Tips

Some tips from fellow students:

  • Make Friends with Your Instructors To make the most of your learning experience, and to get the best grades possible, it is good to form a positive relationship with each of your instructors. In some cases this is easy to do: you are dazzled by the instructor’s knowledge, make opportunities to ask questions, and find encouragement to share your views. ...
  • Time Management Tricks 2.0 Whether you are a business executive, teacher, student, parent, or if you fill any combination of these daily roles, it’s likely that every minute of your day counts and any spare time is valuable. So, how can you use your time wisely? Here are several ideas: Create a Lesson Plan If you are pursing your college degree, ...
  • Angry Mothers on Welfare Must Fight for Education Funding Diana Spatz was a single mother on welfare. She encountered many barriers when she tried to get an education to become self-sufficient, but she found ways to overcome them. She now works to help other parents on welfare gain access to funding that is available for their education. Diana says: In 1996, I was a ...
  • Succeeding Despite Invisible Handicaps (Comment by Al Siebert: This letter from a college student with mental problems that I counseled is a useful reminder to instructors that some students have invisible handicaps that they may not reveal. "Gil’s" letter also shows that some "challenged" students show amazing resourcefulness and courage in their determination to succeed. Here is his letter…) Well, ...
  • Facing Racism Made Me Better, Not Bitter Jackie Leno Grant spent her early years in a comfortable world, surrounded by family and friends. Moving to another town changed all that. As a Native American in a nearly all-white school in rural western Oregon, Jackie felt out of place. Her unfair treatment at school could have made her bitter and rebellious, but Jackie ...
  • An Online Mom Shares Some Tips Melinda, an online student of co-author Mary Karr’s, shares her experience being a college student an the mother of young children: Hello Mary, I feel privileged that you would ask for my input. I know very well how challenging it can be to try schooling with young children. First, I have to dismantle my computer system ...
  • From Homeless to Harvard – Liz Murray’s Story A few people are born resilient. Elizabeth Murray is one of them. Her parents were cocaine addicts who spent most of the family’s money on feeding their habits. Liz explains that as a result, she and her sister were neglected. The girls often lacked food and warm clothes. By age 15, Liz was homeless. ...
  • Dare to Take Risks to Find Your Purpose! We all have a very special purpose in life regardless of who we are or from where we come. Please share! FacebookTwitterLinkedinPinterestemailPrint
  • Tips for Students on Medications The suggestions I have are… Please share! FacebookTwitterLinkedinPinterestemailPrint
  • How to find time for distance learning while working full time When you are working full-time and want to improve your education or gain some new qualifications it can be very hard to find the extra time to study. Please share! FacebookTwitterLinkedinPinterestemailPrint

Internet Searching Tips

Finding useful, credible information is both an art and a science. Here are some searching tips.

OK, you just heard about something great, or need to start research on a paper or project. Knowing that the information you want is "out there" on the internet is just your first step. Finding useful, credible information is both an art and a science. You will want to spend some time learning how to search for the information you want and how to weed out the extraneous, useless information you don’t want.

If you remember looking up information rapidly disappearing physical library Card Catalog, using the internet will basically be an extension of the skills you already have:

  • Determining Keywords
  • Using Indexes
  • Following Through to find useful articles and information

If all of this is new to you, read on, though, you may first want to check out our Basic Internet Help:

Determining Keywords

Whether you are looking for college information, researching a paper or personal topic, it is helpful to first make a list of words and phrases that relate to your subject. Be creative. Let your mind wander, use an online thesaurus site for synonyms; put it down and come back later. Then, pick out a few of the most descriptive phrases to start with.

As an example, the following are a few terms I came up with when looking for adult college student information:

adult college student, adult learner, re-entry student, returning student, distance learning, continuing education, online degrees, college student, student orientation, campus counseling center, career change, study, student success, college funding, financial aid, grants, scholarships.

Once you start searching, your results will reveal other keywords that may help you hone in on your specific topic. The "search suggestions" option many sites offer —where a menu of choices are presented as you type — can be helpful too.

Using Indexes

After you’ve determined some keywords and phrases, visit one of the search engines below (or your own favorite). The first thing to try is to just type in your phrase and hit enter, or the "find" button they provide. See what you get. If the results seem to broad, not related or in a foreign language, either try using more terms to search on, or visit that site’s searching help or options page. (For more help on this, see Following Through below.)

