Writing a Book? You Should Know These Rules

Many people have a lot to say and a lot to contribute to others. Some are able to express it in words; some through paintings, others via songs… Each and every one of us IS an artist. A mother that prepares a delicious meal IS an artist in her own rights. It takes imagination, creation and the application of one’s talent in whatever area he/she chooses to express him/herself.

What would be the most important rule for one who chooses to express his thoughts and ideas through words? As Neal Gaiman said: “This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.”

How true! This is the very first rule one should follow. I call it: Start With Small Steps: If you managed to write only a few sentences per day, so be it. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just remember to keep on going and write something EVERY day. The process of writing is not unlike working out at the gym. If you keep at it, you would eventually build strong muscles and a body that would easily be able to run a marathon. Do you want to be a successful writer? Then you have to write every day, and read every day. Write! Write and write! The more you write the better writer you will become. It maybe hard at first but it will get easier and easier and before you know it, words will start spilling out followed by phrases, sentences, paragraphs, chapters and voila! You end up with a complete book in your hand.

Before you sat at the keyboard you must have had a general idea of the story and the main characters. Right? Here comes the second rule: Write what comes your way. Start telling the story. You are the creator of your characters and if you are doing a good job, they will start telling you what is next. They will tell you how they would react in certain circumstances, what they would feel or say. Listen to them. Move with them. Live their lives, get into their heads and find out what they think. Keep writing the story even if it sounds stupid, ridiculous or unreal. These things can be fixed during the process of editing. (A few words of caution: do not edit as you go, as that would slow you down and stop the flow. Editing is done best AFTER you had told the whole story.)

I’ll tell you how I started writing my (soon to be published: The Jewish Gypsy) historical fiction. I initially wanted to write a Gypsy love story so I researched the Internet until I came across the most surprising and shocking piece of information. That was the point when I decided to write a historical fiction that takes place during WWII and a love triangle between Gypsies and Jews. I had the basic idea and the first two main characters. I sat down to write the first chapter and that lead me to the next. My characters woke me up in the middle of the night telling me what they would or would NOT do and I just kept on writing what came my way and spilled out the words without a second thought. I wrote for at least 5-6 hours per day. After eight weeks I had the whole story completed to my great satisfaction. I ended up with a full product because I followed to the dot the two important rules: Start with small steps; write write, write. And write what comes your way.

Hope this article inspired you. See you in Writing a book? You Should Know these Rules Part II.

Techniques Used When Training a Puppy

When a man or woman invests in their very first puppy they are generally not too knowledgeable about puppy training. They may rely on their friends who have dogs for a bit of assistance. They will find though that in fact their friends have different viewpoints on how they should start training their puppy.

As you might guess some of these strategies work better than others. Seeing as this is your first puppy it is going to be difficult to be able to know which strategy is ideal for training your puppy.

Why don’t we first have a look back at a number of techniques which used to be well-accepted but today are almost never used.

A lot of these kinds of tactics that are not used as often today are strategies determined by punishment. Basically whenever your puppy’s or dog’s conduct is unwanted you respond in a negative manner. This negative way could be a quick jerk on the leash while the dog is wearing a choke or even a prong training collar. The dog would experience discomfort from this. Another negative response which dog trainers often implemented was in fact by making use of a shock collar. You would jolt the dog every time the dog’s behaviour was unacceptable, example, dog jumping up on people.

The problem with these punishment based training techniques is that you could end up with a very obedient dog but obedient out of fear. This approach could give you a fearful dog that may end up cowering in the corner each time you raise your voice or you may find yourself with a rather aggressive dog that could be threatening. Not a good situation especially if you are coping with a large breed dog.

Today trainers lean a lot more towards positive forms of training for your puppy or dog.

One thing that is certainly emphasized today is the training of a dog begins the minute you bring that puppy home. This is important since not all that long ago trainers would delay until a puppy was at least 6 months old before beginning any type training other than potty training. A young puppy’s brain is like a sponge, so learning is best at this young age.

Is there really anything special about these techniques that just apply positive reinforcement?

When you are training your new puppy using positive dog training techniques you are going to be using praise and positive reinforcement whenever your puppy or dog displays good behaviour. The reward can be in the form of a treat, a kind word, a pat on the head etc. Dogs do respond very well to positive training techniques.

When using these techniques at no time do you hit, spank, scold or even reprimand your puppy in any way. Most puppies do not react well to punishment.

So let’s take a look at some examples of positive training techniques that you might find useful for that new puppy of yours.

If you are planning to encourage your puppy’s behaviour with treats you may need to have some on you at all times. Say you want your dog to sit. Anytime your puppy sits say “Sit Good Boy” in a very enthusiastic voice, and then give your puppy a reward, whether it is a treat or a pat on the head.

