The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Category: Student Experience (page 1 of 6)

Countdown to Commencement: (Re)Meet Kara Wasnewsky, Brandeis GPS Commencement Student Speaker

In 2015, Brandeis GPS profiled Kara Wasnewsky (Noonan), a student in our instructional design graduate program. Two years later, we are thrilled to announce that Kara has been selected as this year’s student commencement speaker. We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Kara about her journey and how her experience in the MS in Instructional Design and Technology has influenced her career path.

When she started the part-time, online graduate program, Kara was an Associate Media Producer at Pearson looking for a master’s degree that “provided the ideal integration of edtech and instructional design.” We checked back in with Kara recently and to hear her reflections on her experience in the IDT, the impact it had on her career, and advice she has for future students.

A more strategic role

A year after Kara began the program, she was promoted to a learning tool strategist. Now, instead of working on media components that go into larger products, she creates more complex learning tools that can be used within a product or on their own. Working on instructional videos and other learning tools, Kara explained to us how her video production methods have evolved even further as she continued the program.

“I learned to utilize visuals and narration to create an effective learning experience. When designing instructional videos you must be cautious of cognitive overload. I have been much more deliberate about the decisions I make for the visuals used in the videos I produce. I make sure that the visuals enhance the concept that is being discussed in the video, rather than just being there to decorate the screen.”

Kara also noted that the most rewarding outcome of the program for her is the confidence she has gained. “With the knowledge and skills gained through the Brandeis program, I have become much more confident in my ideas. I speak up much more on the projects I work on because I know what will be most beneficial for the learner and can back up my ideas with science.” Building on her new skills gained through her master’s degree, Kara hope to one day transition to an instructional designer at a college or university, working closely with instructors and immediately track the impact of the learning experiences they create.

Learning from peers

While in the IDT program, Kara was able to learn from her classmates, not just her instructors. She noted this as a valuable part of her learning experience.

“Fellow students are really key to these online courses, since a lot of our understanding comes from the sharing of ideas between us. My classmates came from various roles in higher ed, k-12 and corporate training. I work in a corporate environment, but I create learning experiences for undergraduate students, so I really took a lot away from the variety of backgrounds.

Reading the interpretations of a concept from these different perspectives helped me to understand it in new ways. Without the diversity of the class, I would have just interpreted things as I understood them through the context of my experience working at an academic publisher. I would not have uncovered the nuances with how things can be applied in different settings. It really made for some interesting discussions.”

As a creator of online learning tools, Kara is a proponent of the benefits of the online classroom, and thinks that the greatest benefit of this learning style is the opportunity for thoughtful reflection.

“In a face-to-face course discussions happen spur of the moment, so it is difficult to really have rich discussions. I was always quiet in classes, so I rarely even participated in discussions. In the online courses at Brandeis you are required to post weekly to a discussion board and to comment on two posts of your peers. The posts that are made are always very thoughtful, since the student has time think about what they are going to post before they do.”

A note to future students

Kara advises future students to “think about what your personal goals are for obtaining the degree and make sure that you get everything you can out of the program. Many of the projects that will be completed in the program can be tailored to your specific interests, so if you identify those interests early you will have an impressive portfolio of work that is in line with your personal goals.”

Kara certainly followed her own advice and we look forward to hearing about her future accomplishments. Congratulations Kara and the entire class of 2017!

This year’s 2017 commencement ceremony will take place on Sunday, May 21, at 8 a.m. Follow #GPSclassof2017 to be part of the celebration!

Standards of excellence in online learning

The stigma that surrounded online learning when it first came to market is no more, with more students taking online classes than ever before. A National Center for Education Statistics report found that graduate students enrolled in fully online courses in 2014 made up 25 percent of all graduate enrollments that year. Why the shift? U.S. News and World Report hypothesizes that online course delivery from elite educational institutions played a role in changing people’s perceptions of what it’s like to learn inside a virtual classroom.