NOTE: In addition to advanced searching options, most of the searching engines below use "Boolean" search construction, meaning that you can use a + to force a term inclusion, a to omit pages with a certain term or phrase, and "your phrase in here" within quote marks to force two or more words to be searched on as a phrase — such as a person’s name.

Each search engine and index runs a little differently. For multiple term searches, one engine might return better results if a + sign is used between terms rather than an &. Another one might have a different form altogether for an "advanced" search. Regardless, the individual sites’ help pages are the most reliable place to get information about using that site’s engine.

Some popular search engines and indexes are:

Following Through

OK, so you typed in a search term or two and got thousands or millions of results! How are you ever going to find that specific morsel of information you are after??? Here are some pointers (also check out our article on authenticating resources):

  • If your result is too broad and you get a bunch of irrelevant results, type in more key words. If you get zero results, type in fewer key words. Many search engines will allow you to use quotes (to search for a phrase) or a minus sign (to disallow certain words or phrases) to focus in on your subject. Additionally, look for an "Advanced Search" option.

    Special tips for objects or things: Often, if your search on a object to find out more information about it, you’ll end up getting a bunch of links showing you where to buy it. For example, if you are doing research on the meaning of Aboriginal art and start your search with "Aboriginal art" you’ll get all sorts of results from importers to art galleries. (Oh, plus a wikipedia entry, which can be a useful resource for references). Make sure to include a descriptive word or phrase, such as "meaning" and you’ll immediately get better results.

  • Narrow the search geographically. Add your city or state name as one of your searching terms if what your looking for is best found locally. Add just a state, country, or area if what your looking for is specific to a certain location. If you were doing research on polar bears in the wild, adding "North Pole" will get more relevant results than just "wild polar bears."

  • Read the title and description of the web site listed on the results page. Well constructed sites (which may or may not relate to information credibility) will have a concise, readable title and description of their site. Many search engines will highlight your search terms within context in the description. This can be very useful for quickly determining the relevance of the site to your search.

  • Be aware that some web sites pay for listing results. On the larger search sites, these are usually separated out, and noted as "Sponsored Links." On other sites, they will be highly designed so as to be indistinguishable from unpaid, or "organic" listings. While there is nothing inherently wrong with paying for link placement, most of these sites will be trying to sell you something. This is how they pay for their advertising.

  • Look at the website address. If you are looking for a specific college, product, manufacturer, store, organization, etc., chances are, they probably have registered their own domain name and by becoming familiar with the anatomy of a web address (see the terms web address, directory, domain, subdomain in the glossary), you can fairly easily and reliably predict whether or not you’ve gotten a "score" on your search.

    Educational and Government sites often provide reliable, free, usable information. Look to sites with domain names that end in ".edu" or ".gov" as generally reliable sources. Next in line might be ".org" sites which for the most part are non-profit organizations, and depending on your slant, may or may not provide you with the information your are looking for. Do not rule out ".com" sources as not all of these sites are simply out to take your money. Many sites, like AdultStudent.com, wish mostly to get useful content online to help others learn, and have learned that "dot-com" is king in domain naming.

    Sometimes web sites with long addresses may be gone by the time you visit them, as they move or get redesigned when the host switches their website set-up. If they created a good title, and did some effective planning, you may be able to search on their specific web site or page title for an updated link. I’ve had good luck searching Google on specific phrases or sentences from a page (enclose them in quote marks), if you can remember something about the page.

  • Open the link in a new tab or window. This way, you can go back to the search results page at will, and only bookmark the most useful sites. To do this, right click or control click your mouse to bring up a menu of window options.

  • Bookmark your hottest prospects. By adding the site to your Favorites or Bookmark list, you can visit it later, and more importantly, return to it if you need to find bibliographical information. (Tip: make sure you learn how to edit your bookmarks or favorites, organize your useful links, and delete old or broken links. Otherwise you will get a long list of cryptic bookmarks).

Searching Tips

  • Use the "back" button on your browser, or alternately, the "History" or "Go" menus. The "back" button will take you to the last page you visited. This will come in handy if you performed a search on a search engine and want to get back to the list of returned sites with out having to type in the search again.

  • Use a multi-search engine to start: www.dogpile.com, www.about.com, www.go2net.com or similar are good ones to try. They will search a number of other search engines for their top matches. You may get duplicate listings, but you’ll get a feel for which engine is providing you with the best matches for your query. If you want more listings from any one search engine, you can then visit the ones that have the most relevant data.

