Computer for College Online

man on his computer for collegeAs an online college student, you’ll spend a substantial amount of time on your computer, posting answers to questions, participating in online discussion, emailing professors and other online activities.  Before classes start, it’s important to ensure you have access to a reliable computer that meets the requirements of your online college degree program.

Whether you already own a computer or laptop or you’re in the market for a new one, here are some points to consider regarding your computer for online school:

Software: You’ll need basic word processing software, like Microsoft Office or an equivalent, for writing assignments.  Google and OpenOffice.org both offer free word processing programs.

Especially since you’ll be on the Internet so frequently, protect your computer from viruses, worms and other nasty malware by installing anti-virus software.  The most well-known program is Norton AntiVirus.  AVG also offers free anti-virus software.

Your major or degree concentration may require additional software programs. For instance, a computer science or business information systems student will need specialized software. An arts student may need graphic design software like Adobe Creative Suite.  Double check with your advisor what additional software programs you might need to purchase in addition to word processing and anti-virus programs.

Hardware: Some of the most important pieces of computer hardware to research are the memory and processor.  We recommend at least one but ideally two gigabytes of RAM, short for Random Access Memory.  The processor acts as the brain of your computer, and regulates how efficiently your computer will run.  Most new computers have a minimum of a 1.25 gigahertz (GHz) processor.  If you plan to connect your laptop to the Internet wirelessly, you’ll want a wireless internet card. Many new computers come with one pre-installed but you can also purchase one separately and install it yourself.

Accessories: USB flash drives have replaced the floppy disk or CD for storing word processing documents and other files. You can back up your most important school files with a USB flash drive or use it to transfer files onto another computer.  You might want to use your local library’s computer to print a document off to proofread, for instance.

Internet Access: Having high speed Internet access will allow you to watch video (some online degree programs stream classes live) and browse the Internet without frustration.  A DSL or Cable connection is recommended but a minimum 56k modem is generally required.

Desktop or Laptop? If you are shopping for a new computer you might be wondering whether to purchase a desktop or laptop.  You can take laptops anywhere but they tend to be more expensive than a desktop.  This decision will likely depend on your lifestyle and whether you envision studying in places other than your home.

Many computer and software manufacturers give concessions to college students on their products. If you are buying a new computer or just looking to purchase new software, be sure to ask the retailer about educational discounts and educational versions of software packages.

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Transitioning from an Associate’s to a Bachelor’s Degree

By Virginia MacCallum, Linfield Academic Advisor

college cupola

A community college is an excellent place to start your higher education, which can lead to a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university or, perhaps, beyond to graduate degrees.  You may ask yourself how you can make the most of your community college experience to be sure you are taking what you need in preparation for a bachelor’s degree.  Where are the stumbling blocks?  How do I get there from here?

Frequently community colleges have transfer associate’s degrees that fill many of the general education requirements for the bachelor’s degrees at the colleges and universities. These transfer degree plans can be the Associate of Arts, which includes math, writing, arts and humanities, social science, and the natural sciences.  If you are taking business courses such as accounting and management fundamentals toward a goal of getting a bachelor’s degree in management or accounting, you are probably taking the Associate of Science transfer degree.  Or your community college may have a similar articulation of community college associate degrees with several colleges and universities in your region for the general education requirements.  Articulation is the term used to indicate that the universities have agreed to accept the community college courses in fulfillment of the same courses in the core or general education courses at the universities.  Contact your academic advisor at the community college or the admissions department at the colleges where you are planning to transfer to make sure you have everything done as required, both for your associate’s degree and for the university you will attend.

If you have a goal of attending a particular college or university, you may have considered several factors in making your choice.  It could be that school’s rankings in college guides attract you.  Or maybe you are pulled by family tradition to join relatives in attending there.  You might even be the first of your family to be on your way to a bachelor’s degree.  There are other considerations, too.  For instance, if you are interested in accounting, or international business, or health professions, search the web sites of several colleges and universities to find out what kinds of degree programs are available and what courses are required to achieve that goal.

