the diversity of your class. In eCore classes, you will have students from up to 25 different USG institutions; your professor is also from an institution within the University System of Georgia but not necessarily from your institution. Students of all ages are in eCore classes. There is a lot to be learned from communicating with your fellow classmates!
5. Take advantage of your resources
If you fall behind on your discussion postings or your assignments - it’s easy to feel like you are all on your own in an online class. But remember, YOU ARE NOT! You have plenty of resources available to help you be successful in the course, you just have to take advantage of them. Explore what types of tutoring and library services are available to you BEFORE you need them. Then, if you get in a bind and need some help, you will know where to go. In eCore classes, you have access to your home institution’s resources in addition to eCore specific resources such as:

    • A student success team member who is assigned to your class. They’re there to help you locate the resources that are available to you, and to offer encouragement along the way.
    • Embedded librarians in all eCore classes except Spanish, Math, and Science classes. (What does an embedded librarian do, you ask? Meet one of them here!)
    • Embedded tutors in all eCore math and science classes.
    • Access to Smarthinking Online Tutoring and online writing labs in all classes.
    • GALILEO Library Services, which provides access to multiple information resources including secured access to licensed products, is available i all classes.
Engagement is a big part of online learning, and it directly impacts the student. When we do it right (faculty, student and staff), the student has increased opportunities for a great learning experience and a successful outcome. We want our students to succeed. At eCore, we are continuously improving our efforts to engage students in the class early on, but there is still more to be done. That’s why we want to hear from our students! Be sure to complete the course evaluation that is sent at the end of your class. It’s how we make changes to improve the success of students in our classes. Tell us - what would make you feel more engaged in your online class?

Julili Fowler, eCampus Associate Director of Student Engagement and Analytics
Katie Shoemake: eCampus Educational Program Specialist
Nikki Henderson: eCampus Educational Program Specialist
For adults who have made the decision to return to college after many years in the workforce, the possibility of earning college credit for work and life experiences may sound very appealing. In some instances, it is an excellent way to save money on tuition and shorten the time it takes to complete your degree.
In the higher education industry, we call this Prior Learning Assessments or PLA. There are five basic methods that one may use to earn credit for prior learning. Here, we take a brief look at each one and give some pointers on which one (if any) may be right for you. Be sure to check out the webinar at the end of this entry for an explanation by two of our PLA experts and faculty members: Dr. Sarah Kuck and Wendy Kennedy, both from Darton State College.

Assessment Methods:
  1. CLEP - College Level Examination ProgramCLEP offers 33 exams in various academic fields. Students sit for this exam and can earn college credit in that field with an acceptable score. Some things to consider if thinking of taking a CLEP exam: schools do not always accept all CLEP exams. You should first check your institution's academic catalog to review which exams are accepted and the score required for credit.There are also several CLEP prep courses that you can take to “brush up” on your skills before taking a CLEP exam. For example, eCore offers a free Macroeconomics CLEP prep course that prepares you for the exam in that subject area. Visit the College Board website for more information on CLEP prep exams.
  1. AP Credit - Advanced PlacementAP Credit is typically earned by high school students. Many high schools offer AP level courses with an AP exam at the end. Upon earning a successful score on the AP exam, students can receive college credit for that course. Again, parameters for earning AP credit vary by institution, so be sure to check with the college in which you intend to enroll on their AP guidelines. More information on AP credit in Georgia can be found here.
3.    Military Credit
Evaluation of military training and experience for college credit is based on SMART transcripts. SMART transcripts are provided by the military and are a recommendation from that branch of the armed services on how colleges and universities can award credit for various training and experience you may have earned during service. SMART transcripts typically go through a very strenuous evaluation process that is based on ACE. Most limitations to earning credit from military experience come from the Course Equivalency Model, which means that the institution is only able to award credit for courses offered at that school. For more information on this - check out the webinar below.
4.    Challenge Exams
These are institutionally based, and are commonly referred to as “Credit by Exam.” Any student who feels he or she is proficient in an academic subject can apply for credit by examination. Keep in mind that fees for challenge exam credit vary by institution, as do the guidelines for qualifying to take these exams. For example - some schools may stipulate that a student cannot sit for a challenge exam for a course that they have already taken, or for which they have already earned a grade.
5.     Portfolio
The last option for PLA, portfolio submission, is the most labor intensive and the one that is most commonly inquired about by potential and current students. It’s just what it sounds like - interested students compile a portfolio in order to petition for course credit. A proper portfolio should connect student learning to course learning outcomes, and needs to include both theory and artifacts that support the student’s assertions. The portfolio is then assessed by content experts from the chosen academic area, and a decision to award or not award credit is made. Compiling an adequate portfolio for credit is a large undertaking, and our experts advise that this should not be your first choice. Instead, consider the possibility of taking a CLEP or challenge exam if you truly feel like you are competent in a given area.

