Monthly Archives: February 2014

A Minor has Major Benefits

Minor Details_Banner

Perhaps you or someone you know has been thinking about the question, “Should I add a minor to my program of study at Towson?”  Some universities require a student to declare and complete a minor in order to graduate.  Although certain majors at Towson require a complementary minor – for example Sport Management requires a Business Administration minor -Towson does not have an across the board requirement.  But completing a minor can be a major benefit to a student’s educational experience as well as for her credentials for employment or graduate school.  Here are some questions to consider if you (or someone you know)is trying to decide about adding a minor.

  • Are the courses that are part of the minor of genuine interest to you and is what you expect to learn from the courses of real value to you?  Completing a minor requires commitment and dedication.  Do you really want to be studying and learning in this field and will you commit the energy and time to do it?
  • Can you complete the minor within the time period you plan for graduation? Minors range from 18 to 30 credits and it is important to be clear about both the number of courses required as well as the sequence of courses. Are the courses sequential or can you take more than one course in the minor in a semester?  It helps to make a decision about a minor no later than first semester of sophomore year, but it is not uncommon for students to complete two or more courses in a minor before making a conscious decision to declare the minor.  So even if you are a junior you may still have time to complete a minor.
  • Will the minor be a complement to your major?  Minors can provide more in-depth knowledge in a field that is related to your major.  For example, a minor in Family Studies would be a wonderful complement to a major in Psychology for someone with a deep interest in child development and psychology.
  • Will the minor diversify your skill set and knowledge?  A minor can give you a valuable set of employment skills that increases or improves your prospects.  For example, a minor in Business Administration would give an English major interested in working for a publisher background in economics, management, and marketing.  Or a minor in Spanish would be a great asset for a student majoring in Health Care Management who wished to work in an area of the country with a large Latino population.

Did you know that Towson currently offers 49 minors and the list is growing?  You can quickly access information about the full complement of minors at Towson via http://www.towson.edu/main/academics/ugrad/minors.asp .    Declaring a minor is as easy as declaring a major. And there are generally no admission requirements for a minor.  Do you need or want additional help in deciding?  Contact the academic departments for the minors you are considering or the Academic Advising Center for more general help.

John McKusick
Academic Advising Center

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Get Into Groups!

“…But I’m worried about a bunch of my peers judging me…”
“Wonderful! That’s exactly why you should try group therapy!”

Therapy-Group-for-TeensOkay, so although we therapists might not exactly make that statement to a student, it speaks to the heart of why group therapy can be such a powerful treatment method. It provides a safe and confidential space for students to challenge themselves and speak about their issues in a room of peers, offering different perspectives and helping each other identify and confront their fears, anxieties, and challenges. Having insecurities about being judged by one’s peers is a perfect example of an issue one might talk about in group therapy.

The research literature on group therapy indicates it shares similar rates of positive outcomes as individual therapy, and can provide a more dynamic and complex discussion environment. In fact, we’d estimate that about 95% of the issues students present with at the Counseling Center could be effectively addressed in group therapy.  Group counseling provides space to “try out a new version of you” where you gain insight about yourself and how you are truly perceived by others (rather than trying to read minds or guess how others react to you).  If relationships are important to you, whether it be romantic, familial, roommates, teammates, friends, or meeting new people – you can probably benefit from one of our groups.

This spring, thanks to our expanded space, we are offering more groups than ever before at the newly opened Health and Counseling Centers at Ward & West!  Most groups run weekly for 6-10 weeks.  This semester we are proud to offer the following groups, FREE to all Tigers:

Relationships Groups
Improve your relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners; get feedback about how others perceive you; and learn how to relate better to others.
Tuesdays 2:00-3:30, Wednesdays 2-3:30, or Thursdays 1:00-2:30

Sister-to-Sister: Women of Color Support Group
Develop connections with other women of color and address topics such as stress, relationships, family, and goals.
Mondays 2:00-3:30

In, Out, and In-Between
Whether you are out, questioning, or not even sure, this group is for LGBTQIA students of all backgrounds to confidentially discuss and explore aspects of gender identity and sexual orientation in a safe space.
Mondays 3:00-4:30

I’m A Survivor: Support for Survivors of Sexual & Relationship Violence
A space for female survivors of sexual assaults or relationship violence gain support from one another and learn ways to cope with the aftermath of these traumas.
Fridays 1:00-2:30

Overcoming Social Anxiety
A small group focused specifically on developing skills to better manage social anxiety, including mindful breathing, cognitive restructuring, and exposure.
Day & Time TBA