Let’s look at some new words or terms you may find during your research transferring from an associate’s to bachelor’s degree.  One of the terms you may encounter is transfer course.  A transfer course is one that:

•    Is rich in academic theory as opposed to skills (the how-to).
•    Is acceptable to the four-year college or university as having content of academic value.
•    Is identifiable by its course number:  the departmental designation followed by a number that designates this course as being acceptable for a bachelor’s degree by the college or university that you are planning to transfer to. In most cases a transfer course will carry a number of 100 or higher, but there are many exceptions to this guideline, depending on the state where you are attending community college, so it is a good idea to check further with your “destination” school if you have questions.

In addition, a school’s website and degree requirements may introduce you to the terms quarter and semester as well as quarter credit and semester credit.  These refer to that school’s instructional calendar and the amount of academic credit you receive for passing a course.  When a bachelor’s degree is measured by quarter credits, it requires approximately 180 quarter credits for the degree. When a bachelor’s degree is measured by semester credits, it requires approximately 125 semester credits for the degree.  Definitions of academic quarters and semesters below speak in terms of traditional college calendars, but some colleges have shorter periods of instruction than the traditional length of quarter or semester, so the same number of hours of instruction will be more concentrated in a shorter period of time.

The academic quarter is 10 to 11 weeks in length in a traditional community college calendar and you participate in about 10-11  hours of classroom instruction per credit.  Thus, if you take a four-credit course, you will receive about 40-44 hours of instruction for the term.

The academic semester is approximately one-third longer than an academic quarter at 15 to 16 weeks in length, in a traditional college calendar and you participate in about 15-16 contact hours of classroom instruction per credit.  In a four-credit course taken during a semester, you will participate in approximately 60-64 hours of instruction. When you transfer your earned credits to a college with a different academic calendar, whether quarter or semester calendar, the Registrar at the new school will convert your credits to the system in use there.  Thus, if you transfer from quarters to semesters, your number of quarter credits will be multiplied by about 2/3 to convert them to semester credits, because during the term you earned them you received about 2/3 the amount of instruction you would have had in an equivalent course on semesters. You would receive 2 semester credits for 3 quarter credits.

If you transferred from semesters to quarters, the computation would multiply your credits by 1.5, thus giving you 6 quarter credits for a 4-semester credit course.

Another important piece of information is cost.  What will it cost per term or semester, and what will it cost overall to complete your bachelor’s degree?  Also find out what kinds of scholarships and financial assistance are available through each school.  If your grades have not been astronomical before, don’t give up!  Federal financial aid is awarded to admitted students who are in good academic standing, and are making satisfactory academic progress toward a degree or a certificate.  The key point is keep making steady progress toward your goal, and when you become admitted to a college, you will have assistance provided to help you bridge the money gap.

The first step to qualifying for any financial help is submission of the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Do this online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov.  It does not hurt to list more than one school code on your FAFSA.  Listing a school will enable it to receive information about your eligibility for financial aid and be ready to work with you if you make the final decision to attend there.

associate's or bachelor's degree students throwing graduation capsWhile we’re talking about cost, don’t overlook the private universities because they appear to be  more expensive than the public universities!  Oftentimes, the private not-for-profit schools are comparable in price with public schools, or if they are more expensive, they have more financial help available than the public schools, thanks to sources such as endowments and gifts from alumni.  This may mean that your bottom line cost of attendance at the private college will be less than at the public college, when you factor in the greater financial aid that is awarded to you.  It is quite possible that a high-quality private college education can cost you no more than the public institution would – and you will have experienced a very high quality of education.

Perhaps you are transitioning from a local community college to an online bachelor’s degree program through a college or university in your region or in another state. If you live in a rural area, or if your work schedule demands out of town travel or variable shifts, this might be a convenient way for you to achieve your educational goals.  Follow the steps outlined in this article just as if it was an on campus program.

Final words about transferring from an associate’s to bachelor’s degree:  Look hard to find exactly what you are excited about studying, with your career plans in mind, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Good luck!

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Becoming an Accountant through Online Classes

One Student’s Journey

We recently posted a blog article about how to complete CPA requirements through online classes.  Here we will go deeper into this topic with an interview of Brian Roberts, a recent graduate of Linfield DCE’s Post-Baccalaureate Accounting Certificate, about his experience taking online accounting classes to pursue a career as an accountant.

Q: What are your reasons for choosing a career as an accountant?

A: I chose a career in accounting because of the opportunities, flexibility and compensation.

