Most of us area already pining for the days of the long holiday break to sleep late, gorge ourselves on sweet treats and cheese ball, spend hours in front of the television watching reruns of King of Queens or perhaps head to the movies.  No doubt, we are in need of rest and relaxation and enjoying time with our families.  It is important to clear your mind of algebraic equations, sociological theory, or the Georgia constitution, and fill your head with dancing sugar plums for a while!

I want to suggest that during the many days away from school and the computer that you keep yourself motivated so that you can return in January with tenacity and a fresh perspective. Here are a few tips to help you recharge over the break.

Keep reading.   Finding things you love to read over the break will keep your mind stimulated and your vocabulary sharp. (Please don’t rely on Facebook for ALL of your intellectual perusing J).  

Maintain “to-do” lists.  Staying on some kind of schedule and accomplishing tasks is important for a healthy outlook and keeps you from staying up all night and sleeping all day.   Jot down a few things to accomplish daily. Examples might include: cleaning out a closet, writing a letter, volunteering at a local agency for a couple of hours, washing your van, etc….

Stay active. There is something to be said for getting 30 minutes of exercise a day.  This can be a simple walk around your neighborhood, heading to the mall (without a pit stop at the food court), or light housework.  Exercise keeps your heart healthy and your mind rejuvenated.  It sure doesn’t hurt to help prevent those notorious holiday pounds either! 

Eat (at least) one healthy item a day: If you love to eat, like I do, it is too tough to steer clear of the holiday sugar cookies, Aunt Betty’s meatballs, or the homemade bacon-wrapped scallops.  So try to balance out the gorging by keeping some healthy items on hand.  Have a bag of apples or fresh cut veggies in the fridge.  Sip on water all day- every day.  It will help keep you feeling fuller and also does wonders for your skin!

Keep school in mind.  Classes will resume before you know it. Be sure you get your supplies (books/ notebooks) before classes start. If you are an “online” student, review your email periodically.  Be aware of the first day “log in” procedures for eCore/eMajor and get yourself acclimated in class the first available date.
So, go ahead!  Enjoy the extended winter break!  May it be a time of restoration and peace.  If you follow a few of these outlined items it might just allow for you to have an easier transition into the spring semester.

Contributed by: 
Karen Lingrell
Assistant Director of Collaborative Programs,
USG eCore and eMajor
Professor Billy Morris

Billy Morris is an Associate Professor of Geology at Georgia Highlands College, and has been an instructor with eCore since the very early days of 2001/2002. We talked to Professor Morris about his appreciation for online teaching, how he came to be a geologist, and his life outside of the virtual classroom. (He has a pretty INSANE cookie-baking record!) He's also got some really great advice for online students.

Where did you complete your degree(s)?
Georgia Southern University and Emory University.

What drew you to the field of Geology?
My parents are responsible. They took me camping and hiking for as long as I can remember, and they liked to collect things, rocks, fossils, plants, stray animals. It was fun and I haven’t stopped since. I would not do well in a city or an office, would much rather be outside. Geology is a way to do that.

Why did you choose to become a college instructor?
My mom taught college for 40 years and my dad managed the college bookstore, so I grew up around college students. I find the combination of earth science and the energy of higher education to be irresistible and gratifying.

What do you like most about teaching online?
Of course the flexibility of schedule is great, but the immense amount of visual, graphic, and spatial information is wonderful for teaching/learning Geology online. Often the class is made up of students who have or currently live outside the southeast US, and it’s great fun to hear of their travels and experiences. These students bring a fresh perspective to the course that can be hard to find in a classroom.
Just a little fishing in my spare time...

What was your most challenging subject in school, and how did you get through it?
Calculus 2. Persistence - I took it more than once.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I have a few acres, a greenhouse, fruit, nut, berry orchards and a field garden. I like to eat good food, so I spend a lot of time tending plants and the land. I like to fish, hunt, camp, hike, climb, but when it comes to the cold wet time of year I move into the music room and play guitar, mandolin, and keyboards.  I just bought a 1960 Hammond tonewheel organ at Goodwill that’s in amazing condition, so I’m having a concert every night!