  • Browse the search engine’s directory: Most search engines not only allow you to search the web for your term, but have already categorized listings of sites related to your question. Check the "Education" category on Yahoo.com, for example.

  • Explore the sites you visit. If you find a single page article that has useful information on it, take the time to explore what else the site offers. Hit their Home Page link, or "back-step" as described below in "404 File Not Found."

  • Use the site’s built-in search engine. Many sites incorporate their own on-site search engine. These are very useful for finding the specific information you might be after. Use your browser’s "find" command to search for a term on the page you’re browsing. This is useful on a page with a lot of content.

  • Common web surfing errors
    • Server busy error: This usually indicates that the server (a computer "hosting" the file or site) you’re wanting is either temporarily not functioning, overloaded, or the pathway to the server is obstructed somehow. Try to access the site at a later time.

    • A Connection Failure Has Occurred: Similar to Server Busy Error. Try to access the site at a later time.

    • Unable to locate a server: This usually means that the server is no longer in service, that you made a typing error, or the address wasn’t quite right. Sometimes, though, the big routing servers go down and computers from a certain region may not be able to "find" the address you want to go to. Try again later or check whether the domain name (server name) is valid. Do this by visiting http://www.networksolutions.com/whois/index.jsp for a "who is" searching gateway. You can type in the domain name and it will return a screen that tells you if and to whom the domain name has been registered.

      If all else fails and you really want to see a abandoned website, try the "Way Back Machine." This site, officially known as the Internet Archive, maintains fairly complete records of websites as they existed in the past. It can be useful to find articles that have been removed from the "active" web. Be warned, there may be a reason the article or page was pulled from a current website — copyright issues or factual errors, or worse.

    • "404 File not found" error when trying to access a site means that the server is working, but that the specific file is no longer available. Sometimes the owner of the file has changed services or reconstructed the site. If the owner has moved, you will have to search the title of the file on a search engine. If the site has been reorganized, you may be able to find the file you want by back-stepping the cursor in the address line deleting the characters back to a "/" mark and hitting "enter" again. Keep doing this until you get to a spot where a real page is displayed and look for the file you want.

      For example, the file you want is at http://www.domain.com/first_directory/next_directory/filename.html and it doesn’t come up. Delete the "filename.html" so that the "/" is the last character (http://www.domain.com/first_directory/next_directory/) and hit enter again. You might get another 404 error, a "forbidden message," or if you’re lucky, you’ll get an index listing of what’s in that directory and you can see if the file you are after is there.

    • "No Such Device or Address" This error generally means there is something wrong with your connection. Maybe the phone line came unplugged, or someone in the house picked up the other handset for just second. Best way to solve is to disconnect and reconnect to the internet, or resetting your modem or router. This may involve a computer restart. Sometimes, the problem can be on the service provider’s end, but not too often.

by Kristin Pintarich, Editor-in-Chief, The Adult Student’s Guide to Survival and Success

Basic Internet Hints and Tips

If you don’t have much experience online, getting aboard in a fast-paced world can seem a bit overwhelming. Here are some hints and terms to get you started.

If you don’t have much experience online, getting aboard in a fast-paced world can seem a bit overwhelming. Here are some hints and terms to get you started.

Internet Glossary
Internet Searching Tips

  • What’s "H-T-T-P-colon-slash-slash" (http://)? The internet works on an agreed upon computer standard, often called "protocol" that allows varying types of computers to access the same information. There are several different protocols in common use on the internet, the most popular by far, being Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, or HTTP. You know this more commonly as the World Wide Web, Web or even simply "the internet." Others you may have heard of include File Transfer Protocol (or FTP, to transfer data or application files) and Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP, for e-mail functions).

    HTTP is the protocol devised to transmit text files, most commonly written in some form of Hyper Text Mark-up Language (or HTML) which can incorporate pictures, sound, video and even computer applications. So, the HTTP of a web address indicates that you will be accessing a file that’s written in HTML or compatible language that can be read by your web browser.

    The colon, serves the purpose of any good punctuation by letting the computer know that something else is coming next, and the two slashes are part of internet protocol that indicates directories and subdirectories.

    Note: with many modern browsers (Firefox, Safari, Chrome, etc.) and mobile devices, often the address bar is hidden by default, so you may not even be bothered by this.

