Education for Everyone Everywhere

Archive for the ‘Skills for Success’ Category

Quieting the Mind

“Education for Everyone Everywhere”

The slogan sits beneath the Horizons University banner on our official website, proclaiming the idea that education should be available for everyone, anywhere in the world. While of course Horizons University offers on-campus learning, we’re able to bring the classroom anywhere and everywhere through our online programs. The classroom is wherever the student wants it to be. Whether it’s the living room sofa, the corner table in the local coffee shop, the public library, or the aisle seat on a flight to Boston, online education releases the student from a regimented schedule and allows them to study at their own pace, in their environment of choice.

But, as much as we don’t want to admit it, this freedom comes with the burden of responsibility and self discipline.

Centering the mind and quieting the mind to focus in a non-traditional work environment takes time and practice. Working from home or completing a degree online has wonderful perks, but it’s important to stay organized and to stay aware of our time and space in order to stay creative and productive.

Here are some helpful tips to quiet our minds and decrease distraction when working:

  1. Meditate: Daily meditation may seem like it belongs in yoga class instead of the office, but meditation can be done by anyone, anywhere, at anytime. Take a break during the day to recollect. It could be in the morning while your coffee is brewing, at lunch in the break room, at your desk or cubicle, or when you get home in the evening. Simply close your eyes and breathe. Meditation isn’t about trying to block your thoughts. The human brain will continue to think and process and worry no matter how hard you try to silence it. The point of meditation is to acknowledge these thoughts and gently move back to a central, calm, focal point. Meditating for 10 minutes before sitting down to write a paper or doing a project will allow your mind to focus more clearly on the task at hand.
  2. Clear Your Schedule: Clearing your schedule doesn’t necessarily mean canceling plans with friends or missing your favorite TV show because you’re stuck in the library studying. It’s important to balance studying or working with personal time for yourself, however when it is time to buckle down and write, make sure there is nothing hanging over your head. For example, before sitting down to write or begin your work for the day, make sure the bills are paid, the cat is fed, and the laundry is done. It’s incredibly difficult to focus wholly on a project when you are distracted by chores or other tasks you need to accomplish. If possible, set a time during the day that is devoted entirely to your online work or study, then, try to get as many chores accomplished beforehand so distractions are minimized. Hide your phone in the pantry, plug in your headphones, keep a snack next to your computer, and get to work.
  3. Find Your Ideal Environment: Some people can design, read, write, create, blog, edit, etc. while seated at a tiny table in a loud, bustling cafe. In fact, this may be the only environment they are able to work effectively in, or at least the environment in which they’re the most creative and focused. Others couldn’t read and comprehend a sentence amongst the music and clanking of coffee cups. While most of us think we know our ideal study environment, it’s important to think critically about how productive we’re being in the different places we choose to work. Ask yourself, “Do I get more work done at my kitchen table? Or at the library?” “Does the bookstore or cafe bring me much needed inspiration for my writing? Or is it ultimately a distraction?” Take time to find your space.

Comment below to share your personal study habits. What works well for you? How do you quiet your mind and focus?

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Useful Tips for Online Learners

USEFUL TIPS

That’s it, you are enrolled and ready to embark on a new learning journey! This one will be slightly different from your previous experiences: you are now an online learner, with a mouse at your fingertips and a course on a remonte server at your virtual door. What we encourage you to do today is to embrace your online enrollment as a brand new opportunity to grow your skills and personality.

To help you on your way, we have a few tips to share based on our experience and our students’ valuable feedback over the years:

Tip #1: Cover the tech basics

First things first: to ensure that you can study whenever you want and access your courses smoothly, you have to be able to rely on your hardware and internet connection. Sure enough, there will be times when the provider will be down, times for LMS upgrades etc. But aside from the occasional glitch, upgrades and maintenance periods are announced in advance in order to  help you work around them. Do invest in an external hard drive if you can and – in any case – regularly back up your work in order to prevent dramatic computer crashes and data loss. You may also want to set up a GoogleDrive or Dropbox account: they are free (check out Dropbox plans for added storage capacity) and easy to set up in just a few steps.

Tip #2: Define your study space (and let others know)

At a time when multitasking is all the rage – not to mention the “I-am-busy” syndrome – it is capital that when you sit down to study, you fully ease yourself into the task. One way to achieve this is related to setting up your study area in a way that allows you to sit down and work whenever needed and with no outer/inner distractions. The size of the area is not important in this case: quality is what matters since it should be a quiet space, dedicated to your activity only and accessible to you only during your study time. Defining your study space also means ensuring that your entourage understands your academic project and respects it. As a former freelancer, I have mixed feelings and memories about having to remind family and friends that you are actually working, even if you are around and seem to be available for any type of questions!