Online graduate students at Brandeis are held to the same standards of excellence as any other student enrolled in the nationally ranked university. Brandeis GPS students join a network of thousands of students and alumni who are passionate, dedicated change-makers. GPS students experience a curriculum built with the same academic rigor that drives the entire university. All GPS classes meet comprehensive standards for online course development and delivery. Under the guidance of professional advisory boards, each online degree program undergoes extensive biennial reviews that examine programmatic content to ensure industry relevancy.

Founded in 1948, at a time when universities had quotas based on race, religion, and gender, Brandeis championed the idea that people should be able to attend university solely based on their academic merit. While there are no such quotas today, Brandeis University still upholds these principles of diversity and inclusivity. GPS is dedicated to extending the benefit of a Brandeis graduate education to a diverse working professional population.

With the abundance of online resources GPS offers, local students can also take advantage of the state-of-the-art facilities on campus, including the library and the gym.

Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies division (GPS) is dedicated to developing innovative programs for working professionals. GPS offers 11 fully online, part-time master’s degrees and one online graduate certificate. With four 10-week session each year, Brandeis GPS provides exceptional programs with a convenient and flexible online approach. Courses are small by design and led by industry experts who deliver individualized support and professional insights. For more information on our programs visit the Brandeis GPS website.

5 ways to turn a loud home into a quiet study space

As an online student, it can be tricky to find the right place study  particularly if you’re someone who prefers a quiet work-space. If roommates, children, or even a busy street make it challenging for you to find a quiet study environment at home, we’ve got some tips for you!

Five ways to turn a loud home into a quiet study space

  1. Create a permanent study space. Differentiating between spaces in your home that are for relaxing versus doing work is crucial. Make a work station stocked with pens, sticky notes, chargers, snacks or anything else you need to help increase your productivity. Try to consistently use this space for school work and school work alone. This allows to you always associate this space with work and can also minimize distraction. Tip: If possible, try not to make this space in your bedroom. You are more likely to gravitate towards your bed if you can see it calling your name!
  2. Ask everyone to keep the volume down. This one may seem like a no-brainer, but give it a try. Make your children, roommates, or anyone else around aware that you need a bit of quiet time to finish your work before you can join them. With a quieter environment you are more likely to power through your work so everyone can resume their fun. You may a feel a little guilty about imposing a volume restriction, but it’s only temporary and it never hurts to ask, right? Tip: If you live in a noisy area download one of these sound machine apps or crank up the volume on some relaxing tunes.
  3. Eliminate all distractions. Turn your phone on airplane mode, move everything off your desk that isn’t related to your work, and for those who get really easily distracted, check out the Self Control App and block distracting websites on your computer.
  4. Keep track of time. Keep a clock or watch on hand and set a goal for yourself. If you know you want to be done within an hour, you’re more likely to stick to this goal if you hold yourself accountable and stay aware of the time.
  5. Find your hour of productivity. Do you work best if you’ve had some time to eat and relax? Or maybe you’re most productive if you dive right in when you get home from work. Find your most productive time and make it a habit to always conquer your work when you’re feeling most motivated. Tip: If you want to power through but know you’ll be distracted by your growling stomach, prepare a quick healthy snack to hold you over.

Any personal tips to share? Tweet your favorites to @BrandeisGPS!

Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies division (GPS) is dedicated to developing innovative programs for working professionals. GPS offers 11 fully online, part-time master’s degrees and one online graduate certificate. With four 10-week session each year, Brandeis GPS provides exceptional programs with a convenient and flexible online approach. Courses are small by design and led by industry experts who deliver individualized support and professional insights. For more information on our programs visit the Brandeis GPS website.

Brandeis GPS student to receive national award for achievements in health and information technology

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) will award GPS Health and Medical Informatics student Jill Shuemaker with the Richard P. Covert, PhD, LFHIMSS Scholarship for Management Systems, a national award recognizing her contributions to the field of health and information technology in 2016.

The award coincides with Shuemaker’s emergence as a national expert in health and medical informatics. As a registered nurse with Virginia Commonwealth University Health System, Shuemaker developed a patient-centered, analytic, teamwork-based approach that single-handedly ensures her organization’s electronic quality measure program fully meets federal regulatory requirements. She also advocates on a national level for advancing patient care through sound measurement design, implementation of quality program changes and vendor accountability.