A real great time to use a positive technique is when you are trying to potty train your puppy. When your puppy eliminates outside where you want him to go, again, praise and reward. Now when you reward your dog you must do this in a really upbeat enthusiastic voice which your puppy will react to. A good example of someone who had an extremely upbeat and enthusiastic voice was Barbara Woodhouse back in the 80’s. She is remembered for her iconic word “Walkies”. Did her dogs respond to her – you bet they did.

Puppies make mistakes particularly when potty training, thus be ready to clean up immediately with the puppy not around. Keep on track with the positive training and before very long you will have a trained puppy.

In order to have a trained dog you are going to have to start the training with that puppy. Truth be told there is absolutely nothing better than to end up being owned by a well-trained dog.

Summary of ‘Stop Stealing Dreams (What Is School for?)’ by Seth Godin

Seth Godin is an entrepreneur, public speaker, and author of more than a dozen worldwide bestselling books. He also contributes to a personal blog, which covers universal topics like the Internet, distinguishing oneself in the workplace, taking risks, and maintaining happiness with authenticity.

Below is a summary of the insightful manifesto Godin wrote entitled, “Stop Stealing Dreams”. In the piece, which spans nearly 200 pages and covers 132 topical sections, Godin expresses his belief that society is evolving as a result of the Internet and what he calls “the connection economy.” His overall claim is that our industrialized schooling system is being compromised due to these elements. Whether purposes are as educator, parent, or concerned community member, considering Godin’s views opens our eyes to the position we face regarding leadership in the U.S.

In his manifesto, Godin attributes the threat to our industrialized school system to a change in skills and attitudes of school graduates, as well as society’s turn from a top-down industrial method of guiding students. His assertion is that as leaders, we have a great need to champion a “very human, very personal and very powerful series of tools to produce a new generation of leaders.

Where did our problems with education originate?

To provide readers with a historical context for his claims, Godin makes a case for the shift we have made since the mid-nineteenth century in education. At that time, children worked in factories, which presented moral issues on a societal level. It wasn’t until near the end of World War I that we would see children being sent to school. And still, asserts Godin, that big change manifested because children were expected to become more productive workers over a longer term. Godin poses this question to contemporary society: “Are we going to applaud, push, or even permit our schools (including most of the private ones) to continue the safe but ultimately doomed strategy of churning out predictable, testable, and mediocre factory workers?”

Godin’s belief is that school is for developing a culturally coordinated society, for evolving science and understanding, and for capitalizing on the inherent benefits to learning in general. We can advance our civilized society by providing tools for its constituents to make intelligent choices. And finally, we can train youth and adults to participate in productive, working communities. Godin laments that over the past several decades, the number of individuals being schooled has escalated, but so too has the cost of education, with “trillions of dollars being spent on delivering school on a massive scale.”

From here, it follows for Godin that because our thrust is to develop productive workers, we must change the schooling system because our need for a particular working pool has transformed. His theory, however, is not that we hone the educational system we currently have in place, but to alter its output overall.

One change Godin poses for our industrialized schooling model is a shift away from uniformity toward customization, which is what the workplace and civil populations command. The cause for this dynamic, he claims, is that the industrialized system was coming into play early on in our industrialized society, when both mass production and marketing were pushed toward an idealized standard for operation. Because we have adapted into a mass-marketing culture inclined “to find the edges and the weird, and to cater to what the individual demands instead of insisting on conformity,” Godin says, we must turn our focus to mass customization of the school system.

Are we really using fear as a method for instruction?

“School’s industrial, scaled-up, measurable structure means that fear must be used to keep the masses in line,” Godin states. While he doesn’t specify what fears the schooling system taps to this end, his theory interestingly enough, is that we pay a high price for instituting fear and conformity in education. In the face of fear, we lose passion. In the face of fear and conformity, students are stymied while attempting to push forward and distinguish themselves from the lot.

Godin makes a case for society’s narrow-minded perception of what disciplines can be taught in school. For example, instead of believing that we can teach students endeavors like singing or science, we believe that we must focus on teaching students how to optimize their SAT scores. He proposes instead that we “teach people to make commitments, to overcome fear, to deal transparently, to initiate, and to plan a course.” From an even more progressive perspective, his belief is that we “can teach people to desire lifelong learning, to express themselves, and to innovate.”

Godin highlights a study Jake Halpern conducted regarding career goals of high school students. Interviewed subjects were asked, “When you grow up, which of the following jobs would you most like to have?” According to Godin, Halpern’s results were disheartening. 43% of the girls claimed that among a list of options, they would most like to work as personal assistant to a very famous singer or movie star. “Notice that these kids were okay with not actually being famous,” Godin writes. “They were happy to be the assistant of someone who lived that fairy tale lifestyle.” Then, Godin moves closer to a possible manifesto thesis when he poses the concern, “Have we created a trillion-dollar, multimillion-student, sixteen-year schooling cycle to take our best and our brightest and snuff out their dreams?”

