WKU Online Strategies for Succeeding at a Distance

Getting Off To The Right Start

The spring term has officially begun! Welcome back!

These first few weeks can set the tone for the entire semester, which means that getting off to the right start is extremely important! It can not only make a difference in your grade point average, it can reduce stress, anxiety and improve confidence. Here are a few tips to help you stay on track this semester, as you juggle school with your many other responsibilities:

  • Create a Calendar: One of the most important things I can recommend, as a graduate of one of WKU's online degree programs, is to keep a calendar! Knowing your schedule, including work, volunteer activities, me-time (yes, schedule it), family time, assignment due dates and exam dates, is critical to success. This allows you to plan study-blocks, avoid procrastination and manage time more effectively, which in turn, minimizes stress. Your calendar can be digital or print - whatever works best for you!
  • Sign up for Success Coaching: WKU Online has launched a student success coaching program for distance learners. The goal of the program is to help you succeed by providing you with a coach that will be there to answer your questions, keep you informed and connect you with resources specific to your needs. Learn more at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojv5QR8nae8 or sign up by visiting www.wku.edu/lp/online-coach.php.
  • Know Where To Go: Familiarize yourself with helpful resources. WKU’s Student Resource Portal (SRP) was designed to allow one-click access to support across campus! The SRP provides access to organization tools and stress management tips, online tutoring, the WKU Writing Center, the Online Presentation Coaching Center, the DL Testing Centers, and much more! The SRP is accessible at www.wku.edu/online/srp or from inside your online course in Blackboard.
  • Utilize Free Online Tools: When I first started taking web classes, I limited myself to the tools I had readily available in Blackboard. It simply didn’t occur to me to search elsewhere. After a few semesters, I learned that the possibilities are endless! There are numerous free and low-cost online tools available to assist you with research, note taking, collaboration and organization. One of the most helpful tools I discovered was CiteULike – touted as “everyone’s library,” CiteULike allows you to save scholarly articles and search by keyword – it’s free, easy to use, and will save you hours of precious time by building your own library of articles most prominent in your particular field. There are also tools available that help you cite your sources, and protect you from accidentally plagiarizing. Click here for a complete list of our favorite tools!
  • Communicate With Your Professor(s): Your professor is there to help you succeed. If you need clarification on an assignment, don't hesitate to contact them by email or phone, or post to the discussion thread in Blackboard - chances are, if you need clarification, others do as well.
Searching for the impossible with Google

Work Smart, Not Hard!

We’re always looking for hidden treasures that we know you’ll find useful. As the “old saying” goes, the key is to “Work Smart, Not Hard!” It is in the spirit of this little piece of wisdom that we would like to share John Tedesco’s blog post, "How to solve impossible problems: Daniel Russell’s awesome Google search techniques".

Tedesco highlights the advice of Daniel Russell (Research Scientist at Google) who shared more than 20 search techniques that, as Tedesco points out, are “powerful but obscure, well-known but not fully understood.” Check out the list below.

Most Of What You Know About Boolean Is Wrong

Don’t bother typing AND in your search queries – Google treats it like any other word. But OR in all caps actually works. OR is great for finding synonyms and boilerplate language. Typing “Smith denied” OR “Smith claimed” OR “Smith argued” will find more pertinent websites about the controversy involving Smith. Avoid using NOT if you want to exclude a search term. Instead, type a minus sign in front of the word. So if you’re visiting San Antonio but don’t want to visit the Alamo, type: “San Antonio” -Alamo. That will search for the phrase “San Antonio” on web pages that don’t have the word “Alamo.” There’s no space between Alamo and the hyphen.

It's All About Someone Else's Language

Think about how someone else would write about the topic. Search is all about someone else’s language. Think about synonyms and use OR operators. Google’s “related search” feature on the search page also offers suggestions. “Part of the skill here is being fascinated about language,” Russell said. “You’ve got to think about equivalent terms.”

Use Language Tools

Knowing which words to search for means understanding their meaning. Typing define [space] [search term] in Google search will offer dictionary definitions. “‘Define’ ‘space’ ‘word’ is your friend as a writer,” Russell said. “Trust me on this.” You even get a definition if you type define pwned and other lingo. “That means we have words that aren’t in the dictionary,” Russell said. What if you know descriptions but not the actual word? Find one of the many reverse dictionaries online. Type the descriptions you know and you’ll get the matching words.

Use Quotes To Search For Phrases

Typing “San Antonio Spurs” will show you the websites with the phrase “San Antonio Spurs.” If you don’t use the quotes, Google will search for the terms “San,” “Antonio,” and “Spurs” individually and you might miss pages related to the basketball team.

Force Your Will On Google

Force Google to include search terms. Sometimes Google tries to be helpful and it uses the word it thinks you’re searching for — not the word you’re actually searching for. And sometimes a website in the search results does not include all your search terms. How do you fix this? Typing intext:[keyword] might be Google’s least-known search operations, but it’s one of Russell’s favorites. It forces the search term to be in the body of the website. So if you type intext:”San Antonio” intext:Alamo it forces Google to show results with the phrase “San Antonio” and the word Alamo. You won’t get results that are missing either search term.