Jill Shuemaker

Jill Shuemaker, a Brandeis GPS Health and Medical Informatics student

“HIMSS is proud to honor individuals that have made significant contributions to our mission of improving health through the use of information technology,” JoAnn W. Klinedinst, M.Ed., CPHIMS, PMP, DES, FHIMSS, vice president, professional development, HIMSS North America said in a press release. “Congratulations to all of the award and scholarship recipients for their achievements and for their skills and expertise focused on improving health and healthcare through the best use of IT.”

Shuemaker is currently enrolled in the Health and Medical Informatics graduate program at Brandeis University’s division of Graduate Professional Studies. As a part-time, fully online student, Shuemaker continues to advance her career as she works to improve and transform the healthcare industry.

In addition to her work as an RN, Shuemaker is a Certified Professional in Health Information Management Systems (CPHIMS) and Co-Chair of HIMSS National Quality and Safety Committee, where she interacts directly with clinicians, technical staff, and even federal officials on a routine basis.  She will officially receive her award later this month at the HIMSS annual Awards Gala in Orlando, Florida.

About Brandeis GPS

Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies division (GPS) is dedicated to bringing an exceptional graduate education experience to adult learners across the country and the world. The division’s catalog of 12 fully online, part-time master’s degrees and certificates represents today’s most innovative industries, offering students opportunities to advance in management, technology, data informatics, marketing and other fields. With small classes, a convenient and flexible approach to online learning, and faculty who are leaders in their industries, GPS fosters a community that is mindful of its students’ professional, academic and personal commitments. As a leading research university and member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, Brandeis fosters self-motivated, curious students ready to engage new experiences and global endeavors. The university is widely recognized for the excellence of its teaching, the quality and diversity of its student body and the outstanding research of its faculty.

GPS student wins big at Brandeis Innovation’s SPARKTank competition

Brandeis Bioinformatics student Donald Son and his team of entrepreneurs took third place in last Sunday’s university-wide SPARKTank competition, an annual live-pitch event hosted by Brandeis Innovation.

Competing against 12 other groups seeking seed funding to bring their startups to market, Son’s team received $10,000 to further their work on Green Herb Analytics (HerbDx). The California-based facility uses analytical chemistry, software integration and medicinal cannabinoid biology to provide quality assurance lab testing and ensure that the product entering the market is safe for human consumption. The startup also seeks to establish an innovative, cutting-edge brand with affordable prices.

While Son himself does not use cannabis, he has a personal connection to unregulated supplements and medicines and their impact on public health.

“I take herbs to manage my chronic fatigue syndrome and was initially concerned about what I was putting into my body,” said Son. “During my own research, I came across cannabis just as it was being voted on for recreational use in California. I felt the need to ensure the safety of this product to the consumer.”

HerbDx plans to put its seed funding toward a small lab space, a mass spectrometer to optimize pesticide testing, and to advance production and marketing efforts. Outreach efforts will include an increased digital and social media presence, partnerships with special interest groups, and visibility at trade shows and conferences.

About SPARKTank
SPARKTank is a live pitch event where Brandeis entrepreneurs compete for seed funding in front of a live audience. Thirteen teams comprised of Brandeis students, faculty and staff pitched their innovative ideas to a panel of industry judges with the hopes of receiving a portion of the $50,000 grant pool. The pitches included startups, technologies and entrepreneurial ventures, which demonstrated the extensive breadth of entrepreneurial spirit at Brandeis University.

The best free apps for online students

Students who are earning their master’s degrees while also working full-time have a lot on their plates, and often not a lot of room in their bags. Between laptops, tablets, take-home work assignments or text books, having everything you need to transition from a working professional to an adult learner and back again can be, well…a literal weight on your shoulders. Luckily for us, it’s 2017, and there’s an app for that. Here’s a list of our favorite tools that can studying at work, at home, during your commute, or anywhere in between a little bit easier.

