Virtual College Blog

Virtual College Commencement 2014

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This weekend at FHSU we celebrated the 2014 commencement! Friday night was Graduate school and Saturday morning was Undergraduate. The FHSU Virtual College hosted the annual Graduation Breakfast at the Robbins Alumni Center.   Graduates attended from all over the country, including one that traveled from Honolulu, HI. For many, this was their first trip to campus. We had a great day and really enjoyed meeting and spending some time with our virtual college students. 

Here are a few of the photos from the Graduation Breakfast:

President Hammond with Virtual College Graduate

Dennis King talks to Graduates

Doctor Tisa Mason talks with Graduates

Graduation Breakfast

Graduates at Breakfast

Graduation Breakfast 2014

 

FHSU Graduate School Commencement – Friday May 16th, 2014

Thanks to the Fort Hays State University Virtual College I'm proof that you CAN get your Master's with a full-time job, husband, dog and 2 kids, while selling one house, building another house and moving! It took me more than 3 years to complete, but it feels so good to be done. Go Tigers!! “ 

~ Hayley Bieker

  Hayley Beiker at Graduate Ceremony

What It Takes to Succeed Online

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Albert Einstein once said “If A is success in life, then A = X + Y +Z. Work is X; Y is play; and Z is keeping your mouth shut.” I’m not sure about Z, but all are important elements of a balanced and productive life. Attaining and maintaining that balance is crucial for success in successfully completing an online education program.

We frequently ask Virtual College students how they maintain balance in their lives as they pursue an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree online. The answers are sometimes amusing, but underneath the humor is a very obvious dedication to completing something they started. One student wrote, “I have a job that goes until about 6:00 in the evening. Then I go pick up my two kids, go home, fix dinner, help with their schoolwork, get them in the bath and get them to bed. So my school day starts about 10:00 p.m. With luck, I get to bed about 1:00 a.m. But only a year and a half left – and then hopefully a better job and more time with the family – or sleeping!”

Obviously, self-discipline is very important to succeed in an online degree program. You have to make time to get the class assignments done and submitted, and you have to make time to study and learn the material. Our best students have learned to be organized and to make the most of the time they have available.

Most online programs today use a learning management system, or LMS, to facilitate the delivery of course material. You may be familiar with Blackboard, Moodle, Angel, WebCT, or other systems. They are similar in function, providing a “virtual classroom” for online students. They’re accessible anywhere you have an internet connection, and while I wouldn’t try to do a whole course on a smartphone, it probably could be done. Most don’t require that you be a tech guru, but you do have to be comfortable learning new ways to do things.

Log in at least three times a week to make sure you know what’s going on. If you have technical problems, get help at your earliest opportunity. If you’re taking an exam online, turn off everything on your computer except the exam (no music streaming, etc.). I would also suggest that you make sure you have all the bandwidth that’s available in your house or apartment. The kids watching Hulu or Netflix in the next room will eat up a lot of your internet connection and could cause problems while you’re taking the exam. Have them watch a DVD instead for that hour or so. Taking care of this before going into the exam will go a long way to ensuring that your computer won’t lock up on you or kick you out of the exam space.

Contact your professors and support services early in the semester or course term. A lot of people think that an online course isn’t interactive just because people are separated by geography. Not true. As an instructor, some of the best interactions I’ve had with students have been in my online classes. Be proactive. In addition to your submissions, share some of your thoughts with your professor. Ask questions – especially if you are having trouble with any of the assignments. Find out early what student support services are available and appropriate for a given class – library online databases, tutoring services, writing centers, financial aid, etc. – and connect with them for assistance.

Stay in close contact with your advisor. Talk to your advisor at a minimum of once a semester, more often if necessary. They will reach out to you throughout the year. When they do, respond as soon as you can.

I think the final thing, but perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is “How badly do I want this degree?” There are sacrifices to be made, a lot of hard work to be done, and there will be times when the end is not clearly in sight and your determination may waver. As Stephen Covey (author of The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People) said, “Begin with the end in mind.” Start your educational journey knowing all the good things that will come from attaining a higher level of education, and stay focused on your goal.

If you have any questions about learning at a distance, or about our programs, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re always here to help you.

Improving the Online Experience for Students

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Fort Hays State University’s Virtual College will soon give another benefit for its students. An agreement with Blackboard Inc. will improve reliability and add online teaching tools to FHSU’s education platform.

Starting this summer, FHSU will switch to Blackboard’s Managed Hosting. The change will be most noticeable by the improved performance, but it will also add features such as Blackboard Collaborate, which will allow for multiple functions such as videoconferences and instant messaging through Blackboard.

This upgrade to Blackboard is an outgrowth of the university’s commitment to continuous improvement, evidenced by the creation two years ago of the Student Engagement and Advisory Center.

Recent continuous improvement initiatives from the Virtual College include:

  • Working with the Student Government Association to establish the Virtual College Student Advisory Committee;
  • Conducting a student affairs and Virtual College taskforce on areas for improvement;
  • Adding a student authentication tool to identify cheating;
  • Online teaching/adjunct resource center and training site;
  • Working with the Enterprise Leadership Committee to create a wait list for the online TigerEnroll system.

"FHSU’s commitment to continuous improvement will keep the university as the leader of high-quality distance education, and providing a support network of faculty, staff and alumni that we are all proud of",” said Dennis King, director of the Virtual College and learning technologies.

A Virtual Student's Success Story

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Today, more than 8,000 students in over 20 countries make up our virtual student body at Fort Hays State University. So, you may be aware of the partnerships that we’ve created with various Universities over in China, but did you know that even islanders out in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean have recognized the value of an education from FHSU’s Virtual College? Let’s take Mariana Faiai for example. Mariana lives on the island of American Samoa where higher education opportunities are far and few between. The American Samoa Community College there on the island provides a great starting block for students wanting to get a College Education, but after those two years of study, students have no other option but to move off the island to attend a University. Recently, more and more students in American Samoa are realizing that they do have other options thanks to FHSU’s online degree programs. These online programs offer them the opportunity to pursue a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree without leaving the island, their family, their friends and their jobs. Though 6,000 miles away, Mariana completed her Bachelors program in a year and a half as she took full load classes in the spring, fall, and summer semesters. She didn’t take a break after the Bachelors program and immediately started her Masters, once again through FHSU’s Virtual College. In her senior year, just when Mariana thought she was in the home stretch of reaching a huge educational milestone, her world was torn to pieces. Not only did her husband suffer from a terrible heart attack, but in the second-to-last semester of Mariana’s Master’s program, her house was destroyed by the devastating tsunami that hit the Western District of America Samoa. Despite the struggles of the tsunami, the health of her husband, raising a daughter, and working full-time, Mariana continued forward and graduated from FHSU with a Bachelor’s in Justice Studies and a Master’s of Liberal Studies (MLS) in Social Sciences. Not only did Mariana graduate with her Bachelor’s and Master’s, she also graduated with the admiration of FHSU’s faculty and received the National University Telecommunications Network (NUTN) Student Recognition Award!

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