The Brandeis GPS blog

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

Category: Be Balanced (page 1 of 2)

Tips for building relationships with virtual classmates

All learning —even digital learning — is a collaborative experience. Online students have the unique opportunity to connect with peers from all over the country and the world. Thanks to constant advances in instructional design, social networking and UX/UI, students pursuing online graduate degrees have the same opportunities to build meaningful relationships with their classmates as their on-campus counterparts. Read on for our guidelines on how to maximize these virtual relationships.

1) Practice empathetic communication

Empathetic communication, or empathetic listening, refers to the practice of listening with the intent to understand the speaker’s frame of reference for how they experience the world. Thanks to the nature of online learning, you may find yourself in a classroom full of people with different communication styles, norms and cultural values. Common slang that you’re used to may not resonate with a peer from a different country. When it comes to scheduling, be mindful of different time zones. And while it’s easy to get caught up in the stress of needing to complete a group project on a deadline, try being mindful of varying professional or personal commitments your classmates may have outside of school.

2) Choose a program that prioritizes learning experience design and peer engagement.

Not all online programs are created equally. As you evaluate your options for an online master’s degree, make sure you are considering programs that provide an optimal digital learning experience that prioritizes student-to-student interaction. Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies uses the latest best practices in online course design to foster peer engagement, and has offered online courses for more than a decade. Additionally, unlike MOOCs and other online education providers, Brandeis GPS caps courses at 20 students.

3) Make time for social interaction.

Connecting with your classmates on social media platforms like LinkedIn or Slack will allow you to engage on a more informal level. Many people use these tools to share career insights and interesting articles and trends, so you’ll be able to expand your professional network and learn a bit more about your industry. You may even learn about an interesting conference opportunity or a new position to apply to.

In addition to social media, make sure you take advantage of your program’s online learning module. Students at Brandeis GPS use a special social forum to chat about non-course-related events, such as current affairs, sports, or regional networking opportunities.

4) Write with clarity

When it comes to any online interaction, clear and concise writing is critical for optimal communication. But writing with clarity involves more than writing with brevity. Being intentional with the words you choose, how you format your writing, and the tone you mean to convey is essential for fostering strong virtual relationships. Here are some examples of how to write with clarity:

  • Don’t over-complicate things: why use fancy words when simple ones will do? If you do use words that are likely to be unfamiliar to the bulk of your audience, make sure you define them. This relates back to empathetic communication.
  • Keep your paragraphs short in discussion posts or emails – try for one or two sentences per paragraph, if possible.
  • Keep your sentences short.
  • Leverage writing tools like Microsoft Word’s readability stats or the Hemingway App.
  • Avoid passive voice.

5) Take advantage of technology

Today’s technology makes it easy to collaborate. Make your group projects a more seamless experience with tools like:

  • Zoom, which allows for cloud-based video and audio conferencing
  • User-friendly project management apps for virtual teams like Asana or Trello
  • Google Drive, which provides free cloud storage for online documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more. Drive also has a chat feature, which allows teams to easily collaborate while all working on a document.

Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies is committed to creating programs and courses that keep today’s professionals at the forefront of their industries. To learn more, visit www.brandeis.edu/gps

 

How to balance sunshine and studying

To many graduate students who follow a more traditional academic schedule, summer means pressing pause on their journeys toward an advanced degree. For part-time, online graduate students in programs designed to run all year, summer provides students an opportunity to continue the momentum and complete a degree in less time than they would if their program followed a conventional dual-semester model.

Students enrolled in these types of programs may wonder how their course commitments will impact summer travel and vacation. But taking a summer course does not need to mean the end of your summer fun. Here are some tips for balancing your course load while still enjoying your family, friends, or solo beach time.

Create a realistic plan

As soon as your summer course syllabus is available, read through it. Make note of any big assignments, exams, and final projects. If you know that you are going to be vacationing or having a busy week, then plan to complete your assignments ahead of schedule. Be honest with yourself about how much time you are going to need for your course. One of the worst things you can do when trying to be efficient with coursework is not planning enough time for your assignments; it creates more stress and can lead to work that is not up to par with your abilities. Make time for your assignments by creating a weekly routine that is practical for you. Here are some time management apps that can help you do just that.

Make use of technology

Make use of Wi-Fi and the portability/mobility that comes with an internet connection. Brandeis GPS is an example of a school that allows you to take online classes from any location. You can download course materials directly to your mobile device or laptop while traveling, and also access your classroom while on the go (or by the pool).

Utilize the small moments

Whether you are hanging by the beach or travelling to Japan, there are always small moments when you are on the move but can find a break. There may be no Wi-Fi on a plane or in a car, but you can use the travel time to prep your next discussion response, read through feedback from your instructor, or jot down ideas for your final project. By taking advantage of these spare moments, you may not even realize you’ve chipped away at school-related deadlines.

