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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Worldwide Degree Programs and Distance Education

Wouldn’t it be great if you could earn an art degree from a university in Paris, a fashion degree from Milan or an architectural degree from a New York City college without ever having to leave the comfort of your own home  Well, if you have a computer and a reliable internet connection that’s exactly what you could do via a distance education program.  There are currently thousands of colleges, universities and private institutes offering worldwide degree programs for students through distance education, and while some require at least partial attendance, there are many more that necessitate no physical attendance whatsoever. To help you become better acquainted with this ever-growing and extremely popular mode of education, below we will discuss worldwide degree programs and distance learning in a bit more detail, including a description of how these programs work and some information regarding the type of people who make for great distance education candidates.

Worldwide Degree Programs and Distance Education

Distance education programs have been around for over 50 years, but it wasn’t until the late 1990s that these programs began to gain a measure of credibility.  In the past, the mere mention of an online education would conjure up images of non-accredited universities and fake or virtually worthless degrees, but today that image has changed dramatically.  That’s because In the last two decades, the prevalence of personal computers and increased global access to the Internet, have resulted in the exponential growth of worldwide degree programs through distance education—quality programs offered by renowned institutions.  Most universities today have at least some form of distance education, including major universities throughout the world that are consistently ranked among the world’s top schools.  College administrators and faculty have discovered that by providing certain degree programs in an online format they could afford students greater access and reach a portion of society that would otherwise be excluded.  Now students can take university-level coursework and enter worldwide degree programs wherever they wish, without being limited by distance, time or handicap.

In distance education, students send and receive assignments over the Internet and can complete them at their leisure at times when it’s most convenient for them.  These worldwide degree programs are today aided by several new technologies that make communication and staying in touch much easier, including email, instant messaging, text messaging, video conferencing and even virtual classrooms, where students can attend lectures in real-time via their home computer.  Some of these worldwide degree programs require a minimal degree of physical attendance, usually for things like exams or guest lectures, but many programs are designed to completely eliminate the need for any physical attendance, including exams that are given online.
Worldwide Degree Programs  Are You a Good Candidate for Distance Education

Distance education will probably never entirely replace the traditional classroom experience, but it does make sense for many people, including

•           Full-time employees who lack the time (and energy) to attend classes because of their job responsibilities
•           Stay-at-home moms and dads
•           People in rural and remote regions where university education is not available
•           Adults and seniors interested in taking enrichment classes
•           People limited by physical, mental or emotional disability
•           And more…

Naturally, to be a candidate for worldwide degree programs in an online format you will need to be self-disciplined and motivated, able to complete your weekly assignments by the agreed upon deadline.  You should also be at least somewhat familiar with the required computer technology, understanding the basics of programs such as email, video and text messaging, Microsoft WordExcelPower Point and others.
If you meet these requirements your educational landscape is virtually limitless.  No longer are you limited to the higher education programs in your hometown, but you’re free to pursue the education of your choice at the school or university of your dreams.

Worldwide Degree Programs: A Closer Look at the Bologna Process

 Are you a university student considering the possibility of completing a portion or all of your degree at a foreign institution in Europe?  If you have, you probably already know there are an endless amount of worldwide degree programs available, including those in the various universities within the European Union.  But were you aware that most of the universities in this region have recently switched to a new credit and degree structure?  It’s true.  Beginning in 2007, the institutions of higher learning in most of the countries that make up the European Union began to adopt a standardized credit and degree structure—a structure which was borne out of the Bologna Process.  To help you better understand this recent transformation, below we will discuss the Bologna Process in a bit more detail and show you how these changes have made worldwide degree programs throughout Europe more beneficial and accessible.

Worldwide Degree Programs:  About the Bologna Process

The Bologna Process was a course of action aimed at educational reform in the higher education institutions throughout Europe.  According to their official website “the overreaching aim of the Bologna Process is to create a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) based on international cooperation and academic exchange that is attractive to European students and staff as well as to students and staff from other parts of the world.” 