Tip #3: Plan your studies

In a way planning your studies time wise is part of defining your study space too and is every bit as crucial as your study corner. Aside from the multiple calendars you can set up on any type of device, including your computer, Horizons University provides you with a Study Plan. You are invited to fill your Study Plan upstream under the guidance of your facilitator and Student Premier to make sure you set achievable and actionable goals. To reach those goals is the key to your structured progression and I suggest you read our goal-oriented post (and cheat sheet!) to find out how to set that up.

Tip #4: Get familiar with the rules

Studying online requires structure and motivation as well as the skills to learn the policies and rules that will make it easier for you to access your LMS, understand how it works and establish efficient communication channels with our staff and your student community. When starting your program with Horizons University you will first go through the introduction courses: these self-paced online courses are meant to help you get familiar with our LMS but also our policies, such as plagiarism and academic honesty. In the end, you start the program fully aware of your environment, both technical and intellectual, which we believe is a significant asset!

Tip #5: Engage!

The term “motivation” appears higher up in this post – and is a key term when you are studying online. Feeling isolated in the midst of tons of conversations and social media exchanges – as paradoxical as it may sound – is common nowadays. We do encourage you to join us throughout social media channels, but also and above all to turn to your Student Premier whenever you have questions about your learning experience; or to your facilitator for curriculum content related queries; or to the Administrative Officer for administrative questions. Horizons University students are part of a community of professionals. There is the social community out there, but it is also backed up by experts who know your profile, academic history prior to Horizons University and at our institution. They are here to listen to you and provide customized assistance wherever and whenever needed.

What other tips would you like to share with your fellow students or our prospects? What makes online studies easy or difficult for you? What could we implement to make your online learning process smoother?

Credits: DeathToTheStockPhoto (edited by Horizons University)

5 Top Tips for Your Next Job Interview

Job Interview Tips

Now that you have sent your resume and cover letter out and that you have been receiving requests for interviews, it is time to up your game and think about the next step, the ever important face-to-face meeting. Research says that recruiters make their mind during the very first 20 minutes of your job interview and even that the first 90 seconds are crucial, so there is little time to make the strongest (and best) impression! In order to get you started and help you on the way to success, we share with you 5 essential tips that should make you feel more at ease with the challenge ahead – while putting you in the position of a winner!

TIP #1: Nail that first impression

The first impression is a visual one, as simple as that, with 65% of hiring professional considering that clothing can be a decisive factor between two candidates. The recruiter is going to see you and what he/she is going to see needs to be positive. Taste is a very personal matter, but when applying for a job, it might be advisable to steer clear of excessive clothing, make-up and attitude in general. We would suggest you dressed as a professional: simply and efficiently, with no frills susceptible of distracting your contact. Show that you know what matters and you like going to the point. This does not mean that you should avoid putting your personality out there: you may express it via a touch of color, or a subtle pattern, for example. Who would have thought fashion to rank so high in the list?

TIP #2: Body Language is the Key

There’s the outside look and…your body language. While it may not be the most important aspect of your interview, it is one that draws attention from the beginning of your interview. Do show a steady gaze, make eye contact, shake hands firmly (without overdoing it) and avoid being fidgety (leave your hair and face alone). This will ensure that your contact stays focused and – you too.

TIP #3: Prepare, prepare, prepare

Show your recruiter that you are genuinely interested in him/her, the company and its activity sector. Do use LinkedIn to get to know their environment and research the company on the Internet and read as much as possible about it. You may also join related groups on LinkedIn and Facebook and a bit of benchmarking to try and understand who the competitors are and where the differences lie may be a good idea. A good level of preparation and understanding will  help you move to asking the right questions – which is probably even more important than providing good answers. You will be able to show your critical thinking skills and fluid intelligence.

On a more practical note, do remember to pack more than one pen, a notebook, several copies of your resume and any additional document that will support your achievements and profile.

TIP #4: Open Attitude

Take advantage of your interview to show that you have an open attitude: listen carefully, react accordingly and show that you are interested and adaptable, willing to learn and share. Your recruiter needs to understand that you are someone his/her team will enjoy working with.

TIP #5: Take Responsibility

Instead of listing your strong points, weaknesses and tasks as if they were a mere checklist (although we do love a good old checklist at Horizons University), take some distance and include your tasks and achievements in a more holistic and analytical presentation. For example, one of your weak points may be just the perfect opportunity to improve: how? What are you doing to grow? What project have you taken on? Your tasks and studies may also be presented in a dynamic, development oriented way instead of being a mere bullet pointed list: in what way the choice of you studies/the tasks you have performed at work as an employee or an intern in the past show that you know how to take responsibility and grow?

