Correspondence Courses Toward My History Degree
Q: I'm starting correspondence courses this fall. Finally going back
for that history degree, hoping to eventually become a teacher like
I always wanted. The kids will both be in school, so it's finally
time. I have a couple questions I'm hoping someone here can answer.
First, Can you offer any advice that will make the distance
learning process easier? I'm worried about maintaining my
motivation since I won't actually be attending classes. I'm also
worried about not having much contact with the professors. Any
experienced correspondence students here have tips for me?
Second, Computer stuff. I'm thinking about upgrading to Office XP
from Office 2000 in order to have an easier time writing papers.
Has anyone here upgraded, and if so, what do you think of it? Was
installation easy? I figure the easier it is for me to do my
homework, the likelier it is I'll do it. I already have DSL, so
connection isn't a problem.
Third, an ignorant question for the educators among you. Is it
necessary to concentrate on American history in order to become a
high school teacher? For instance, if I concentrated on European
history, will I have a harder time getting a job when I graduate?
A:The hardest part of all is getting started, Shelly. In one of my books on distance learning, I quote the wonderful Dear Abby line. Someone wrote her saying, in effect, "I'm thinking about starting my degree, but I'm 37 years old, and if I do this, it'll take four years, and I'll be 41." She replied, "And how old will you be in four years if you *don't* do the degree?" Motivation is the biggie. There are data that suggest that about 2/3rds of people who start distance degrees don't finish -- not because they can't do the work, but because they don't do the work, despite the best of intentions. My wife did her Master's entirely by correspondence (Cal State, Dominguez Hills, offered in history, philosophy, art, music, and religion), and there were many times when the choice between reading that chapter or writing that paper were in direct competition with helping a child or painting a wall or going to dinner, whatever. The only solution that worked for her was deciding to do it in as close to 'real time' as possible, and budgeted her time accordingly. If a course on campus would take 16 weeks, she determined to do her home study one in 16 weeks. And everyone she knew became a kind of support group: "Are you sure you want to go to that meeting -- don't you have a paper to write?" You might get some very specific and helpful replies on the large and very active forum called http://www.degreeinfo.com Motivation is indeed key. I'd try to make a plan for each course -- set a schedule for reading, study, writing with deadline dates for sending assignments. And often you can have some good interaction with the instructors. Try sending a cover letter with your first assignment to tell the prof something about yourself and your reasons for taking the course. Ask if it would be possible to schedule a phone call if you have questions about how to proceed with an assignment. With subsequent lessons, include a note about readings you found especially interesting or questions you found puzzling. Ask for suggestions for further reading and research.
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