Hoping to exploit the goal of forward movement in school systems, Godin presents a list of ways in which we can impact change. Among the list, he mentions:

• Students complete homework during the day and attend lectures in the evening

• Open book, open note in all testing circumstances

• Access to any international course

• Focused instruction to replace mass instruction

While he agrees that implementing new technology into classrooms is beneficial, he feels our teaching methods should move away from strictly teaching “compliance and consumption.”

Godin presents an interesting consideration for how dreams are formed in youth. His belief is that for students to create dreams can be a difficult pursuit, as developing such goals are impacted by a variety of factors, including background, parental guidance, and one’s ability to come into contact with the “right” connections. Godin feels that we’re mistaken to believe that as leaders, if we allow students to settle for a “boring, steady” job, we’re doing them a service. Pertaining to dreams, then, according to Godin, we “need students who can learn how to learn, who can discover how to push themselves and are generous enough and honest enough to engage with the outside world to make those dreams happen.”

Do we have the wrong ideas about connecting with others?

Emerging upon an era of what Godin refers to as the “connection revolution,” focuses upon connection. We have come upon the age of connecting individuals to others, connecting who seek info to figures, connecting one business to the next, and bringing like-minded populations together in order that organizations run more fluidly. Godin posits that these connections results in value added to organizations at large. But his claim, where students and the school system are concerned, is that in the connected sphere, “reputation is worth more than test scores.” This statement further speaks to Godin’s emphasis on personal connections impacting students to a greater degree than anything concrete the industrialized school system primarily values (e.g. exam results).

To position this point in an even more salient light for our purposes, Godin speaks to the solitary level of academic pursuits. Homework, exams, writing exercises and lectures are all isolated activities. When faced with a professional quandary, nearly any type of worker would need to consult others to see the problem solved. Godin responds to the dilemma of isolation with an exception to the current educational model: a focus upon group work in the classroom, which, according to Godin, should become a school-system norm.

Speaking of norms, Godin then returns to this observation of fear as a utilized tool in the classroom. His idea is that fear and passion are the sole tools accessible to educators. While the former maybe be simple to ignite and withhold, it’s ultimately damaging. The latter tool, on the other hand, acts as a portal to a child’s learning spirit. If a student is engaged in topics that interest him-science, dinosaurs, he will learn on his own and somehow find a way to master the material, says Godin. Unfortunately, he concludes, passion is difficult to incite on a mass level. Rather, “the passion that fuels dreams and creates change must come from the individual, not from a demigod.”

It is Godin’s belief that in industrialized school models, educators tend to teach students the concept of certainty. Because schools focus on concrete data (that which is testable), we leave no room for students to challenge the institution. While it’s ideal for students to benefit from the ability to question concepts, “students aren’t there to challenge-they are there to be indoctrinated, to accept and obey.”

What are our teachers for?

To break down these barriers inherent in depriving students of the ability to challenge in industrialized school systems, Godin sets out to define the role of the teacher. A teacher is useful for transmitting information, of course, but an educator can also be responsible for explaining the how and why behind an subject’s mechanics. The teacher, says Godin, can stretch students and help them to complete exceptional work. As we can all relate to at one time experiencing environments in which connections with certain individuals altered our perception, there must be a shift to optimize that outcome in school systems. There must be a shift to select educators who are able to persuade students that what they’re learning is information they truly desire to learn.

To further back his desire to see provocative leadership come to fruition, Godin suggests that parents motivate their children toward healthy learning results. His sense is that teachers cannot solely be trusted with the design of our future in the event that these teachers be inexperienced or unqualified to teach effectively. Godin positively believes that we have the tools to teach students to dream and to learn in interesting ways, but that it’s ideal for parents to aid in that process.

Are we not teaching youth to dream big?

Revisiting the topic of students’ dreams, Godin puts forth both economic and societal arguments pertaining to school systems. The former issue has to do with students aspiring to careers that are considered “small dreams.” Small dreams would have to do with career paths less significant than what a child can dream of doing professionally with passion. The danger of small dreams is that they tend to thwart a child’s judgment and ability to try new endeavors. On a societal level, Godin continues, we have missed out on the introduction of new art or new jobs, for example, due to the fact that educators have imparted upon students that they dream only superficially (or “small”).

Godin then uses fairytales as a comparing body to real-life dreams in that girls and boys hope to be selected, either to receive a special slipper or to receive superhuman powers. He uses the post-World War II generation as a paradigm for children that could dream with passion. As that war catapulted into a time when new opportunities were created and new sciences were discovered, children dreamed of inventing “new wheels.” They aspired to understand science and politics. These children were inspired. Thus, Godin concludes wistfully, our current generations could benefit from some sort of return to those parameters for young dreamers.