Q: What steps have you taken to find out about career opportunities in the field of accounting that you would recommend to others?Accountant Brian Roberts

A: I met with recruiters, joined the Oregon Society of Certified Public Accountants, attended luncheons and talked with people in the industry.  Talking with recruiters was particularly helpful.  They told me what to expect as an accountant and put me in contact with other accountants.  I found that people were eager to help and talk about their careers.

Q: You earned a bachelor’s degree in another field some years ago, and as a working adult you returned to college to achieve a post baccalaureate accounting certificate. Would you recommend this approach to other adults?

A: I would recommend this approach for adults who are trying to  open new doors for their career.  In my situation there were very few opportunities for growth at my work and obtaining a post baccalaureate accounting certificate was one way for me to set my career on a new path.

Q: You have completed your accounting certificate through online courses, and while working full-time. What advice do you have for how to succeed in online accounting courses? What skills made the difference in your achievement in class?

A: Working full-time and taking courses is difficult.  To succeed you must be motivated and disciplined.  I developed a study schedule which meant reading and doing homework on certain nights of the week.

Q: In the online classroom, were you able to establish communication and rapport with the instructor and with other students?

A: Online classrooms encourage students to share personal experiences that help bring the information out of the textbook and into the real world.  I believe that sharing these experiences with the rest of the class helps build communication and rapport with others in the class.

Q:  How did the instructors in your online courses provide materials and assistance that aided you in mastering the knowledge of the courses?

A: The instructors posted links to their favorite websites, they guided the discussion by posing questions and elaborated on topics from the book.

Q: What is the funniest thing that happened in class? The best moments?

A: The best moments from my classes were the times when I could relate the material from the book to something I was experiencing in my job.  I enjoyed sharing these experiences with others and enjoyed it when they could share personal stories that related to our material.

Q: What have you learned from your experience that accounting firms are looking for when they hire staff accountants, as far as education and experience goes?

A: Accounting firms are looking for students who are self-motivated, life-long learners, with communication skills and can manage their time wisely.  These characteristics relate directly to those of us who have returned to school to pursue additional certification.   Also, for better or worse, firms rely heavily on your grades and expect a GPA of at least 3.0.

Q: What steps did you take when looking for employment in the accounting field?

A: Refined my resume, met with career counselors, met with recruiters of accounting firms to determine what they were looking for, asked them about their recruiting events and attended as many as I could.

Q: When would you recommend beginning to make contact with accounting firms?

A: It is important to connect with accounting firms as soon as possible because they typically recruit students one year ahead of time.  Many firms do their recruiting in the fall so if you are midway through the Post Baccalaureate Accounting Certificate you should be applying for positions in the fall before you graduate in spring or summer.  If you are taking 300 and 400 level courses in a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting, it’s time to make contact with accounting firms. Some accounting firms have internships, and depending on your present employment situation, you  may want to look into internship possibilities as well.

Q: What professional organizations would you recommend joining for an adult student with plans to become an accountant?

A: I recommend joining the society of CPAs in your state.  In addition many firms have social profiles which you can join to learn more about the company and the industry.  Try searching for a firm you are interested in on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Q: How well do you think that your Linfield accounting courses have prepared you with the knowledge that you will need to pass the CPA Exam and to enter the profession?

A: I believe that my courses have provided me with a strong foundation from which to build upon when I begin to study for the CPA exams and enter the industry.

Q: Now that you’ve achieved the Post Baccalaureate Accounting Certificate, how do you plan to prepare for the CPA Exam?

A: One thing that I have heard from a number of newly Certified Public Accountants is that a review course is very helpful.  I plan to take this advice and enroll in a CPA review course prior to taking any of the CPA exams.

Q: Is there anything else that you would like to share from your experience?

A: People are eager to help but it is up to you to make the connection.  Recruiters, counselors, advisors, accountants are all available to help you get to where you want to be but it’s up to you to communicate with them and make the most of what they have to offer.

About Brian:

Brian Roberts is a 27-year old father, husband and full-time employee living and working in Portland, OR.  In 2005 he obtained his Bachelors degree in Economics from Portland State University and began working at Linfield College – Portland Campus.  In the fall of 2008 he returned to school through Linfield’s Division of Continuing Education to pursue a post-baccalaureate certificate in accounting.  Brian is looking forward to September 2010 when he will begin a new career at a local public accounting firm.

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