The tips above are meant as the starting point of your brainstorming and preparation and we do hope you will find them helpful and efficient. The interview, regardless of the job you are applying for, is a great opportunity to show a complete picture of who you were, are and will be: potential is your ally!

Are there any other tips you would like to share with us? What would would be your piece of advice to candidates?

P.S.: If you like this post, sign up to enjoy the HorizoNews newsletter. Each month, receive the issues packed with the latest news and tips straight to your inbox!

 

Credits: Canva edited by Horizons University

Set Your GOALS (+ a bonus for our readers!)

Set your goals

In order to successfully progress through your academic project, setting a series of goals will help you gain focus and direction. Setting goals is a specific process that requires careful and analytical upstream brainstorming and planning in order to be a life changing experience. In this month’s HorizoNews newsletter issue, we revealed some of our insider’s tips and we are now ready to share some of them here (and adding a FREE resource to help you going too!):

1 – Your Q&A session

Asking yourself thought provoking questions will help you identify your goals and the means you will need to use to reach them. Try answering some of the following questions to get your brainstorming started about your motivation and objectives:

> What motivates me?

> What are my strong points and how can I leverage them?

> What are my weak points and how can I improve them?

> What is my academic project and why?

> What is my professional project and why?

> Is there any part of your mindset holding you back?

This is just a sample of the questions you may ask yourself to define the route you want to follow and the tools and skills you want to utilize.

2 – The SMART goals

A useful way of making goals more powerful is to use the SMART mnemonic. While there are plenty of variants (some of which we’ve included in parenthesis), SMART usually stands for:

S – Specific (or Significant).
M – Measurable (or Meaningful).
A – Attainable (or Action-Oriented). R – Relevant (or Rewarding).
T – Time-bound (or Trackable).

3 – Write them down!

Writing your goals down will make them real and attainable.

We strongly advise you to use positive sentences and action verbs to make your goals clear and actionable. To track your progression, be extremely precise when writing them down, providing as many details and milestones as possible: dates, deadlines, amounts, tools (tables, to-do lists, books)… Break massive goals down into smaller ones to make them reachable and to allow yourself to monitor your progression every step of the way and make adjustments wherever needed. You will then be able to build on the previous goal-reaching experience to move on to the next one better equipped.

To complement the actionable guidelines we have shared with you in our June newsletter issue and here, we have designed a practical resource for you: the very ultimate and FREE CHEAT SHEET! It is all yours to download for FREE  – click on the action button below to start planning your future:

Action button

 

We hope you enjoy the free resource and encourage you to share your progression and own tips with us and our readers in the comments, on Facebook and Twitter. If you have not subscribed to our exclusive newsletter, this is the perfect time to do it: the relevant sign up field is visible at the bottom of our Home Page.

Happy goal settings to you all!

 

 

Organization is your best friend

ORGANIZATION

Have you ever had the impression of working a lot but never reaching your objectives in the end? When faced with a task, do you tell yourself you do not know where to start – not to mention when?

Today we are sharing with you a few practical tips that should help you see clearly and get organized in order to knock down walls and tasks!

Tip #1: Clear your head and space

We do hear a lot about Spring cleaning and since we are in the season on this side of the planet, it might be time to do so in your head and…on your desk. If ideas and tasks keep piling up, some light clearing should help you spot priorities, postpone what’s not on the agenda and identify actual, imminent tasks in need of your full attention. Sometimes, taking a step back can help see the big picture: get up and take a walk, go to a museum, see a movie and shift the focus of your brain on a different topic, at a different pace. Rest and hobbies will help you take a step back so that when you get down to work, you start with fresh ideas and a bright mind full of positivity and reborn motivation. Fatigue is one fierce enemy! On the practical side, clearing your room or working space is the next step: sorting papers out, stationary, invoices, notebooks – and even doing some actual cleaning etc. is the way to go so that once you get down to work you know where to find your preferred and most useful working tools.

Tip #2: Take out your agenda

Time is of essence when writing a paper, preparing for a class or submitting your assignment. If time management is not your strongest asset, there are many tools out there to help you, starting with the good old agenda. We would suggest starting from the end of the process by writing down all the deadlines for due assignments, tests, oral presentations etc. Weekly planners may also be useful if you prefer to view a whole week worth of schedules. We are mentioning the paper-based agenda because the fact of writing down by hand each and every deadline will help you memorize and grasp the full scope of your planning. Should you prefer to use an app, try giving a go at tools such as Tasks, iCal, Sunrise, for example. Once the deadlines are in, you can move on to the assessment of your study and preparation time.

Tip #3: Know thyself

To assess how long it will take you to perform a given task in any given topic, you need to know how fast/slow you usually progress. Should you have trouble assessing your progression and learning skills, it might well be an idea to ask your fellow students, colleagues, family members for help. Be prepared to have some honest feedback help you along the way and to acknowledge honestly what your strong/weak points are. If maths are not your cup of tea, do plan more working sessions, or just more intensive ones, in this specific area!