Because he believes it to be the foundation of all dreams turned reality, Godin asks the question, “Is it possible to teach willpower?” Our young generations battle with the inability to focus on short-term challenges required for seeing longer-term goals through. We have become a society of instant gratification, and yet, Godin asserts, we can indeed teach willpower. He mentions Kelly McGonigal and Roy Baumeister, who have each authored works on the subject. Why are we not teaching willpower, the reader might wonder? According to Godin, “because industrialists don’t need employees with willpower, and marketers loathe consumers who have it.”

Are we too fearful to do what’s right?

To move the topic of willpower closer to center stage, Godin poses two questions: “Is it too risky to do the right thing?” and “Do parents mean well?” Though parents demonstrate interest in seeing to their children’s high performance: tutors, parent-teacher talks, sending kids away to the “best” schools, for Godin, something is missing. His issue, to this end, with the current schooling model, is that “the sanctity of performance/testing/compliance-based schooling is rarely discussed and virtually never challenged.” He then shoots down two popular and yet flawed beliefs: 1) When students perform well in school, they are ultimately happy. 2)) If parents are considered “great,” then they inherently bring high-performing children into the world. To Godin, we must risk finding healthy alternatives for putting children through the school system as it stands.

Returning to the issue of children’s limitations behind seeing goals through, Godin finds that students on industrialized school systems suffer from an inability to commit to a task or pursuit. “A byproduct of industrialization is depersonalization,” Godin states. Therefore, we have come upon an age where we favor emotionally “checking out” to embracing the process of learning. To Godin, the student has traded self-respect for the desire to win any teacher’s approval, for to the student, doing so might present his only opportunity to be accepted within the system.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t touch upon another forlorn reality that Godin addresses with regards to student limitations: the decline of grammar. Perhaps a quote from Godin’s grammar section will speak for itself: “We’re all going down the drain. Too much profanity, no verb conjugation, incomplete thoughts, and poor analysis, everywhere you look, even among people running for President.” What’s his prognosis? Students simply don’t care. Educators, by and large in the mass-produced school system don’t challenge students to care. And so it goes.

How do we implement alternatives to industrialized education?

In a section entitled, “Lectures at night, homework during the day,” Godin speaks to the work of Sal Khan, founder of the Khan Academy. In Khan’s vision, we would add a new model for teaching. Godin puts forth the model when we writes:

There will be a free, universal library of courses in the cloud online, accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Every lecture, constantly improved, on every conceivable topic. This means that students will be able to find precisely the lecture they need, and to watch it at their own speed, reviewing it at will.

Godin’s assessment is that Khan’s model will open up a great deal of new possibilities for teachers, including access to a variety of professional-level presentations.

As Godin continues to narrow in on quality models for learning throughout his manifesto, he writes a segment entitled, “Leadership and Followership,” in which he explains is a concept instituted by John Cook. Cook’s term refers to a false pretense of leading where students might learn theoretical concepts of leadership without actually having to lead a group of individuals. Though this is a model perpetuated in the industrialized school system, it’s certainly not ideal. Instead, Godin proposes that for students to learn the real challenges of process-oriented leadership, they must be taught the steps before being granted any sort of credibility to lead. He believes this outcome is in fact teachable in schools.

In fact, as Godin moves further toward his manifesto’s conclusion, he discusses the “two pillars of a future-proof education,” which include teaching students how to lead other students, and then aiding them in understanding the process of problem solving. Leadership, Godin writes, “involves initiative, and in the connected world, nothing happens until you step up and begin, until you start driving without a clear map.” He goes on to assert that any individual’s merit comes from his ability to develop “a new map,” and to solve emerging, ever-changing world problems.

What makes teachers exceptional?

To expound upon ideas regarding those principles for teaching that will make a teacher exceptional, Godin claims that teachers must possess an ability to express and explain emotions. He gives an example of a first-grade teacher who teaches students to contribute in class even if they don’t hold “popular” beliefs. Godin finds the pivotal issue is that regardless of a student’s age, she can be taught by a teacher who believes she can eventually express her ideas honestly.

Godin ultimately comes to make some cases for higher education models. Of higher education, he writes, “Schools are facing the giant crash of education loans and the inability of the typical student to justify a full-fare education.” While this is an unfortunate progression, the digital age at least partially to blame, the bottom line for Godin is that higher education is on the dawn of a great deal of change as course work is offered increasingly more online. He continues with a number of statements about colleges and universities, including costs, reputability of schools, the importance (or lack thereof) of SAT scores, the college degree as a means to an end, and the need for institutions to focus on elements “that matter.”