Mindfulness Meditation Series
Introduction to meditation, including relaxation and visualization practices for reducing stress, improving concentration, and increasing self-acceptance. Drop-ins welcome.
Wednesdays 6:00-7:00

Coping Skills Clinic
Learn essential skills and strategies for coping with a variety of challenges (e.g., stress, anxiety, worry, panic attacks; anger management; avoidance & procrastination; & planning for success).
Fridays 12:00

Body Project
A 4-week course to help female students resist sociocultural pressures to conform to the thin-ideal and reduce their pursuit of thinness.
Thursdays 1:00-2:00

Grief & Loss Workshop Series/Support Group
A 5-6 week series. Find support from other students who have lost a loved one (recently or in the past) and who “get it.” Learn about resources that can assist your grieving and recovery.
Tuesdays 11:00

You can find out more information on our website.  If you are interested in talking with someone at the Counseling Center about whether one of these groups would be good for you, just give us a call at 410-704-2512.

Dr. Dan Isenberg
Groups Coordinator at Counseling Center

Walk Confidently Into the Online “Classroom”

Thinking about taking an online class? Wondering what to expect?  Oonline classr maybe you’ve just started an online class this semester and are wondering how it’s going to go.  Either way, here are some tips on making it a success.

What to expect:

There can be a lot of variation in how online courses are set up.  But overall, Towson’s online classes are run through Blackboard and are set up to be interactive and engaging – rather than being given all the course materials to work with completely on your own, you’re guided throughout the semester by the instructor, with regular discussions and assignments, just as in an in-person class.

OTS

Options include:

Blended courses (also known as hybrid courses) – these classes are a mix of face-to-face meetings and online instruction.  What the exact balance will be and how the in-class time will be used varies widely.  Some instructors use the face-to-face time to deliver a lecture or give an exam, while others prefer a flipped classroom, with preparation done outside of class for a face-to-face discussion or class activity.

Fully online  – these classes require no in-person meetings.  Most at Towson are asynchronous, meaning there are also no set times you need to be online for the class; you can go online to access posted materials whenever is convenient for you, as long as you meet the instructor’s deadlines for using and responding to course materials.  Some instructors do use Skype or other real-time web conferencing, though, where students need to be online at certain times for class interactions.

You’ll find many strong opinions both for and against online learning, but there are some consistent pros and cons.  Overall, people who love online classes will point out the advantages of the online format:

  • Flexibility – online courses fit easily into a packed schedule of classes, work, and family, especially if there are few or no face-to-face meetings.  Unless there are live web-conferencing hours, you can set your own schedule and “go to class” at 2 a.m. in your pajamas if you’re busy during the day.
  • No commute! – for students living off campus, online can help save on time, gas, and parking challenges.
  • Control – think of classes you’ve been in where the professor talks really fast and you struggle to keep up with your note-taking.  In an online course, you can play recorded lectures at your own pace – pause, rewind, replay.

But despite all these pros, there are some cons to look out for.  Knowing yourself and how you’d deal with some of these is a good place to start – try the self-assessment quiz Is Online Learning for Me?
ProsCons

Even if online doesn’t at first seem a natural fit for your style, though, many of what appear to be roadblocks to successful online learning can in fact be overcome.  Consider these common pitfalls and strategies to avoid them:

  • Issue: thinking online is less work than an in-person class and being caught off guard by the workload
  • Solution:  make sure you set aside at least 7-10 hours a week to work on your online class
  • Issue:  neglecting the class (in other words, forgetting you’re in it until right when something is due!)
  • Solution:  even if your instructor hasn’t specified times to be online, log into Blackboard at least a few times a week, if not daily, to keep on top of announcements and reminders about tasks and assignments.  Keep in mind your instructor can see exactly when you’ve been on the course site as well as what materials you’ve used, and long absences might raise red flags.
  • Issue:  missing deadlines when you’re not in the classroom to be reminded
  • Solution: check your TU email daily for any reminders your professor sends out.  Also, without structured class time, you have to be even more independently organized than in a regular class, so program due dates and reminders into your phone or write into your planner.