So how exactly do these worldwide degree programs work? 

Standardizing the credit and degree system in European universities is the main focus of the Bologna Process.  Under this new structure there are now three distinct cycles of education:

Cycle One

Cycle one represents the first level of education, usually spanning three years.  For each year completed, students earn 60 credits, with 180 credits needed to finish the undergraduate program.  No degree is awarded after the first cycle of education, but students who successfully complete the program are eligible to enroll in cycle two, after which they will earn a degree. 

In most countries there is also an alternative program for students not interested in pursuing a second-cycle education. These programs typically span four years, in which students are required to earn 240 credits, ultimately leading to an undergraduate or Bachelor degree.

Cycle Two

The second cycle, as outlined in the Bologna Process, spans two years, in which students must earn a minimum of 120 credits (certain programs may take 3 years or 180 credits).  Following successful completion of cycle two students are awarded a Master of Arts or Master of Science Degree in their particular field of study.

Cycle Three

Students who have successfully completed the Master’s program in cycle two are eligible to enroll in the third cycle, representing doctoral or PhD studies.  These programs vary in length, and while there is no specific credit requirement outlined for cycle three in the Bologna Process, most doctoral programs will span three years, during which students will earn 180 credits.  More advanced fields may take up to four to five years to complete.

The Benefits

The main goal of worldwide degree programs such as this is to create unity in higher education, not just in the universities in Europe, but in other parts of the world as well. Although the transformation was initially resisted by many countries, the changes outlined in the Bologna Process have now been implemented in almost every European university with good results.  Among the many benefits, the new structure has been shown to help:

•           Facilitate transfers throughout Europe and ease the mobility of students, graduates and faculty
•           Prepare students for careers and life in a democratic society and support their personal development
•           Increase access to high-quality education, based on democratic principles and academic freedom
Today there are over 47 countries united under this new educational structure, all demonstrating why worldwide degree programs are more student and staff friendly than those that are merely national or regional.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Summer Student Exchange: A Summer Camp for Older Teens

If you have ever attended summer camp as a child, odds are you remember the experience fondly. The new and challenging activities, warm campfires with songs and skits and the countless number of opportunities to meet and make new friends during your stay no doubt made summer camp an immensely enjoyable experience and a special place to be during the summer months. Sadly, similar opportunities become few and far between as you get a little older, and by the time you’re a junior or senior in high school they are practically non-existent—unless, of course, you apply to participate in a summer student exchange.

What is Summer Student Exchange?

Summer student exchange programs are an exciting way to spend your summer break and are becoming very popular among older teens as a way to visit another country without spending an arm and a leg. These four to eight week programs are sponsored throughout the world, including countries in Europe, North America, Asia, Africa and even Australia, affording students a unique opportunity to learn a new culture, gain valuable language skills and meet new friends from around the globe. A summer student exchange can be academically-based, in which students study a particular subject (Art in Paris or Marine Biology in Australia), or they can revolve around language programs or even summer employment. Typically, students will study during the morning hours with a qualified instructor who speaks their language. Classroom sessions usually include group discussions and guided practice, ultimately leading to proficiency in the language or subject being studied. In most cases, the credits students earn while participating in the program will count towards their diploma—a fact that gives many students an added incentive to participate.

Once class (or work) lets out for the day, students are free to explore their host country, learning the customs, traditions and language of its people and dining on the local fare. Most student exchange programs include regular excursions to sites of interest within the country—landmarks, museums, galleries and sites of historical significance—places that are usually tied in some way to the subject material they are studying. These trips allow students to observe the daily pace of life in the country and the small nuances that make it so special and unique, ultimately giving them a greater appreciation and understanding of the culture and a wider more sensitive world perspective.