What’s your favorite movie of all time?
Easy – Babe

If you had to choose a different profession, what would it be?
Captain of charter fishing boat.

If you won the lottery, what would you do with your winnings?
Pay off the house. Buy a big sailboat. Leave the rest for the kids.

What is something interesting about you that your students would be surprised to know?
Where to start?

Hitchhiking to
Denali National Park
in Alaska
I’ve hitchhiked through Alaska with one of my kids for their ‘Senior Trip’. It was awesome!

I have officiated two different wedding ceremonies where I had the honor of joining good friends in marital bliss.  In spite of me and to their credit, they’re still together!

I have an intense relationship with my youngest daughter on a foosball table. We’re both good, and we take turns whipping each other. She went to grad school up in Ohio where she learned some new tricks, but I've had to show her that old age and treachery can beat new tricks any day.

The Annual Fifty Dozen Cookie Day
Here’s another - I love to bake cookies, but only once a year right before Christmas on Fifty Dozen Cookie Day. This is the holiday set aside for baking as many cookies as is physically possible in a normal home kitchen. My son and I started this family tradition when he was 15 and bored and I said “I wonder if we could bake 50 dozen cookies today?” He bit, and we burned out a couple of hand-mixers, came way short and had a great time. Since then we’ve pegged out and quit keeping count. Maximum was a few years ago at 176 dozen and required a couple of Kitchen Aids and an oven manager. We don’t have anything else to prove, but we do have a lot of friends coming over to join this year’s fun!

What advice do you have for students taking online classes for the first time?

Get into the course fast and deep. Check in with your instructor and let your intentions be known. Get all the required supplies immediately. Set a schedule for completing the coursework and if it breaks down, let your instructor know right away. You’ll find that staying on track and in touch is the key to success.
She defines success very simply as "Putting forth your very best effort in everything you do." She exudes positivity. She is an inspirational, confident woman and an all-around great role model to her daughter and nephews. Meet eMajor student,  Kimberly Hobbs...

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? When I was a child there were quite a few careers that I thought I wanted to do when I grew up. My career choices were an astronaut, a veterinarian, and even a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader! Although none of these ideas came to fruition, I am pleased with the career that I am in now because it allows me to help people as a Grant Writer & Administrator.

What is your college major? Organizational Leadership

Why did you choose eMajor? I chose eMajor because of the convenience of online courses. The fact that I could finish my degree without having to attend classes on campus, but could instead participate in classes according to my schedule was the reason I decided to enroll. I graduated high school in 1987 and have attended college off and on since then trying to earn a four-year degree. However, attending classes on campus while working and raising a family was difficult and my pursuit of an education always fell by the wayside. However, because eMajor affords me the ability to attend school around my everyday schedule, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I will complete my degree this time. 

What are your career plans beyond eMajor? I have been very blessed in my career and I have a very rewarding job as a grant writer/administrator. My plans beyond eMajor are to continue to help people through grant writing. 

What is something cool you've learned this semester in your eMajor class? In my Introduction to Public Administration (POLS 3600) class, we had a case study about the debate over chocolate milk in Florida lunchrooms. There was a debate between the Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture about whether or not chocolate milk should be served to school children. It was interesting to me that politics plays a role in so many things, even school lunches.

Where is your favorite place to visit in the USA? Washington DC. It is a beautiful city full of history and politics, two of my favorite things.

Who in history would you like to spend an hour with and what would you talk about? Dr. Martin Luther King. He was an amazingly brave man who had a vision of equality and worked tirelessly to spread his message. I would want to talk to him about his experiences and about how he changed America.

What song makes you sing when driving in your car? Why? Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves.  It is definitely old school, but every time it comes on the radio, I want to roll the windows down and sing because it is a happy song.

The most used appliance in your house is...........? The stove/oven. I enjoy cooking and consider myself somewhat of a foodie.

Who is the biggest inspiration for your education? My daughter. She is just completing her freshman year at VSU. Her desire to pursue her education inspired me to enroll in eMajor and to finish my degree.