Find a program that sets you up for success

Brandeis GPS’s upcoming 10-week session runs from July 17 to Sept. 24. Courses are fully online and designed with a learning experience that supports adults working full-time.

Students interested in a Brandeis GPS graduate program can take courses before starting the application process. View the July course schedule here. To speak with an enrollment advisor, contact gps@brandeis.edu or 781-736-8787.

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!

Continue reading

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.

The Best Jobs for Life-Work Balance

Glassdoor, a popular jobs and recruitment website, recently released a crowd-sourced list of best jobs for achieving work-life balance. Many of the positions in the Glassdoor list directly correspond to the industry-driven master’s degrees offered at GPS. Among the 29 positions profiled include:

1. Lab Assistant
2. Creative Manager
3. Computer Programmer
4. Marketing Coordinator
5. Data Analyst
6. Content Manager
7. Web Designer
8. Social Media Manager
9. Scrum Master
10. Marketing Analyst
11. Devops Engineer
12. Mobile Developer
13. User Interface Designer
14. Data Scientist
15. User Experience Designer

Whether you currently hold one of the positions above or are interested in advancing into a similar job, you’re probably looking to achieve balance in all areas of your life. For those seeking to pursue a graduate degree, Brandeis GPS fosters a community that is mindful of the multiple demands facing adult learners and while offering the rigorous standards of excellence that makes Brandeis one of the top universities in the country.

On staying cool at the end of the summer term

It’s hard to believe, but tomorrow marks the start of the last week of classes for summer 2016 (time flies when you’re having fun!). If you’re a current student at GPS, this is likely one of your busiest weeks of the year. Perhaps you’re tempted to skip out on your discussion posts as you work to complete your final project. Perhaps you’re struggling to stay focused as your next vacation beckons. But before you mentally check out (or retreat into full-on study hibernation), check out our tips for making the most of your last week of class.

  1. Manage your time. Do what you can to map out what the next eight days are going to look like. Make a checklist of everything you need to do, and carve out blocks of time in your calendar when you know you’ll be able to sit down and focus. Try not to worry about missing out on social events, your kid’s soccer game, or your regular fitness class. Yes, you’re making sacrifices, but it’s only for a week!
  2. Minimize distraction. Try to find a place to study that gets you away from other things that demand your attention. Some students swear by the “white noise” provided by their local coffee shop, while others need the absolute quiet of their office after business hours.
  3. Don’t forget about those discussion posts. As enticing as it is to blow off your discussion posts, please remember that these posts make up 30 percent of your grade.
  4. Take some time to de-stress. Whether it’s a nightly meditation, an extra hour of sleep or a lunchtime walk, find something to do each day that will help you clear your mind. Bonus points if that something doesn’t involve a screen.

Good luck, and remember…

Cheers, you're almost there!

The best discounts for online graduate students

As an online graduate student following a less traditional schedule, it is often easy to forget that you have access to one of the greatest perks of being in school (rigorous education aside, of course) — the student discount!

From technology to entertainment to retail, the possibilities are endless when it comes to student discounts on national brands. We put together the following round up of companies that we think offer the best student discounts for graduate students. Let us know if we’re missing anything!

National student discounts

The best technology discounts for students
If your online graduate program is like Brandeis GPS, you can complete your coursework from any location. Your time is valuable, so stock up on the technology that enables you to learn on the go with the following tech student discounts:

  • Adobe. Benefit from student discounts on Photoshop, Illustrator and more with two different Adobe Creative Suites plans: “all apps” or “photography.” You can find more information on Adobe student discounts here.
  • Apple. Students receive 5% off most Apple purchases, as well as $200 off new Macs and $20 off new iPads. Learn more about Apple’s student discounts for graduate students. Brandeis students can purchase discounted Apple products here.
  • Best Buy. A valid “.edu” email address will get you special Best Buy student discounts on MacBooks, iPads, select Blue Label laptops and more. View Best Buy’s student discounts here.
  • Microsoft. Check out Microsoft’s Education Store for more info on Surface Pro student discounts and other discounted deals on software and tech accessories. Graduate student discounts on Microsoft Office products are also available.

Brandeis students can also take advantage of additional software discounts through Library & Technology Services.

The best retail student discounts
We know that you have a life outside the classroom — and that you have to dress for it. Whether you’re looking for professional attire or something to wear on the weekend, you’ll want to check out the following student discounts on clothing and accessories:

  • Ann Taylor. Register online and receive 15% off a full-price purchase. Ann Taylor student discounts are valid both in stores and online.
  • Banana Republic. Valid in stores only, the Banana Republic student discount will get you 15% off any full-priced item.
  • Eastern Mountain Sports. EMS student discounts include 15% off in-store purchases as well as 20% discounts on EMS brand outerwear and camping equipment. Contact your favorite Eastern Mountain Sports location for more information.