Finally, as Godin makes overall cases for what we must do to reform our school system, he deftly states, “The common school is going to take a generation to fix, and we mustn’t let up the pressure until it is fixed.” He encourages leaders to “go. Learn and lead and teach. If enough of us do this, school will have no choice but to listen, emulate, and rush to catch up.” Godin’s ultimate tenets for effective, powerful leadership include teaching students to make sound decisions, teaching to have compassion and to learn, teaching students to navigate a dynamic society, teaching students to challenge authority, and granting students an interest in the creative process.

After a great deal of progressive and thoughtful ideas set forth by Godin, these concluding statements, for the reader, come across in quite a compelling manner. Read the full manuscript to benefit from such inspirational wisdom so proficiently communicated by Seth Godin.

How to Learn Anything Quickly

Ever thought why is it some people seem to learn anything very quickly? Now, that is not to say they are experts, which is a different story. What is referred to here is about picking things up easily. Of course, different people can learn different things at various paces. Someone may be better at sensory motor skills, yet others are better with languages. But is there a formula for learning anything quickly?

To be able to learn anything quickly, there are several things you need to understand. One, you need to be confident. Two, you need to understand the basics and three, work at it.

One of the most important elements in learning anything is confidence. First, you need to be confident in what you are going to learn and tell yourself that it is going to be easy. Do not be defeated even before you begin. It can be a simple positive self-talk of “I can do this.” Once your confidence is up, learning anything is easy. You may have had different learning experiences, but tell yourself each experience is different and each offers a new opportunity to build confidence.

Regardless of what you will be learning, get an overview of the material. Research, read and get a feel of it. This is a process of introducing the new material to your brains, hands and legs. You are preparing the ground before you sow the seeds. When your brain is introduced to the material, whatever you introduce later will be easily absorbed. It does not matter if you are learning a new language or karate. Have some fun searching through the internet, read some books and get a bird’s eye view of what you will learn later. This is a phase where you just want a feel of it.

Understand The Basics
Every field has their basics – be it cooking, language, martial arts, driving a car, golf, you name it. Understand what are the basics involved because when you get the basics right you will speed up the learning process. It is like learning your “A, B, Cs”, when you know them well you start to spell and read. Then you progress to having a bigger vocabulary. You read sentences, then paragraphs, essays and you eventually read books. It is the same for other fields. Focus on the basics and you will learn faster.

Break Them Up Into Smaller Chunks
Do not try to learn everything at the same time and expect to be an expert in a short period of time. To be an expert takes time. To learn something quickly so you have the foundation to be an expert later, you have to break about what you learn into bite size chunks. That way you can digest the materials better and faster.

The last step to learn anything quickly is reviewing the material you have learned. This is because you are new at what you have just learned. Review and practice, and you will be ready for the next lesson and you will even learn new material better.

To learn anything quickly you need to be confident and be ready to put in the effort. The effort involves getting a bird’s eye view of what you will learn, understanding the basics involved, breaking up what you will learn into smaller chunks and finally practicing what you have learned so you can remember. More importantly to be prepared to learn newer material.

Tips To Qualify CAT Exams

Masters in Business Administration (MBA) has attracted people from various academic fields be it science, humanities or commerce. Due to its growing success as a career option, every year the strength of candidates appearing for MBA exams increases. There are many exams conducted to gain entry into MBA colleges like MAT, CMAT, CAT etc. Each exam gains you entry into a specific set of MBA colleges. Likewise, CAT which is a common aptitude test, is a computer based exam which is conducted on a national level. It gains you entry into the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) etc. With every passing year, the number of candidates applying for CAT is increasing, which means much more competition. In such a scenario it has become a task to qualify for CAT, thus following are some tips which can help you perform better:

• Use a strategy to prepare as well as to answer. You need to follow a schedule and cover the topics according to their weightage in the CAT exam. Similarly, while appearing for the exam, answer the questions that hold high marks or that you are sure about, focus on the questions in this descending order.

• Focus on error removal. This would help you check the errors in your answer so you can work on them. Mainly includes, spelling mistakes, grammar etc. You can also use the “review button”, this helps the student check the error quotient and know which questions have been attempted, which left out.

• The more you practice the better you will perform in the CAT exam or any other MBA exam. One must at least practice three mock tests in a week. This would also acquaint you with the kind of questions asked and help you frame up better answers.

• Knowing simple and plain English is not sufficient. CAT aspirants should focus on the ability to read and understand longer sentences on complex topics. One should also know the meaning of words, sentences, idioms. At times 12-13 questions are based on such things.

You can make a note of these important details and include them in your preparation and during your exam. They can help you qualify for the CAT exam or in fact other exams like MAT or CMAT; since these are general tips for MBA exams. Also, give at least two or three months to CAT preparation, you must work extra hard because the competition is very stiff and the seats are limited.