Is there anything else interesting you would like to share about yourself? I am thankful that eMajor is available to non-traditional students such as me. Because of its availability, I will finally be able to complete a degree that I have been pursuing for 25+ years. 
For parents of high school students, the thought of your child going to college can bring on a laundry list of questions – How do I know they’re ready for college-level work? When should we start applying to schools? How am I going to afford tuition?

If you’re feeling anxious about your child jumping head-first into college life, planning ahead with a dual enrollment program may be a good way to smooth the transition for everyone – plus there are some real benefits that you and your child can both enjoy!

What is Dual Enrollment?
Dual enrollment is a program in which a high school student enrolls in a college course and receives credit both at the collegiate level and at the high school level for successful completion. Courses are offered in a variety of formats - online, face to face on the college campus, and sometimes instruction is even given onsite at high schools.

Most public and private postsecondary institutions have special admission requirements and registration guidelines for dual enrollment, so be sure to check those out at the school in which you are considering enrollment.
So – now that you know WHAT dual enrollment is, you may be wondering WHY it’s such a good idea. Well, here are 5 reasons we think it’s such a smart move.

1.      A Smooth College Transition
For some students, the rigor of college-level course work can be a shock at first. By easing into college courses during high school, students are able to experience a real college class and develop the skills required to be successful before leaving the comforts of home and high school.
2.      Increased Access to Advanced Classes
Some high schools are not able to offer as many advanced placement (AP) courses as they would like. By dual enrolling in an online college course, your child can be challenged with advanced curriculum, which will reflect positively on transcripts when applying for full enrollment to colleges. Plus, with dual enrollment, you do not have to score highly on one test to receive college credit as is required in AP courses. If you pass the class, you get the credit.
3.      Graduate from College Faster
Many people start thinking about dual enrollment in their child’s senior year – but you can enroll as early as sophomore year. If a student begins a dual enrollment program early enough – he or she could graduate from high school with enough credits to be classified as a college sophomore! That can shorten the time to complete a bachelor’s degree by up to two years. Now THAT is what we call getting ahead!
4.      Encourage Collegiate Success
Statistics show that dual enrolled students’ GPAs after two years of college were significantly higher than those students who did not participate in dual enrollment classes.
5.      Save on College Tuition
With college tuition on the rise annually, this is one of the most common concerns of parents. Here in Georgia, high school students have access to the ACCEL Program, which is a non-need based grant for students that wish to take college level coursework for credit towards both high school and college graduation requirements. Students are eligible all four years of high school – not just junior and senior year. And the best part? ACCEL award amounts do NOT count toward the maximum number of hours eligible for Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship! For more information about Georgia’s Accel Program, visit
Now that you know why dual enrollment programs are so great, it’s time to get started on the HOW. With busy high school schedules, online classes are a great option. Through the University System of Georgia’s eCore program the state’s college core curriculum is now offered completely online through 14 colleges and universities.

To learn more about online dual enrollment through eCore, visit We’d love to talk to you and answer any questions you have! Request information here, or call us anytime at 1.866.93ECORE.

Phillip Mitchell taught as an assistant professor of English at Gainesville State College for four years. In fall 2012, he left to pursue a doctoral degree in creative writing at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, but continues to teach remotely as an adjunct for UNG.

He has also had seven songs place in the semi-finals and one song place in the finals at this year's UK Songwriting Competition, an international contest that gives winners the opportunity to work with top names in London's music business.

The most challenging part of being an eCore/eMajor instructor is ...….?
Keeping up with the grading. That’s been the biggest challenge of my career.

Describe the most interesting online student you've had.
I’ve had several interesting students. They’ve traveled all over the world. Some have families. Some have been working in professional careers for several years. They all bring a lot to the discussions.

The definition of success is……………………?
Doing what you’re passionate about, what enlivens you and keeps you going.

Who in history would you like to spend an hour with and what would you talk about?
I’d like to talk with John Keats or Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Or any of the Romantics, I suppose. I’d ask about their creative processes and their inspiration for poems. I’d particularly like to know more about Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan.”

Describe the best night of your teenage life.
Graduating high school.