As with the summer camp you experienced as a child, a summer student exchange is filled with new and challenging activities, albeit on a greater scale, and numerous occasions on which to meet new people and make friends. This typically begins with your accommodations, as most programs will pair you with a host family to live with for the duration of your stay. These families, who generously share their homes, meals and their time to make the summer student exchange experience so memorable, will serve as your tour guides and support system during your summer adventure, teaching and answering all your questions and helping to ward off any homesickness. You’ll be treated just like one of the family and be able to visit places such as restaurants, shops, theaters, etc. In many cases, your host family will include someone at or near your own age with whom you can explore all the sights and sounds of the country when you’re not in class.

If you long for the days of summer camp and are interested in experiencing that feeling again, only on a much more mature scale, then a summer student exchange program is definitely for you. While your trip may not include the campfires, archery and ghost stories you experienced as a child, it will feature one eye-opening experience after another as you come to know and ultimately love your host country and its people.

Research Your Education Options with a Directory of International Schools

Do you need help locating an international school or study abroad program? Have you considered using an online directory of international schools—a one-stop hub that may save you hours in research time? The world has changed rapidly in the last few decades, and as we move increasingly closer to full globalization, many students and parents have begun to realize the value of international schools and study abroad programs. Both embrace multi-national and even multi-linguistic education, and fortunately, now there is an easy way to research the various options available in different regions of the world: a directory of international schools. To help you get started, below we will provide a brief definition of each type of program and explain the basics when it comes to using a directory of international schools.

International Schools and Study Abroad Programs

Although international schools and study abroad programs are actually quite different, in most cases they will be listed together in a directory of international schools. Here is a brief definition for each of these terms:

International School

An international school is an educational institution that teaches a different curriculum than the one offered in the local schools, a curriculum that is accepted internationally at most schools of higher education. The instruction in international schools, which offer both primary and secondary education, is usually in English or bilingual (English + another language), and both the student body and faculty are typically multi-national. For decades now, these schools have been popular among expatriates who wish to provide their children with an education that will be accepted globally, including in their country of citizenship. More recently, however, local student enrollment has also been on the rise, as more and more parents are realizing the value of an international education in an ever-growing global society.

Study Abroad

Study abroad programs offer students the unique opportunity to study and live in a foreign country for a time, usually a semester or full academic year. While in the host country, students study in a foreign high school or university, but the language of instruction, as well as the textbooks and printed materials are in their own language. Students usually study with other international students in a program developed by their home university, and the credits they earn while studying abroad are fully transferrable. Cultural excursions and outings are an integral part of a student’s stay, providing numerous opportunities to learn and come to appreciate the culture, language, customs and traditions, as well as to sample the local fare. Students typically live in residence halls or with a host family—a family who volunteers their home and their time to benefit the program and their guests.

Using a Directory of International Schools

The easiest and fastest way to find international schools and study abroad programs, whether in your area or somewhere else, is to use a directory of international schools. These digitized online catalogues have collected pages and pages of information from educational organizations around the world and have conduced and simplified the data to make each program or school easy to find and research. There are many websites that now offer a directory of international schools, and most will allow you to narrow your search using certain criteria, including a specific country or language, the type of program or curriculum offered or the duration of the program. For instance, if you were searching for a semester-long study abroad program with openings in Japan, you could first search by country and narrow the results further by the program duration. Once you have conducted the search you will be provided with a list of possible matches, on which you can click to see a description of the school or program. Some of the information you can find with a directory of international schools includes:

• Location of the school and nearby places to visit

• Program description, including dates and important program features

• Candidacy requirements for the program (GPA requirement, etc.)

• Program duration—semester, academic year, summer program

• Daily schedule, including classroom and recreational hours

• Program cost

• Financial assistance and scholarship opportunities (most study abroad programs offer scholarship opportunities)

• Living arrangements—on-campus housing, off campus housing, host families, etc.

• How to apply, including application deadlines

As you can see, a directory of international schools is a great way to avoid some of the time and hassle of finding an international school or study abroad program. Because all of the information you need is in one place, including the contact information, all you will need to do is bookmark the schools and/or programs that may match your needs, making it simple to return to when you need more information.