Distance Learning – Education for the 21st Century

Chances are you know someone who is working toward a college or post-college degree via the Internet. Perhaps you yourself have attended online classes to continue your education, obtain a certification, or to improve you chances for advancement in your job.

More and more people are finding they can earn their degree from an accredited online university which offers the same challenge and quality of a traditional classroom in an environment which allows them to fit education into a life that might be too busy for a more conventional method of instruction.

According to a recent government study, about 127,400 distance education courses were offered in 2001-02, and there were about 3.1 million enrollments in distance education. Over one-half of all postsecondary education institutions offered distance education, and another 12 percent planned to offer distance education in the next 3 years.

Distance education is defined as education or training courses delivered to a remote (off-campus) location via audio, video, or computer technologies. Courses conducted exclusively on campus, as well as classes conducted exclusively via written correspondence, are not included in this definition of distance.

It is increasingly clear that technology has expanded the ability of students to participate in postsecondary education. Virtually every type of learner can benefit from some form of online education. In addition to the rapid proliferation of new courses and programs, colleges and universities are taking advantage of the Internet to enhance the admissions process and give potential students the opportunity to apply online.

Online education enables you to learn without causing a major upheaval in your life. You can access online class rooms using any Internet connection, anytime and practically anywhere. This round-the-clock access allows you to download assignments, read and participate in class discussions, review faculty feedback, and much more, all at times which are convenient to your professional and personal schedule. Many students find that this added flexibility, which does not sacrifice quality, helps keep them on track toward their goals more readily than with the rigid scheduling of a traditional learning environment.

There is also evidence that a portion of those students who participate in postsecondary education in their homes or workplace would not otherwise enroll in postsecondary education. Thus, it appears that technology is opening up new markets of potential students without significantly diminishing the number of students who would enroll in traditional colleges and universities, many of which also are offering technology-mediated distance education.

Distance learners are also generally happy with their online learning experience. A large-scale national study of student participation in distance education addressed student satisfaction of distance education classes and, when asked how satisfied they were with their distance education classes compared to their regular classes, a majority of both undergraduate and graduate students were at least as satisfied or more satisfied with the quality of teaching in their distance education classes compared with their regular classes.

Perhaps it is time to focus attention on the more basic question of how students learn, regardless of the delivery system. Technology-mediated distance learning is evolving so quickly it’s difficult for education experts to set standards that adequately address the current status and the future potential of the online learning experience.

Because experimental studies comparing distance education courses with campus-based courses have been based upon the premise that campus-based courses are the “gold standard,” which may be open to question, it may be advisable to abandon these studies. It appears that addressing how students learn and focusing on outcomes assessment would be more productive.

Several organizations have developed standards and guidelines to ensure quality distance education, including the Southern Regional Electronic Campus, the National Education Association, and the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications. These guidelines cover areas such as course development, evaluation and assessment, faculty support, and institutional support. Among the benchmarks, interactivity–between student and faculty, student and student, and student and information–is the single most essential element for effectiveness in distance education.

It is clear that online learning and distance education are here to stay. The benefits are compelling, especially to those who have succeeded in completing their education or adding a much needed certification to their credentials through an online educational experience.

How to Choose a Medical Coding Course

Medical coding is one of the fastest growing industries in the job market right now. Work from home jobs and the ability to telecommute has drawn the attention of many individuals while the aging population has increased the need for skilled workers in this field. Once an individual has educated themselves on what medical coding is, and once they have decided this is the career option for them, the next step is to obtain a proper education.

Medical coding courses are offered by numerous organizations and establishments and the choice can become overwhelming. It is important to know that not all courses are created equal. If an inadequate course is chosen you may find yourself at a loss of money and time and no closer to your goal.

Many community colleges and continuing education schools offer “introductory” courses. These are usually short compact classes that may run for a few weeks or one quarter (or semester) in length. These type of classes are usually required for individuals seeking larger degrees, such as a nursing student or medical assistant.

Taking an introductory medical coding course is a good idea if you are new to this field and are not positive that this is the right career move for you. An introductory course should explain the basics of medical coding and perhaps the basics of medical billing. You should also understand how to use the medical coding books by the end of such a course.

Taking an introductory course should be avoided, however, if you are certain in your career choice. If a career in this field is what you are seeking you must obtain certification first, and an introductory medical coding course will not be enough to prepare you for this.

Coding certification is offered by many different organizations but there are only two that are nationally recognized by employers. An organization that states it offers “national certification” at the end of its course should be scrutinized a little. Although “national certification” sounds good it honestly does not mean much.

There are only two organizations (and two certifications) that are recognized by employers nationwide, these are the CPC (certified professional coder) offered by the AAPC (American Academy of Professional Coders) and the CCS (Certified Coding Specialist) offered by AHIMA (American Health Information Management Association).