Minus Does Not Equal Plus

Russell didn’t talk much about this but it’s worth noting. Since putting a minus sign in front of a word removes it from a search, many people, including me, incorrectly assumed that adding a plus sign in front of the word forced Google to include it. Actually, that search operator simply stops Google from changing the word into a synonym or correcting the spelling. It’s still possible that Google will drop the word from some search results, so it’s different from intext:. (After Google+ was unveiled, Google dropped the plus sign operator and replaced it with double quotes. Typing “Alamo” is now the same as +Alamo.)That’s not to say the plus sign — now double quotes — is not a useful search operator. But note how it’s different from intext: If you want to force Google to include an exact word or phrase in all your search results, use intext:

“Control F” Is Your Friend

Use this keyboard shortcut to find a word or phrase on any web page. It’s faster than reading the whole page for a specific word or phrase. “If you don’t know this, you’re roughly 12 percent slower in your searches,” Russell said.

For the full list of search techniques he shares, visit John Tedesco’s post by clicking below:

Helm Cravens Library at WKU's Bowling Green Campus

Library Essentials For Distance Learners

As a distance learner, you will rely especially heavily upon web resources at WKU Libraries – The WKU Library has vast collections online, and you can also borrow from the stacks. Knowing where to start is an important piece of the puzzle, however.

A perfect place to start your library skills journey is with the Research Guide for Distance Learners. This guide focuses on resources accessible at a distance. At the end of the tutorial you will have knowledge of the following:

  • Resources available for distance learners through WKU Libraries
  • How to identify and access these resources
  • How to search databases, journals and the internet in the most effective way
  • Index of useful links on writing, style guides, research tips and strategies, and tutorials

The Importance Of "Me Time" and Why It's Not Optional

The Spring 2017 is underway, which leaves many of us wondering how we will squeeze yet another thing into our schedules. Even though online learning provides great flexibility in time and place, it can still be challenging to accomplish all that we need to accomplish in a single day! We are full-time employees, parents, caregivers, partners, and human beings with hopes, dreams and goals of our own. The search for balance can seem endless. We often sacrifice sleep, healthcare, and performance quality, because we are stretched too thin! The physical energy our to-do list demands is not sustainable, nor is the emotional energy. So, the idea of “me time” seems nothing more than the things dreams are made of. We see it as a luxury! Yet it is the one of the single most important things we can do to re-energize, avoid burnout, perform better at work, school, and as a parent and/or partner. Not to mention the deeply personal benefits that simply feeling as if you have a moment to breathe can bring about. And, with the right tools, it is possible!

The best part is, we have more time available than we often feel/think we do! The American Time Use (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.t01.htm) survey provides fascinating data on how we spend our time each day. And, while you may not have a choice in endlessly trying to achieve the great balancing act (most of us do not), you can easily reduce your stress level with a minimal investment of time.

Schedule “me time” each day: Identify a time of day when you can commit to squeezing in time for yourself; time where you are only focused on yourself. Take a walk; journal about your day; take time to read (not a textbook :) something just for fun) or reserve time for your favorite hobby. Making and keeping this commitment can be difficult, especially when you feel as if you “have no time to waste,” but the key is a change in perspective — me time is not optional, and it is not a waste of time. It is YOUR time to recharge, and this small investment will reap huge dividends in your physical and emotional health. It has a snowball effect, too. Just as stress builds on itself; caring for yourself does as well. In the end you will find that not only get more done, but you do a better job with whatever project you’re working on. And, as a bonus, less stress also means better relationships.

Here’s how you can get started:

Start by completing a time management evaluation at http://www.studygs.net/schedule/. Then move on to time saving tips and organizational tools at http://www.studygs.net/timman.htm. These resources can help you stay organized, keep you on task and create free time.

Even though this may sound ludicrous at first, give it a try and feel the difference "me time" makes!

Here's to you! We wish you the best in not only finding a better balance, but doing it in a less stressed fashion!

WKU Online Staff

Cindy Troutman

As the Program Manager for WKU Online, Cindy is dedicated to finding pathways to online degree completion for students at WKU who need additional flexibility in their schedules. In addition, she works with offices across campus to bring support services to distance learners at WKU. Cindy earned an M.A. in Adult Education online at WKU.

Nikki Roof

As the Student Support Specialist for Distance Learners at WKU, Nikki works with current and prospective students to answer questions, guide them through the admissions process and connect them with resources along the way. She earned her bachelor's degree at WKU, and is now pursuing an online master's degree - WKU's MA in Organizational Leadership.

Holly Young

As Academic Outreach Specialist/Student Success Coach for Distance Learners at WKU, Holly works with current and prospective students to answer questions, guide them through the admissions process and connect them with resources along the way. She earned her bachelor's degree at WKU while working full-time, and is now pursuing an online master's degree - WKU's MA in Organizational Leadership.

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