Tip #4: Keep your focus

Distractions come in every shape nowadays – the Internet being one of them, along with the TV, radio and so forth. Try disconnecting from the Internet during some of your working hours. Keep social networks shut, disconnect your phone line, turn your mobile off if you tend to get distracted easily. One tool you may enjoy at the end of the day – if you work on a computer – is RescueTime: this time management tool provides you feedback on how long you have spent on every task during your computer-based work. By doing so, it helps you spot areas with lack of productivity and turn them into pools of productivity instead!

Tip #5: Multitasking or no Multitasking

This one might well go hand in hand with tip #4 if you tend to scatter your energy and loose yourself in a whirlwind of ideas and projects (which is very positive in essence, mind you!). Streamlining your working process might be what you are looking for: when you start planning or working on a task, finish it. This will be your specific goal, no other. Once that task is done, cross it out in your agenda (!), reap the sweet fruit of satisfaction and move on to the next one (ok, after a little break if you want!). The visual process of striking out accomplished tasks is rewarding and helpful in assessing your progression. Jumping from one idea and action to the other is extremely time-consuming and ends up being frustrating because at the end of the day, not one task will be accomplished.

We hope these simple yet strategic steps will help you find your way and reach your goals! What other tips would you suggest we added? What works best for you? Let us hear about your success stories!

Dissertation: how to get you started

Dissertation tips

by Sarah Braun, Chief Editor of the Horizons University Writing Center

Writing a dissertation can at first seem like quite a daunting task. With so much information readily available at our fingertips via a simple Google search, it can be difficult to sift through everything the Web has to offer. A student can spend countless hours reading article after article, web page after web page, yielding very little in quality results. This can be both discouraging and frustrating.

 How can you avoid wasted energy and make the most of your search for quality research?

How to choose your topic?

First, it is important to remember that what you require is not endless amounts of information, but the right information. The best way to ensure you are headed in the this direction is to first choose the right topic. Make sure the research you will be doing is truly something that peaks your interest, is important to you, and will make a valuable contribution to your field (e.g. identifying an existing problem that needs to be solved). Having a concrete idea of what you wish to accomplish in your dissertation is the first step to understanding what kind of information you need to look for within your available resources.

Lists are your best friends

Your next goal is to identify which resources will be the most beneficial to the problem you are trying to solve and the questions you wish to answer. Because you have your topic solidified, you will already be able to narrow your research field. It may be helpful then for you to make a list of your available resources which may look something like this:

  • University libraries and E-libraries

(a list of e-libraries available to Horizons University students can be found in Moodle here, among them BIG, Bookboon and Directory of Open Access Journals)

  • Relevant seminars or conferences that will bring you information on what areas are currently being researched, how they are being carried out, and where the research frontier exists.
  • Journals, working papers, and publications of your peers and professors in the same field. (a great resource for this type of information can be found at academia.edu and www.researchgate.net/ both online platforms that allow you to explore research on various topics and follow the work of others, free to sign up and use).
  • Social networks and email. Reach out and connect with peers, professors, and other students to discuss your topic. (LinkedIn can be a useful tool in starting discussion in relevant groups or sending messages to individuals with similar interests).

Time to write!

This may seem like a great deal of information to sift through, but it is more about revisiting your question against these resources each time that will move you forward. Conversation with your advisor and other individuals is key. Ask questions. Then write, write, write. The more you review your ideas and address the question you are trying to answer with your research, the more refined and solid your argument will be.

This should be enough to get you moving in the right direction. Get excited! You are well on your way to writing a quality dissertation.

Credits: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Think BIG!

We are thinking

Horizons University is thinking BIG!

Horizons University is introducing a new student and faculty resourceBusiness Insights: Global (BIG)The business intelligence service is now part of the resources offered to our enrolled business students and faculty

What is it, exactly, and how does it work?

BIG is a highly performant database designed especially for business oriented researchers. It is now readily available via our online learning portal, Moodle. You simply need to log into your Moodle account using your dedicated Username and Password and click on e-libraries. 

BIG stands out thanks to its user-friendly interface and minimalistic design. It will help you reach the requested contents quickly and navigate just as smoothly, suggesting linked terms and articles, helping you see the big picture, relate, analyze and assess the information. BIG interconnects facts and figures, bringing to you premium and authoritative resources you can use in a memoir or dissertation, or in that new course you are passionately designing!

Whether you are a business student or a faculty member, you have now access to a whole range of documents: news, reports, interactive charts, case studies, statistics and data sets.

We are thinking BIG and hope that you will too thanks to this new resource!