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 ecore.usg.edu today.

Randy Blackmon
eCore Senior Enrollment Manager
Retired U.S. Navy Captain
rblackmo@westga.edu | 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.

Meet the eCore Proctor Doctor
Fall is in the air... which means the kids are back in school, college football is king, and your favorite TV shows are returning with new episodes. For many working adults, Fall also means "back-to-school" for themselves in the form of online courses in pursuit of a college degree. 

Online college courses are typically delivered in accelerated formats, which are shorter than a traditional semester and allow the student to complete more courses within a year. For accelerated online courses, mid-term exams are right around the corner. Milestone exams like mid-terms are very important to your overall grade in a course, so it is crucial that you get organized early and be as prepared as you can. The eCore Proctor Doctor is here to help you do just that! Here are his 5 simple steps to help you learn to study like a pro!
  1. Set a study goal and a study time.
    Determine what you need to study and prioritize the content that matters the most. Review course materials such as your syllabus and discussion postings to determine the most important topics in the course so far. With full time jobs and families to balance on top of school, it's also a good idea to set a "study time" for yourself every day leading up to the exam.

  2. Aim to begin studying at least a week in advance.
    Studying a little bit over a period of time helps you retain the information more easily. The last thing you want is to pull an "all-nighter" and not get enough sleep before the big test! Plus, starting your studying earlier will allow you to determine areas that you need to spend more time on, and to seek help from your professor or any tutoring services that may be available to you.
  3. Study with a buddy.
    Study groups can motivate you to get started. Even in an online course, you can use your discussion board to connect with others in your class. One of your classmates may live closer than you think, or you may even be able to utilize technologies such as Skype or Facetime to study with classmates who do not live near you.

  4. Take snack breaks.
    While studying, be sure to take a five-minute break every hour to help your body produce more energy. Eating a healthy snack and stretching helps you relax and rejuvenate your mind and body.

  5. Get a good night's sleep.
    Staying up too late the night before the exam might zap your energy and focus when you need it the most. If you've prepared ahead of time (see tip #2), you'll be able to do one last review of the material, set a decent bedtime for yourself, and wake up refreshed and ready to conquer that exam on test day!

Now that you've received your checkup from the eCore Proctor Doctor, you're ready to ace that test, right? Share your study tips with us in the comments below, or email us at: ecoresuccess@westga.edu. 

Happy Testing!

Reynard Van Tonder
eCore Testing Coordinator

For information about exams and testing for eCore students, visit ecore.usg.edu/exams. 
Beijing, China

What is your University System of Georgia home institution, and where did you receive your degrees?
I have served as a lecturer in the chemistry department at the University of West Georgia now for eight years.  I was initially offered this position upon completion of my Ph.D. at the University of Georgia.  The opportunity to come home to teach at the institution where I also received my undergraduate degree in chemistry was just too good to pass up. 

How long have you taught eCore classes?
This is my second year teaching eCore chemistry, and I have found it to be both challenging and rewarding, and it has also allowed me the opportunity to get to know the great team of people who work for eCore.

Why did you become a college instructor, and what drew you to the field of Chemistry?
I was first drawn into both science and teaching by my high school chemistry teacher, Coach Powell.  He is a legend at Bowdon High School, which is located in a small town just down the road from UWG.  The combination of my education and experiences has allowed me to teach chemistry to my students effectively, while relating to them as people, since the majority of the UWG student body is derived from the West Georgia area. 

What do you enjoy about teaching online?
I love teaching both at the college level and with eCore, due to the freedom and flexibility that exists both in and out of the classroom.

Romo, the first unofficial eCore "spokesdog"
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time – outside of the “classroom”?

This is the more challenging part…talking about the “non-teacher” version of me.   In my spare time, I enjoy relaxing to a movie or TV show (Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Gladiator, How I Met Your Mother are my favorites) or reading a book (anything by Mitch Albom or Paulo Coelho).  My favorite mid-semester activity is a relaxing camping trip to the mountains.

I'm also a proud member of the Carrollton Evening Sertoma Club, where I was honored to recently be elected as President.

Of course, my faithful dog, Romo, is never far away after I step through the back door following work.  He is a six year old mountain cur who is super friendly and is semi-employed by eCore as the unofficial mascot and “spokesdog”.  

What is something interesting about you that your students would be surprised to know?
I love to travel and have been lucky enough to go to faraway places like India, China, Vietnam, and Cambodia. 

Lastly, what advice do you have for students taking online classes for the first time?

The best advice that I could give to a student taking an eCore class for the first time is to develop a concrete schedule of times that you devote to your courses. The flexibility offered by online learning is an amazing benefit, but also relies heavily on self-motivation and dedication.