Tiny Scanner Enjoy taking notes on paper, but don’t want to carry your book or notepad along with you? Tiny Scanner allows you to take a picture of any sheet of paper and easily convert it into a PDF to email to yourself. Carry your work with you wherever you go, and don’t lug around more than you have to.

RefME Need some citation help with that research paper? With RefME, you can choose from over 7,500 citation styles, scan the barcode of your book or journal, and RefME automatically fills in the rest. Take some of the stress out of your assignments with this convenient tool.

Google Drive Many of us use the desktop version of Google Drive to store our documents and study materials but can’t easily access these material on our smartphones. Download the Google Drive app and access your files on the go.

Flashcards+ Do you prefer to study with flashcards over your lunch break but keep forgetting to toss them in your briefcase? With Flashcards+, you can create custom-made flashcards and access them on the go. Never worry again about losing a card or two while you’re out and about. These virtual flashcards aren’t going anywhere.

Scribd Create your own custom e-library and download all the books and texts you need.

Graphing Calculator Forget about carrying around your old TI-84. Graphing Calculator handles more complicated data sets than the standard smartphone calculator.

Pandora– Working in a loud space and need some music to put you in your own world? Tip: classical music helps many people focus in a loud space.

1Password– Keep your passwords all in one place with the secure and convenient 1Password app. You’ll save yourself time and effort and you’ll never have to go through the “forgot my password” process again.

Microsoft OneNoteDon’t want to carry around a notepad or notebook? Microsoft OneNote lets you take notes on your smartphone. With this app you can take notes, make to-do lists, and access these documents from anywhere by simply logging into your account.

Did we leave one of your favorite apps off our list? Tweet your suggestions to @BrandeisGPS!

Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies division (GPS) is dedicated to developing innovative programs for working professionals. GPS offers 11 fully online, part-time master’s degrees and one online graduate certificate. With three 10-week terms each year, Brandeis GPS provides exceptional programs with a convenient and flexible online approach. Courses are small by design and led by industry experts who deliver individualized support and professional insights. For more information on our programs visit the Brandeis GPS website.

How to be a Productive Online Student

Online master’s degrees at accredited universities have become increasingly popular over recent years. Many programs, like the ones offered at Brandeis GPS, cater to professionals who are working full time and are seeking a degree to move the needle on their career. Truly asynchronous programs – where students aren’t required to log into a class at a certain time – allow students to set their own schedule when it comes to their academic study.  But for some online learners, the lack of structure can be a challenge. Below are some tips to help you achieve the perfect work-life-school balance while pursuing an online degree.

Schedule Your Time
Schedule your school time just like you would schedule an appointment or meeting. Consistency can be key. And don’t forget to get creative with your study time. Have a long train ride as part of your commute? Take care of your weekly readings while you ride. Drive to work? See if your text book has an audio version and listen in the car. Find a regular time to do your coursework, and soon it will become a part of your daily routine.

Find Your Place of Productivity
Ask yourself when you are most productive. Perhaps it’s on that long train ride where you easily focus. Are you most productive on Sunday afternoons while sitting in your local library? Do you enjoy staying in your pajamas and doing work from your kitchen table? There is no right answer as everyone has different zones of productivity. Make sure the space where you want to work is available and distraction-free in advance. You will get everything done a lot faster if you go in knowing this is your time and place for coursework.

Take a Break
If you have an assignment deadline approaching, you may be tempted to come home after a long day of work and open your computer to get your schoolwork done as quickly as you can. Don’t do that – you want to put your best foot forward! Separate your job from your coursework, take some time to relax, go to the gym, or eat a snack. Keep your brain power focused on what you’re doing so you can achieve results that make you proud.

Participate and Stay Engaged
In an online classroom, it is easy to keep quiet and only participate when necessary. Don’t take that approach: you’re here to learn, after all! Schools like GPS intentionally offer small classes to foster engagement and collaboration among your peers and instructors.

Stay tuned for more tips on how to be a productive online student, and don’t forget to reach out to your advisor or instructor for guidance.

Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies division (GPS) is dedicated to developing innovative programs for working professionals. GPS offers 11 fully online, part-time master’s degrees and one online graduate certificate. With three 10-week terms each year, Brandeis GPS provides exceptional programs with a convenient and flexible online approach. Courses are small by design and led by industry experts who deliver individualized support and professional insights. For more information on our programs visit the Brandeis GPS website.

Army Reservist shares his GPS experience in his own words

Faces of GPS | Steve Boardman

In 2014, I was in pursuit of a career plan for the next 20 years of my life and chose to leverage my IT experience as a software developer to shift into consulting as a business intelligence and big data analytics expert. In search of a graduate program to help propel me into that evolving field, I spent more than 100 hours researching many data science and analytics degree options.

I found the Master of Science in Strategic Analytics at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies (GPS) to be the best fit for my life situation for many reasons:

  • The core curriculum and available electives seemed to be a well-balanced mix of business application, management, and technical disciplines.
  • The industry-experienced GPS faculty was a benefit because it enhanced my learning based on my prior undergraduate experience.
  • As an Army Reservist, the ability to conduct coursework online is an essential benefit. Moreover, the 10-week terms with a significant break between them promote a good work, school, and life balance, enabling students to complete the program in only 2 and a half years,  taking one course at a time.
  • The tuition fees were lower than other competing schools, and would be covered by my Post-911 GI Bill VA benefits by 90 percent.

Since I started the Strategic Analytics program with GPS in spring 2015, I have completed seven courses toward my degree thus far and plan to graduate in the summer of 2017. Much of the knowledge that I’ve gained from the coursework has been directly applicable to my current position as an archival data systems development consultant. From what I’ve learned, I’ve been able to conduct more focused data analysis and produce more meaningful results to management, which has helped me earn their confidence and trust. As a result, I was given the lead role in spearheading my client’s business intelligence and data management strategy for analytics in September 2015. My return on investment is being realized even before completing my degree requirements.

boardman_wife_mil_formalCharging through the academic rigors of the program’s coursework and research has been achievable without a major sacrifice from family time and other activities. Living and working in Charleston, SC, with my wife and five-year-old daughter, my evenings during the week and weekends are well-balanced. Not every evening is spent doing school work, which my wife is very happy about. While taking at least one course per term, I am able to work a challenging full-time IT job, lead a platoon size unit in the Army Reserve part-time, play drums in a professional local rock band, and spend plenty of quality time with my family. I am grateful to my employer who pays for my remaining 10 percent tuition out of pocket. Now that GPS offers a 15% discount on tuition for active military and veterans, that saves my employer and the VA around $500 per course. Choosing the MS in Strategic Analytics at GPS was one of my best decisions, as it has proven to better my quality of life.

Steve Boardman is a software development professional with over 20 years of experience providing leadership in developing IT solutions for a variety of industries. He specializes in Enterprise Architecture (EA), Business Intelligence (BI) Strategy, Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) Implementation, Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), Systems Integration, Application Development, and Legacy System Migration.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

Conquering your application to graduate school

Faces of GPS | Rebecca Weiss

Rebecca WeissOne of the greatest parts of my job is that I am always working with applicants, no matter the time of year. While my counterparts in admissions offices at other universities may have one busy season leading up to their fall application deadline, here at GPS, we have rolling admissions throughout the year and three entry points: fall, spring and summer.

What sets GPS’s admissions process apart is the holistic view that we take when evaluating candidates. Since all our applicants are part-time students and full-time working professionals, we do not focus solely on the typical set of numbers that are associated with graduate school admissions: GPA, GRE, GMAT, school rank, etc. I would like to share a few other factors about what makes GPS unique – these are things that folks should definitely keep in mind as they’re considering pursuing a master’s degree:

  • No GMAT or GRE! If you decide to apply to GPS, do not worry about these exams: we do not require them for admission. We don’t feel like they speak to the nature of what is required to excel in our programs.
  • Experience matters. While some applicants may have studied an undergraduate major relevant to their desired graduate program, many have not. Make sure to highlight your skills, certifications and expertise in your application! (Please note that some programs may have specific requirements, which you can see by clicking on your program of interest here.)
  • Show *and* tell us. The statement of goals is an important piece of our application. We want to know why you are interested in your desired program, what experiences led you down this path, and the goals you hope to achieve through your desired program.
  • Why wait? We have rolling admissions, so while Dec. 13 is our spring 2017 deadline, once your application is complete, we provide you with a decision within 2-3 weeks. This gives you ample time to choose spring courses, connect with your student advisor, and plan out your degree.