What did you think was “cool” when you were around 8 years old?
Hanging out with my older brother.

Describe your first car.
1988 Mazda 626. Bad alternator. Bad radiator. Stranded me more than once.

The chore I really hate is………………?
Washing dishes.

What would you tell the 10 year old you?
It’s going to be a rough ride but worth it. Hang in there.

Most Sunday afternoons, you can usually find me………………….?

What was the last movie that made you cry?
I’ll keep this one to myself, of course.

What are two things most people don't know about you?
I’m an ordained minister and I like cheesy 80s pop music.

The most used appliance in my house is…………………..?
Dishwasher now, thank goodness. I lived in a flat last year that had neither a dishwasher nor a dryer.

What was your favorite joke as a child?
This is a tough one. I was quite a jokester. I think it’d have to be “what do you get when you cross an elephant with a rhino? Elephino!”

What song makes you sing when driving in your car? Why?
I sing to almost everything I listen to in the car. This is one of the things I miss most about living the US. Now that I’m in the UK, I take the train or long walks. If I were to sing, I’m sure I’d get some funny looks. I’d have to say Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty” is my favorite driving song, for obvious reasons. Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” is a close second.

For those of us working in higher education, the term "MOOC" has become very common. However, if you do not fall into that category, you may have seen this buzz word floating around in cyberspace and wondered - what the heck is a MOOC, anyway!! Well, wonder no more...

MOOC is an acronym for Massively Open Online Course: 

Massive - meaning they are typically large classes with high (if any) enrollment caps 
Open - meaning they are free and open to the public, and 
Online - meaning (you guessed it) the course is delivered online

The basic concept of a MOOC is that it is open online learning that is available to anyone, and it is offered at no cost to the learner. A MOOC is one of many pathways to further one's education, and is viewed by the academic world as an offering to help make higher education more accessible to the public. 

A MOOC typically takes the form of free online learning with audiovisual content (videos), automated quizzes, peer–assessments and online discussion forums.A learner enrolled in a MOOC can typically expect more interaction with online content and their fellow learners and less interaction with the instructor. MOOC can help learners earn certificates, badges and even college credits. A MOOC can also help college students or potential students prepare and review for specific subject credit-courses or for-credit-exams like the CLEP. CLEP stands for College-Level Examination Program which gives students credit-by-examination and is accepted at thousands of colleges and universities.

So - now that you know what a MOOC is - you can start taking advantage of these FREE courses!

Check out some of the MOOCs available right now on Desire2Learn Open Courses, including the eCore Macroeconomics CLEP prep course, which starts November 3rd. 

"We believe that making learning available to everyone helps build a better future." - Desire2Learn Open Courses.

Christy Talley-Smith
Director, USG eCore Curriculum & Instruction 

Professor Melissa Weaver is Adjunct Faculty in Communication at Southern Polytechnic State University

Why did you choose your field?
My undergraduate degree is in Speech Pathology. When I went to graduate school I majored in Communication Studies, which was the perfect parallel for what I teach now. It’s great to merge my passion for teaching, science and communication together!

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A pilot :) 

Why did you choose teaching?
I love working with students and sharing my story! I was the first person in my entire family to go to college, much less earn a graduate degree. It’s great to be in a position to help others and guide them throughout their academic careers.

How do you think education changes lives?
Education can make all the difference in the life of a student. A quality education provides you with choices and options throughout life. It opens new doors and allows you to pave the way throughout your professional career.

What differences have you noticed between online education and face-to-face classes?
We accomplish all of the same objectives within an online classroom; we just do it in a different way. The content is the same, we just reach our goals using different instructional techniques.

How would you describe yourself?
I am an outgoing, friendly person who loves spending time her family and friends!

If you could meet anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
Jeff Gordon – I am a huge NASCAR fan and would love for him to take me for a ride.

What would you place in a time capsule that would tell people 100 years from now who you were?
A Time Magazine
A Cosmopolitan Magazine
A copy of the New York Times
A family picture
A cell phone
Signed sports memorabilia

If you won the lottery, what would you do with it?
Start a beagle rescue. I have always been passionate about animals and I would love to honor my two beagles by saving others.