While you do not have to get your education through these two organizations any education you do obtain should prepare you for their certification (the CPC or CCS). Looking through the local classified and seeing which of the two certifications the local employer’s prefer is a good place to start when deciding which certification to prepare for.

In addition to preparing you for either the CPC or CCS certification exam, medical coding courses should also include the following:

– Basic medical terminology and basic human anatomy should either be incorporated into the course or be a pre-requisite to taking the course

– A good medical coding course should be around 80 contact hours (or more), and should not be condensed into less than six months. There is a very large amount of material to cover and absorb, classes of less than 80 hours and shorter than six months do not usually produce as favorable of results.

– Medical coding courses should prepare the student completely for either the CPC certification through the AAPC or the CCS certification through AHIMA. Any other certification through any other organization will not be recognized in the medical coding community.

– It is of great benefit to have a coding course instructor who is a CPC-I, however, if they are not a CPC-I they should have the minimum of either the CPC or CCS.

– Many medical coding courses cover only two of the three medical coding books. Make sure all three coding books are covered in the course; this includes the ICD-9-CM, CPT, and HCPCS

– Timed examinations are important in preparing for certification since both certification exams are timed. Not having enough time to complete the exam is the largest complaint among examinees. Taking timed examinations in advance has been proven to increase success.

A good medical coding course should offer all of the above and run between $1,500 – $2,500. Most of these courses do not include the cost of medical coding books, AAPC or AHIMA membership, or examination fees. Also, once certification is obtained it is important to know that you will be required to earn CEUs (continuing education units) every year and pay an annual membership fee (to either the AAPC or AHIMA).

There Is A Lot More To Planning For College Than You Might Think

In order to be successful in their post secondary admissions and academics, high school students need to start planning now for college. Their school success will determine their college success. Normally the studying challenges in colleges are more difficult than high school and students need to develop good study habits while they are still in high school to be able to combat more difficult studying challenges they will face in college.

There are a number of activities that a student can partake in while still in high school to improve their chances of being accepted by a college of their choice. One example is extracurricular activities. If a student partakes in and excels at extracurricular activities they will have a good record on their application form which will show colleges that they are able to succeed both inside and outside of the classroom.

College planning means that a student needs to stay on track and not lose sight of their goals. A student who realizes that they need to do as much as they can to increase their chances of being accepted knows the meaning of proper planning. Students should keep challenging themselves in school by pursuing advanced courses or by taking a foreign language which is a requirement of most colleges.

Preparing in advance for the college entrance exam is a great example. When preparing for a college entrance exam, the student should consider how their strengths can help them to excel and think about ways to improve their weaknesses before the exam date. They should take the SAT and the ACT as early as possible just in case there is a need to retake either to get a better score.

There is no way a student can plan for college without doing college research. A student needs to set certain standards that they would like their ideal college to meet. A student needs to think about the factors that are the most important to them such as the location, and do research on colleges that meet this criteria. If they can afford it, they can visit all of the potential colleges to see what it feels like but if not there are other possibilities such as virtual campus tours and phone interviews.

However, it makes no sense to plan for college if the student does not have the funds to attend college. Most of the time, this is the responsibility of the parents. They need to save for their children to attend college. The earlier they start saving for college the better. A great way to save for college is to invest in stocks which can build up value and can be cashed when needed for college. It is not always necessary to save the money for all four years of college. There are several possibilities available to obtain financial aid for college. A student loan is one of the most common ways to do this. There are several possibilities for paying off a student loan after graduating.

The Difference Between A Mentor And A Coach And How Do I Engage One?

The Difference Between A Mentor And A Coach

Mentoring and coaching are different, although are often thought to be the same. Frequently any mention of mentor and coach in the same sentence invokes confusion – which is precisely the situation I want to change. I enjoyed the benefit of several mentors throughout my career as a Department of the Army Civilian, yet I hired a coach when I had specific professional issues I wanted to resolve. By way of comparison, I have heard tell that Tiger Woods (the golf pro) benefits from the sage mentorship of those who came before him, such as Jack Nicklaus. However, when he wants to address specific issues, such as his stance or backswing, he hires a coach to help improve his game.

For simplicity sake, mentoring occurs off-line when one person extends unconditionally to another significant professional insight. The relationship is loosely defined, and either the mentor or the mentee can initiate the relationship. A mentor is usually someone older and more professionally advanced, whom you look up to for guidance and who may serve as a sounding board for exploring professional decisions, such as career direction. When you elect to have a mentor, it is most likely because you think the mentor has experience you can draw from.