Are you a good candidate for Prior Learning Assessments? Do a self-evaluation to decide if this is the right route for you. Here is a good checklist to start with:

  • Determine institutional parameters at your current (or future) institution. What exams do they accept? What scores are required?
  • Evaluate your existing skills and knowledge. What knowledge do you already have that you may have learned in your current or past positions?
  • Determine fit. What courses does the institution offer that may align with your existing knowledge.
  • Lastly - discuss the process with the PLA coordinator or Registrar’s office at your institution.

Check out the webinar below for further information about the methods for PLA covered in this blog.

William Penn once said, "Time is what we want most, but what we use worst." 

Browse through any "How to Succeed at College" article or book and the one skill that is undoubtedly listed as critical would be time management. What is time management and how can you put it to work for you? Time management is the ability to plan and control how you spend the hours of your day. Simply put, it's how you prioritize the tasks needed to meet goals. In this case, how do you take online courses, work, and have a life?

One indispensable tool for managing your time is an organizer. Sure, it's easy to rely on the handy smart-phone and the endless options of calendar and task-related apps, but the good old fashioned paper organizer can be a life-saver for busy non-traditional college students when trying to visually schedule out and prioritize their day.

There are two types of organizers. Used in tandem, they give what might look like an impossibly full week perspective. And once you write all of your tasks/goals down on paper, (whether big or small), you can let the information you've been trying to organize in your head go and enjoy less stress. You'll refer to the organizer often so keep it in a handy p

Time-Oriented Organizer vs. Task Oriented Organizer

A Task Oriented Organizer would be a to-do list. Your list might look something like this:
  • Get up
  • get dressed
  • eat breakfast
  • brush teeth
A Time Oriented Organizer looks like this:
  • 6 a.m.--get up
  • 6:15 a.m.--shower
  • 6:30 --get dressed
Start by listing all the things you do in a week; include everything: school, homework, shopping, eating, sleeping, personal time, family time, etc. The planner is for everything, not just college. Once you have all of your responsibilities/tasks listed, you can better organize them and the time it takes to do them. Next to each activity, write down how much time you think it will take you to complete it. It's better to allow yourself more time than too little to perform a task. Give each task a priority rating--1,  2, 3, or A, B, C, for critical, important, optional. Different people will assign tasks a different priority; for example, exercise is critical to some while it is only optional for others. Go here for more on that topic!

The internet is full of templates for time management. Microsoft Office, for example, has templates within the software and available for download here. Alternatively, office supply stores have a plethora of scheduling tools. Once you've decided on the actual planner, it's time to plug in each and every task in their proper slots.

Plug in your A tasks first, then your B tasks, and if there is room on your schedule, your C tasks. Once you've got a working schedule, you'll be able to see where you need adjustments as you work through the week. It's not written in stone, but don't get in the habit of delaying or changing your plan too much, otherwise, you'll be back at the same place--feeling like you have too much to do and not enough time to do it.

Final thoughts: don't load up your schedule to overflowing and be realistic about the time it will take to get each item done. Marathon study sessions are rarely productive so when you see a big block of time, don't jam all your studying and course work into that one time slot. Think creatively about when you can review notes, check email, respond to texts and so on, but avoid too much multitasking.


There are times, especially during those energy-depleting study marathons, when you might question why you're putting yourself through it all. Here's the good news: A piece of paper on the wall (college degree) equals more paper in your pocket ($$$) throughout your career. Yes, even during a down-turn in the economy; yes, even though you've not yet finished your degree; yes, even though you've accumulated debt. Let's take a look at the numbers.