Additional student discounts for brands across the country
Last but not least, these online student discounts will come in handy for work, school or play:

  • Get rid of those pesky ads and access your playlists on the go with a 50% student discount on Spotify Premium. Learn more.

Remember, all students at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies receive student ID cards. Subscribe to our blog for other student tips.

If you’d like to learn more about other benefits of a Brandeis GPS education, contact our admissions team at 781-736-8787 or gps@brandeis.edu

How to be a successful online grad student this summer

For part-time, online graduate students, “school’s out for the summer” doesn’t necessarily apply.  Many colleges and universities offer summer terms, which bridge the gap between the traditional fall and spring semesters and allow students who are working full-time the opportunity to complete their graduate programs that much sooner.Brandeis Summer 1 - Brandeis GPS Blog - Brandeis GPS online Education

At the same time, taking classes from May to July doesn’t have to put a damper on your summer travel plans. GPS courses are fully online and asynchronous, meaning that students can access their coursework from any location and timezone. Here are some tips for managing your course load even when those beach trips, weddings and music festivals beckon:

  • Plan as far in advance as you can and be realistic. Look at what you have coming up over the next 10 weeks and make note of any out-of-town travel or big events. Check your syllabus and see when your big assignments and/or final projects or exams are due. If you know you’re spending a week away or have a particularly busy weekend, plan to complete your readings or discussion posts as early on as you can. Be honest with yourself about how much time you’ll need for your coursework each week, and build a schedule that’s feasible for you.

Brandeis Summer 2 - Brandeis GPS Blog - Brandeis GPS online Education Brandeis Summer 3 - Brandeis GPS Blog - Brandeis GPS online Education

  • Take advantage of the technology. Grab the Brandeis app for your phone or tablet and access your classroom on the go. Most of the textbooks assigned by our instructors are also available for e-readers.
  • Don’t be afraid of disconnecting. Summer travel generally involves planes, trains and long car rides (with or without wifi). With a little advanced planning and downloading, these large blocks of travel time can be a great opportunity to catch up on your reading, write your discussion posts or work on your final project.

Good luck to everyone taking courses this summer! For more information on GPS courses or graduate programs, contact gps@brandeis.edu or 781-736-8787.

How to Stay Balanced

Written by: Scarlett Huck

Do you find yourself struggling to balance your career and your academics? Maybe you work a full time job and would like to return to school but are unsure of how to do so. Or perhaps you are enrolled in school while also focusing on your career, leaving you in with an overwhelming state of stress. While it may seem impossible, there are ways to balance your life. Take a deep breath and follow these easy steps!

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Communicate. This can help on a number of levels. If you are feeling overwhelmed, talk to someone: a colleague, a friend or a family member. Two brains are always better than one at problem solving! Often, simply talking about your problems reduces your stress level. Communication is also important between you, your job and your education. For instance, if you are working a full time job but are interested in returning to school, meet with your boss. With clear communication, your boss can even see this as beneficial.

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Plan your finances. A large concern about school is the fiscal responsibility. While the price tag may seem intimidating, there are practical ways to pay off the bills. One of the easiest ways is to speak to your employer. Often companies reimburse their employees tuition in order to have well-educated, more qualified workers. You are not limited there, you can also apply for scholarships (often merit-based) or work for the school in your free time. Brandeis GPS also offers employers tuition discounts! This can be very helpful when looking to get an affordable degree.

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Disconnect. Yes, we are all living in the 21st century and this means we are constantly glued to our smartphones, tablets and laptops. This instills a sense of easy accessibility and contributes to the amount of time we spend on our devices. While this ease of access is great for work and school, attempt to minimize their use in your free time. Notifications are not easily ignored, adding a sense of stress to a non-work or school environment. Turn off your devices and enjoy what is happening; emails and texts can wait.

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Stay Healthy. Your body is your friend and you need to take care of it. It is easy to say you are too busy, you don’t have time to exercise or cook a healthy dinner. However, busy people have a tendency to drive their bodies (and therefore their immune systems) into the ground. Waking up early, spending a day stressing, running around, drinking infinite cups of coffee and staying up late just to wake up and do it all over again causes a strain on your body. Make time for a few stress-relieving exercises and stretches, find quick recipes for healthy food in a hurry to keep your body running strong and make getting enough sleep a priority. Pay attention to your health and keep in mind that it is much more difficult to be efficient once you’re sick!

With these tips in mind, you are ready to balance your life! Be sure to check out Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies to see if our online courses could be a good fit for you. We offer rolling admissions and flexible programs to fit your busy schedule!

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