What’s a secret ambition of yours?
To run through the Power T before a University of Tennessee Football game.

What do you think is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your life?
Watch what you say because you can never take it back!

Who in your life would you like to thank and for what?
My parents. They made many sacrifices throughout life to help me accomplish my goals. I will always be thankful.

What is your occupation?
I am currently a stay at home mom. My husband is deployed to Afghanistan so I decided being home with my son, Liam, and taking online classes would be best for him. 

What is your college major?
I am an Organizational Leadership major with an emphasis in Public Administration.

Who is the biggest inspiration for your education?
I would have to say that my mom always told me that I could be whatever I wanted to be and that was a huge inspiration. She always talked about how much fun school was and encouraged me to always do my best and I would succeed.

What are your career plans beyond eMajor?
Hopefully my family will be stationed in another country and I will have the opportunity to work on a base in public administration. I can't wait to get back into a professional environment.

What are two things most people don't know about you?
I am named after a Fleetwood Mac song, my daddy really loved Stevie Nix and all her music. Being named after one of her songs was as close as my mom would let him get. I am the first of my immediate family to graduate from high school.

Your definition of success is..............?
Happiness. I feel like no matter what you are doing in your life professionally, as long as you are happy I consider that success.

What are you planning on doing when it gets warm? 
I plan on playing outside a lot with my son, Liam, and my dog, Hukaah. Once my husband returns we will be outside enjoying ourselves as a family.

What would you tell the 10 year old you?
"Stop tattling on your brothers so much. It's not fair that you should share all their secrets just because your mom bribed you with cheese." Psst...Cheese was my favorite.

What is your least/most favorite word?
"Slice" UGHHHHH! That word just sounds like it causes so much pain.

My favorite place to visit in the United States is.........? Why?
I wouldn't say that I have a favorite place to visit, but my favorite place to drive through is Chattanooga, TN. There is a part as you drive through where there is a beautiful lake on the right side of you, and a mountain on the left side. Its right around a curve and I think its absolutely beautiful.

What is something interesting about you that those in your class would not know, that you would like to share?
Even though you can't tell from your computer screens, I am a very outgoing person. I love to have fun. My favorite jobs are being a mommy and a military wife.
You have honorably completed your military service and now want to put your Post- 9/11 GI Bill education benefits to good use. Unlike when you were active duty and using Tuition Assistance, you now have more freedom of choice and may select from a plethora of institutions to reach your educational goals. However, as with all freedoms, there also comes responsibility.

You will most likely have many responsibilities after leaving the service to include a family, employment, and possibly more. These adult responsibilities make the accessibility and flexibility of online classes attractive and possibly your best choice. However, higher education institutions that offer online options are not all created equal.

You want to ensure that your hard earned limited benefits are put to good use and not wasted. Too many Veterans have ended up in debt with no degree and no job. Just like when buying a car…in education you must inspect under the hood. When determining which institution is best for your situation you should consider the “Three R’s”:

Ensure that your education institution of choice has regional or national accreditation.  This indicates that it has and will stand the test of time and will provide recognized value for your learning efforts. Are the classes offered transferable to other institutions? If they are not you may want to reconsider as this raises your exit barriers which limits choice and also may indicate a lower value of learning. Ideally your credits are transferable across a region of institutions.

Along with being accredited you should determine how the faculty is trained and certified. Do they have specific online instructor training? Are your classes revisited and updated on a reasonable periodic time table? Which class of institutions has the best reputation? That of course is debatable. However, note that the top 13 schools for the Fortune 500 CEOs during 2012 were all traditional public or private brick and mortar institutions, such as Harvard, Stanford, University of Virginia, etc. Most traditional state and private institutions now offer quality online courses and degree options.

How is your institution of choice spending money? Is it on course content and quality delivery or advertising and recruiting? Is academic excellence their primary goal or is it making a profit and pleasing investors? What is the completion rate of classes or degrees? If the graduation rate is low it may indicate student dissatisfaction. Also, it is wise to check on the student loan default rate as this is an indicator of not only degree completion but job marketability, as well.