<<Start your GPS application>>

I love speaking with our applicants, so please feel free to contact me over email, phone, or if you live in the Boston area, in person! Applying for a master’s degree is a big decision, so I am happy to talk you through the steps and answer any questions you have.

Rebecca Weiss is the Assistant Director of Admissions and Recruitment at GPS, and with her four years of experience in the office, she has a lot of great advice to offer prospective GPS students.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

Online learning: your questions, answered

According to a recent National Center for Education Statistics report on fall 2013 higher education enrollments, more than 670,000 students pursued a degree using online coursework. Where you one of them? If not, you likely have questions about how online learning works. Is it interactive enough? Do students learn in online classes? What are the benefits of online classes vs. traditional classes? What is the timing like?

Online Learning FAQs

We can’t speak for every accredited institution that offers online graduate programs, but we put together some frequently asked questions about the approach we take to online learning at Brandeis GPS:

 

How does online learning at GPS work?
All our courses take place on a Moodle-based platform called LATTE. You’ll log into LATTE to view and download all your readings and assignments; submit projects, papers and exams; receive grades and feedback from your instructors; and participate in class discussions. You’ll find that our approach to online learning is very flexible and convenient: while most GPS courses require you to meet certain assignment deadlines throughout the week, you can log in from any time zone or location to complete your work.

Does Graduate Professional Studies offer student visas to international students?
GPS is unable to issue student visas for its part-time programs, in accordance with U.S. immigration regulations.

What is the maximum number of courses I can take per term?
You can take up to two courses per term. Your student advisor will work with you to determine your bandwidth and schedule for each term.

Can I take a course before formally applying to a program?
Yes, you can to take up to two courses before you formally apply to a program. The completion of courses as a non-matriculated student does not guarantee acceptance into a program, nor does it guarantee courses will satisfy degree requirements.

Are Brandeis and GPS accredited?
Yes, Brandeis University and the Rabb School,Graduate Professional Studies are accredited by NEASC, New England Association of Schools and Colleges.  NEASC is recognized by the US Department of Education as an official accrediting body.

How many courses do the master’s degrees require?
Master’s programs at Graduate Professional Studies are comprised of ten 3-credit courses.

What is the average class size for GPS online classes?
There are generally 16 to 20 students per course. Courses are capped at 20 students.

How long do I have to complete my degree?
You have up to five years to complete a master’s degree from the time you take your first course.

How long do I have to complete a certificate program?
You have up to three years to complete a graduate certificate program.

How many terms are offered in each academic year?
Graduate Professional Studies offers three 10-week terms per academic year.

Can I meet GPS students or instructors in person?
Yes! We offer several on-campus networking events each year. We also hold a commencement ceremony on campus each May. You can find information about scheduled networking events by visiting the Mark Your Calendars page on our website.

What are the GPS application deadlines?
We offer rolling admissions, so you can apply and be accepted at any time. However, if you’re seeking admission for a specific term, please be mindful of the following deadlines for 2016-17 academic year:

Fall: Aug. 16
Spring: Dec. 13
Summer: April 25

Do you require the GRE or GMAT?
We do not! These exams do not test to what our programs are about. Because our degrees are geared toward students who are currently working and seeking to advance their careers in specific industries, we take a more holistic approach toward evaluating applicants. Some of the qualifications we look for include work experience, professional recommendations, and statements of goals. Read more about our application requirements here.

How can I finance my education? Do you offer financial aid?
Our dedicated financial aid counselor will work with you to find the best financial option for you. Many of our students receive tuition reimbursements from their employers. GPS students who have been accepted to a program are also eligible for federal students loans as long as they take two courses per term. Please visit our website for more information.

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