A recent PEW study indicated that when the economy is in a down-turn,

  • declines in employment and wages are more severe for those with only high school or associate degrees.
  • Out-of-work college graduates find jobs more successfully and are not "settling" for lower wage jobs--unlike their less-educated counterparts.

So let's say you've not yet finished your degree. Is there an uptrend in the hiring of college graduates or a downtrend? According to The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, the demand for college grads will outstrip their availability by some 3 million jobs by 2020. In other words, there is a definite uptrend in the need for workers with a post-secondary degree. Further, many employers are using a college degree as a screen to minimize their resume pile when they post jobs, even though the job may not be of a level that necessitates a college degree.  Indicators are that employers believe in the whole college experience, both the learning of job-specific skills, but also of soft-skills and maturity. Want more? The Huffington Post reports that,

"...Georgetown University is out with a new report that underscores how important a diploma has been in this recovery. Of the 2.9 million "good jobs" created during the recovery from 2010 to 2014, 2.8 million — or 97 percent — have gone to workers with at least a bachelor's degree, according to Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce."

And finally, even though you may have accumulated some student loan debt, the difference in what you vs. someone without a college degree will earn is significant. How significant? After factoring in lost wages due to actually being in school, and the cost of your education itself, 2010 Census Bureau data says the difference is a whopping $550,000 dollars. And even though that is stretched out over a 40-year career, it makes a big difference in lifestyle. So stay in school kids (and adults) - it's worth it!
eCore not only provides opportunities to learn, grow, and succeed, but the support provided to students by different areas are second-to-none. Take the embedded librarians for example. From History to Sociology and from English to Psychology, when you absolutely, positively have to know, ask a librarian! eCore is thrilled to now have real, live librarians embedded in our courses (all except STEM and Spanish) that are ready to help you when you need it! 

Say hello to Betsy Clark from Georgia Highlands College, who joined us in the Spring 2016 semester as one of eCore's new embedded librarians. 

Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself, your background, hobbies, and what led you to become a librarian?
I grew up in South Central Pennsylvania (close to Lancaster County/Amish Country). I have a BA in International Studies from Dickinson College and my Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh. I specialized in Health Resources and Services.  In college, I spent more time reading and researching  than writing my papers. I think that's one reason I ended up doing this type of job. I  get different questions every day, and it's so interesting to see what other people are interested in reading and researching for class. Libraries are a great place to be curious about many different things.

What exactly is an "embedded" librarian

Basically, we're just online librarians. We're embedded into eCore to help with research and answer any library-related questions.  Almost all of our resources are online now, and we want to be there too!

What are some common questions you are asked each semester?

Citations! Citations! Citations! We are also asked about accessing resources in Galileo, and questions on how to narrow topics for research.

As virtual librarians, how extensive are the "stacks" you can access?

This is a conservative estimate, but through GALILEO, students can browse about 140,000 ebooks and around 10,000 journals. That's a lot of articles!

You have office hours
: must the students make appointments or can they just drop in?
They can just drop in. All of our contact information is on our homepage,  so students can e-mail us, post on discussion boards, or call us and we'll get back to them.

What is the usual turnaround when students post a question?

If you catch us on chat, the turn around time is pretty immediate. Otherwise, we try to respond within 24 hours during the week and 48 hours if it's a weekend.

If you could give students one piece of advice regarding library services, what would it be?

When you are searching in Galileo, be specific with your search terms. If, say you're searching for chocolate, what do you want to find out about chocolate?  Dark chocolate? Milk Chocolate? Cadbury? Hershey? Lindt? Are you looking for the history of chocolate? The business side of things?  The chemistry? Shopping for Valentine's Day? The more specific you can be, the better your search results will be. This is true in both Galileo databases and on Google.

Lastly, I can't resist asking if you feel anything like the librarians in the movie, The Librarian: aren't you protecting some precious relics, i.e., ways to do research in a time when there is an overload of information?

I'd be  terrible at protecting relics! If I can drop it, lose it, or break it, I will.  You should ask Karin, the other librarian, how often I lose my keys.  All that travel, though! I wish I did more of that.