After you have thoroughly researched the “Three R’s” you must consider the total cost of your education plan. You must look beyond the credit hour cost and also consider institution fees and availability of electronic text materials, which may be free in many cases. All of these factors can contribute to reducing the overall cost.

Online learning may provide the flexibility, accessibility, and affordability that align with your Post-9/11 GI Bill budget and timeline. Taking the time and effort to research and look under the hood is the first step on your journey toward a degree and your next professional career.

To learn about the options available for our military men and women through eCore, please visit today.

Randy Blackmon
eCore Senior Enrollment Manager
Retired U.S. Navy Captain | 678.839.4898

Cathy at 4 years old,
when her love of history began.

Catherine Locks is a history instructor and instructional technologist/designer from Richmond, Virginia. She teaches history at Fort Valley State University. Her areas of interest include pre-history, ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt and Rome, medieval English history, and colonial American history, particularly of the mid-Atlantic region.

Why did you choose your field?
I’ve always been fascinated with history ever since getting into my Mom’s encyclopedias back when I was about 4 years old.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A veterinarian. But when I was in high school I suddenly became very squeamish, so that career was out.

Why did you choose teaching?
I fell into it through eCore. I have been involved in an indirect way with eCore since the late 1990’s when I was a grad assistant to one of the designers of the original history courses. Then I worked in an office at Georgia College that supported Blackboard, which led to a desire to teach. I wanted to experience what our faculty and students were seeing online. The experience was wonderful and I’ve been teaching online and face-to-face ever since.

What is the secret to a happy life?
Being able to let go of things.

Who’s had the greatest influence on your life and why?
My family. Nothing can teach humility as much as caring for elderly family, or teach patience as much as caring for children.

How would you describe yourself?
A nerd, a geek, a soft touch for my students – one just came and took a Pepsi…

If you could meet anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
Today it would be Putin, I would love to talk to him and hear his views on the Ukraine. Most days its Pope Benedict XVI, I would like to have a theology lesson from him.

What’s a secret ambition of yours?
To be a gourmet cook and to create a new way to teach history.

Who in your life would you like to thank and for what?
My parents for never trying to force me into a particular field.

What do you think is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your life?
Patience – I need more patience, and am patiently waiting for it.

How would you like to be remembered?
As someone who cared.

What is one thing that you absolutely could not live without?
Books of course! No seriously, I can live without most things, but I would be miserable without family and pets and always having a question to answer.

How would you describe yourself as a child?
Curious. I was always taking things apart to see how they worked and putting them back together again, and reading and observing – and I was also terribly shy!

Who is your hero and why?
Oh I have too many – really anyone who sticks to their convictions and helps others is a hero to me. I admire our men and women in the Armed Forces, law enforcement, emergency services – they put their lives on the line for us, what’s not to admire?

Cathy Locks describes herself as
"a nerd, a geek, a soft touch for my students."
What differences have you noticed between online education and face-to-face classes?
In a face-to-face class, I can see my students and tell when they are not really grasping the material and I can correct it on the spot. With online I have to wait until either the student tells me they are confused or until they demonstrate it in our discussions.

Online courses put a greater burden on the student to go over the material themselves. In face-to-face, the burden is on me to present the materials and engage the students. In both cases, I have to be able to explain the materials in a way that helps the students understand them, so in online courses I have to really read what the students post carefully. Some will say that they don’t understand something. Others have no idea they are confused and need help, and sometimes I have a student who is completely confused by the material, has no idea they are confused and then they attempt to correct the other students who have actually gotten it right! So for my online courses I check in every day, 7 days a week to try to catch problems as soon as possible.

How do you think education changes lives?
It opens minds to possibilities they have never imagined. In HIST1111 for example, we discuss Hinduism and Buddhism. For most of my students this is the first time they have ever looked at a religion outside of Christianity. Typically, they are amazed not only by what they learn, but by the realization of how much they did not know before – they are awakened to the need to know more about the world around them.

What do you still want to accomplish?
I want to write more. I want to create history resources that are accessible and understandable for everyone, for example, short youtube videos.