In contrast, the process of coaching enables learning and development to occur and thus performance improves. For simplicity sake, coaching occurs when one person extends conditionally (under contract) to another a significant learning experience. The engagement is defined, and the coachee initiates the relationship. Coaching is “just in time” learning, serving to set better goals, make better decisions, and improve your performance! A coach’s job is to get you unstuck by employing tools designed to help you find what drives you, where you want to go, and the best way to get there. To become an authentic coach requires specific knowledge of the coaching process, and the selection of styles, skills, tools and techniques, appropriate to the context in which the coaching is required. There is a variety of training programs for coaches to formalize our skills and become adept at our trade. Additionally, coaches can achieve professional certification, which demonstrates our knowledge and skill, and our commitment to high professional standards and a strong code of ethics.

As you can see coaching and mentoring are alike in many ways, yet they are different relationships. Both coaches and mentors can help you achieve professional success. Be open to making a mentor and/or coach a capacity building part of your professional toolbox.

How Do I Engage A Mentor Or A Coach?

We recognize the challenges professionals face in sourcing, selecting, and contracting the best professional for their needs. Many mentors too are often confused by the boundaries of the relationship, while coaches dream of being retained by informed clients who already understand the coaching process. Being clear in what you want to accomplish through either a mentoring or coaching relationship will improve the output.

However, as widespread as the phenomenon of mentoring and coaching have become, there is still a lot of mystery surrounding respective purposes and the process of sourcing and engaging the mentoring or coaching relationship. Most mentors and coaches recognize that although many employees desire a fulfilling worklife, wherein they can achieve autonomy, mastery, and purpose, not everyone knows how to achieve this ideal work life. Engaging a mentor or hiring a coach is a step in the right direction. Knowing how to source and contract for services is as important as being mentored or coached. The following tips offers a quick immersion into what you need to know on a personal level to engage a mentor or secure coaching services.

The Top-Five-Tips For Engaging A Mentor Include;

1. Understand what a mentor does.
2. Understand where mentors come from.
3. Ask a potential mentor about his mentoring and mentee experiences.
4. Invest in the relationship – understand that it goes both ways – and appreciate the value.
5. Understand that you may outgrow the relationship, so prepare to retire it gracefully.

The Top-Five-Tips For Engaging A Coach Include;

1. Understand what an authentic coach does.
2. Understand where authentic coaches come from.
3. Ask a potential authentic coach about his level of expertise.
4. Invest in yourself – understand the difference between value and price – and pay for value.
5. Expect a written agreement.

Although enduring an unfulfilled, challenging, or limited work life is painful, you can begin to solve your problems by engaging a mentor or a coach. You now know that you can make your work life more fulfilling, you can achieve personal autonomy, mastery, purpose, and you can become your highest and best work self by adding both mentoring and coaching to your toolbox.

Career Planning or Career Change – Four Critical Actions to Overall Career Success!

You’ve worked for an employer for a few years. But things just don’t seem right. Maybe it’s a new boss, or a new CEO but things aren’t what they used to be. Your career seems to be going nowhere. For whatever reason, your job doesn’t get you going in the morning, if fact, some mornings you dread going it to work.

But what now? You know you could do more. How do you jump start and keep your career sharp and fresh and your interest high? If you’re looking to make a well planned job change or just want to build a fire under your uninspiring career path you need to study the following action change toolkit.

To make an effective change in your career or get back on the fast track you need to study the following four action building ideas.

1. What is your career purpose? What were you meant to do? Do the analysis and find out once and for all what you should be doing. Everyone possesses a calling or a unique purpose. Everyone is unique and this uniqueness will show itself in career we are meant to do. Connect the dots from you life purpose to your career. Start with thinking how and why you are in your current career. Is everything currently valid? If not, find out why.

2. Have you ever written you own career mission statement? If you have maybe it’s time to take a careful review of the mission statement. Rewrite if necessary. If you haven’t written you career mission statement now would be a productive time to get it done. It can add focus, direction and a sense of purpose in you decisions regarding your career or career change.

3. Do you have your career goals in writing? If not now is the time to think them through and write them down. It is essential to set your short, intermediate and long term career goals. You want to be able to see and track your progress. For example, if you career goal is to read 120 books in the next five years, break it down and track it at two per month. If you don’t track the goal by the month, it will do you not good trying to catch up in the last month and try to read 60 books.

4. Motivating actions start with small steps. Destructive habits don’t show up overnight. A person’s lack of physical fitness, for example, doesn’t go from fit one day to unable to walk two miles the next. Rather it’s the accumulation of daily, weekly and perhaps years of the lack of strenuous physical activity.

The same can be said for your career. You have the abilities to make daily small but significant changes in your purpose, determination and commitment. Over time, some as little as twenty-one days, your attitude and self-confidence will grow as these small improvements build and grow. This results in your motivation accelerating to make your career goals a reality.

Use these four career building ideas from your toolkit and you’ll find success if you are looking to change careers or just want to get the excitement back into your current job. By studying, planning, setting goals and taking action you’ll be well on the way to looking forward to going to work every morning.