    Planner

  • Issue:  writing, writing, writing!  Online classes are often require a lot of writing, relying on written communication, text-based discussion board posts, and essay exams, which may or may not be your strong suit.
  • Solution:  take advantage of the Writing Center on campus – they can help with all kinds of writing at any stage of the process.  Also, increasingly, professors are making an effort to offer more kinds of interaction – video, audio, social media – so you may find there are more options for expression and communication.  For example, the newly updated Blackboard platform allows for webcam recordings in place of text for discussion board posts, so ask your instructor if that’s an option if you’d prefer making a spoken comment!
  • Issue:  technical problems!  Unfortunately, no matter how savvy you are with a computer, there will be times when technology is just not cooperative.  And if you’re taking your test at 2 a.m., your professor is probably not available online to help troubleshoot!
  • Solution:  plan ahead.  Expect that problems will occur and be prepared.  For example, if you’re taking an online test, save everything outside of Blackboard as you work (like in a Word document) in case of a glitch.  There’s nothing worse than clicking “submit” on your exam and getting an error message that it didn’t go through, leaving you to start over from scratch.

So whether you’re in an online class now or thinking about trying online in the future, remember these guidelines to get the most out of your online class experience.  See you in the virtual classroom!

Emily Halligan
Undergraduate Academic Advising Center

The Course Syllabus, Your Best Friend

What’s the definition of a “best friend?” syllabus Typically a best friend is there to support and help guide you through whatever comes your way. But did you know that at the beginning of the semester, your professor places a new BEST friend right in your hands?

The syllabus should be #1 on anyone’s contact list; it helps support and guide students through the semester.  It’s full of reminders and tips that help you get the most out of each class.

The objective section of the syllabus is a guide of what topics will be highlighted throughout the course.  You should get to know your objectives for each class before the semester gets into full swing, because they show you everything you are expected to know by the end of the semester.  It is helpful to look back at the objectives throughout the semester and see which objectives you have mastered and which ones still need work.  You don’t want to get to mid semester with no objectives crossed off the list.

Within the syllabus, the professor lays out a schedule that tells you what each class session will be about, when assignments are due and when you have quizzes and tests.  In order to do well in all of your classes, you need to pace yourself—which means DON’T PROCRASTINATE.

Those deadlines and due dates are always closer than they appear.  But by taking all of your syllabi and setting up a calendar that includes your school schedule, work schedule, free time, etc., you will be able to complete assignments efficiently and correctly—you know the old saying, “haste makes waste.” Your professors know when you rush to get an assignment done, it’s not worth it.  Give yourself breathing room – time to review and make changes before the deadline.

Help yourself out by taking advantage of the calendar in the syllabus.  You’ll feel organized and relaxed rather than stressed and over-worked.

“I believe so much that understanding what’s in the syllabus is vital to a student’s success that my 1st in class quiz is based on the content of my syllabus.” –Frank Mullen Adjunct Faculty Political Science

Grading scales vary from professor to professor; get to know the scheme for each of your professors.  One popular system is the point system, where homework, quizzes, exams, etc. add up to a certain number of points.  If your professor uses this style, you can keep track of your grade by simply adding up the points you earn as graded assignments are returned.  Then to get your final score you divide your total points earned by the total points possible, and viola you have your final grade!

Another possible grading system is based off of percentages; this one is a little bit trickier to calculate.  You still need to keep track of your grades throughout the semester, but it involves more work on your end to calculate.  You will need to get the average percentage of each grading category (homework, quizzes, etc.).  This is done by adding up your scores for each category then dividing it by the number of assignments in that category.  You then multiply this number by the percent in decimal form that that category is worth and then add the categories together. That total is your final grade.

Also know your professors’ grading scale, because each professor’s scale is unique.  Some professors have an A stop at 93%, 92%, or even 90%, make sure you know the grading scale from the  beginning so you know what letter grade you will be getting.

It is important to understand your professors’ grading styles, so get to know each one and be sure to ask questions if anything is unclear.

Hang out with your course assignments…no, seriously. Take time to identify the requirements for each assignment, method for turning it in, and the consequences for turning it in late.  Use the information as a planning tool to prioritize heavy assignments and tasks.   For example, assignments that require several pages of writing or problems from multiple text chapters are saying to you, “hang out with me a lot before its due”.  Reviewing your assignments now will minimize any surprises later.

Identify your professor’s primary method of communicating.  Find out how your professor will share handouts, class updates, and any other important information to help you succeed.  It’s best not to assume that all of your professors use Blackboard because they don’t.  Some use a separate website, others prefer traditional email, and others may not have any electronic form of communication.  Bookmark the link and check it regularly for updates.

In conclusion, make a few new best friends this semester –your syllabi!  Use your syllabi to pace yourself this semester.   Need additional guidance?  Sign up online to work with an academic coach.  AAC coaches work 1:1 with students to help with many different topics, such as planning, study strategies, understanding your syllabi, and more!

Jay Greene
Undergraduate Student & Staff Writer
Towerlight

Jennifer Wendt & Jeremy Boettinger
Learning Specialist
Academic Achievement Center

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