  • "To ‘www.’ or not to ‘www.’:" Why do some addresses you see start with a "www" and some others do not? It is a decision of the site designer or marketer, for the most part. Even though there is one protocol for naming web sites, there are several executions of it. Most often, leaving off the ‘www.’ will get you to the same place as including it. Sometimes it will take you to a less specific level of the site than what you are after. See subdomain in the glossary.
  • "To Slash or not to Slash:" Why do some addresses you see end with a "/" (forward slash) and some others do not? This is also a decision of the site designer or marketer, for the most part. AdultStudent.com generally uses trailing slashes in the links we provide.

    Huh? If you have the url of a specific page or file (something that ends with a period and a three or four letter "suffix", such as .html or .asp), most likely there will be no slash at the end. However, if you are accessing a site’s home page, such as http://www.adultstudent.com, adding a final slash to the url making it http://www.adultstudent.com/, will allow you to access the site a fraction of a fraction of a second faster. Oh boy. Then you’ll probably be automatically redirected to some url that is long and contains "session" information about your visit to their site at that time.

    Why? Well, the slash mark is computer-ese for a subdirectory and if you include it on your initial accessing of the site, the computers involved will know on the first go-around that you are trying to access a default directory instead of a specific file and you’ll get "in" that much faster. You’re also reducing the overall load on the internet by one "hit” each time you use the trailing slash.

  • Where Am I??? It’s easy to get "lost" on the internet. Links on any given page may link to the same page, the same domain, or any other internet page in the world. How do you know where you are and where you might go? Make sure you have the "location" bar visible in the control portion of the browser window. This will show you the current page. Look at the first part of the url, the server portion, and that will give you a good indication of where you are.
  • Is this site the official site? See our tips on authenticating resources
  • If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Undoubtedly you will get an error or two when trying to access sites. Links may be out of date, servers may no longer be in service, or possibly it’s just a temporary condition. The error No such device or address and Unable to access (url)… are often temporary issues, the most common cause being that you or the device on the other end lost an internet connection. Sometimes you try to access a site just as web maintenance is taking place and files are temporarily down. Keep trying. If it’s an important site, follow the "2-rule," try again in 2 seconds, 2 minutes, 2 hours, 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months – then email!
  • Be patient, but not too patient. If a page seems to take forever to load, see if you can determine why. The best designed pages will load all their text first then add the graphics. The worst will have huge graphics on the first page you try to access. Often in the link bar at the bottom of your browser window, you can see load progress information. If it’s a big file and depending on your connection speed, some pages will just take time. If the page is one you know usually loads fast and this time "hangs" the hit the stop button and then the refresh button. Often "recharging" the connection is all the page needs to load into your browser quickly.
  • For more information on how to find articles, visit a tutorial page from University of California, Berekley: How to find articles and databases.
by Kristin Pintarich, Editor-in-Chief, The Adult Student’s Guide to Survival and Success

How to find time for distance learning while working full time

When you are working full-time and want to improve your education or gain some new qualifications it can be very hard to find the extra time to study.

When you are working full-time and want to improve your education or gain some new qualifications it can be very hard to find the extra time to study. Even with the benefits of studying through distance learning, which allows you to study when you want, finding the spare time to study can be tough. Continue reading “How to find time for distance learning while working full time”

Dare to Take Risks to Find Your Purpose!

We all have a very special purpose in life regardless of who we are or from where we come.

by Stephen J. Hopson

"We are very near to greatness: one step and we are safe:

can we not take the leap?"     — Ralph W. Emerson


We all have a very special purpose in life regardless of who we are or from where we come. I truly believe each of us has a special calling in life even though it took me over 30 years to find mine! What follows is a series of events that have changed my life as a result of my willingness to take risks in the face of absolute uncertainty and trusting my instincts. Continue reading “Dare to Take Risks to Find Your Purpose!”

From Homeless to Harvard – Liz Murray’s Story

A few people are born resilient. Elizabeth Murray is one of them. Her parents were cocaine addicts who spent most of the family’s money on feeding their habits. Liz explains that as a result, she and her sister were neglected. The girls often lacked food and warm clothes. By age 15, Liz was homeless. Continue reading “From Homeless to Harvard – Liz Murray’s Story”

Make Friends with Your Instructors

To make the most of your learning experience, and to get the best grades possible, it is good to form a positive relationship with each of your instructors. In some cases this is easy to do: you are dazzled by the instructor’s knowledge, make opportunities to ask questions, and find encouragement to share your views. A mentor helps you make contacts in your field of interest, and coaches you in your early efforts. Continue reading “Make Friends with Your Instructors”