Sheroni spending time with her husband and
their 2-year old daughter at the museum.

Sheroni Cunningham
Age: 25
Middle Georgia State University

Why is completing your college degree important to you?
It will help me excel past current barriers that limit me to jobs that require a degree. [Completing my degree] will also help me be a better example to my daughter to finish what you begin, try your hardest, be honest with yourself and do what is best for you.

Why did you choose to take online classes through eCore?
I am currently a full-time employee at Goodwill of North Georgia, living in Snellville, Georgia. My eCore class allows me flexibility to complete studying at work like a work-study program, allowing webcam interaction with my professor from another wonderful university, who has been extremely helpful thus far. [There is no need to] commute to MGA, which is a two-hour drive from my home and a 3 hour drive from work. I'm able to gain the information I need using all of my time the best I can to gain a degree working from home, work, or wherever I am with my laptop.

How would you describe the instructors you’ve had in your eCore classes?
Excellent. He made himself very accessible through both email and the discussion board, which gives a personal flare. The videos and website have all been helpful in teaching me exactly what I need to know. I have thoroughly enjoyed this course thus far. I actually feel like a chemist, fully grasping all the concepts being taught and gaining full understanding as to how these lessons apply to everyday life.

Besides being a college student, what do you spend your time doing?
Working full-time, being a full-time mother to a very active 2-year-old daughter, and being a full-time wife to my husband of 2 years. I attend church throughout the week and watch services we miss due to work.

How and when do you make time to spend on your schoolwork?
I have my book now so when I am not able to get to a computer, I will study the lessons that are approaching. I will write out the agendas that are to be taught throughout the most current units, gather the most information I can from my book, and then compare the book information to the information provided by my professor. Any information that I need to add to my notes, such as examples and formulas for certain types of solutions, I make time to create those additional notes. I spend most of my free time throughout the week studying: during the morning, my lunch at work, and evening. I spend my off days conquering as much information I possibly can.

What has been the best thing about your eCore experience?
Flexibility. I can pick up where I left off at any given time.

What would you say to someone who is considering taking his or her first online class through eCore?
I would tell them that while it is flexible, it is important that you are committed to your own personal success. Making sure that you understand the information, concepts, formulas, and overall information being presented so that when major tests come around such as midterms and finals, you won't have to stress because you will be sure you know exactly what you need to know. Give yourself time to make sure you have fully studied before all homework and quizzes. Study everything at least three times; you won't go wrong. Communicate with your classmates and professors. While you may be in an online course, by no means are you alone.
What you don’t do in the military: write resumes, interview for a job (normally), and you never negotiate salary and compensation. What you will do during your transition is write resumes, interview for a job and negotiate salary and compensation.

Can you imagine negotiating compensation for your next tour of duty? “Ma’am I am really interested in your offer but can you arrange for me to telecommute on Fridays and get me a free membership at the country club?” And that is not the only hurdle you may have to overcome…some employers have a few ill-perceived notions about you and the military:

You are rigid.
You don’t understand profit and loss.
You have had unlimited resources.
Leading is easy because you just give orders.

These misled perceptions can create barriers, but a well prepared and focused resume will dispel all of these notions and set you up for success.

In the latest installment of the eMajor College to Career Webinar Series Randy Blackmon, retired U.S. Navy Captain and eCore/eMajor Senior Enrollment Manager, discusses this and other tips to help military members transition to the civilian workforce.

Cathy is a 56 year old grandmother of 8
and is completing her degree online through
USG eCore at Dalton State College.

Asked to picture a college student who makes up the majority population attending classes and most would describe that person as being "fresh-out-of-high-school" or in the 18-22 year old range. Perhaps up until the year 2000, that picture was (mostly) accurate. But these days, college students are older and have either not attended college or are returning after an absence. The nontraditional student now makes up 73% of all students enrolled in undergraduate programs.

The broad definition of an adult learner or "non-traditional" student is anyone who is 25 years old or older. But age is just one of the descriptors that captures an ever expanding group (some 8.4 million) of adult students who often have family and work responsibilities as well as other life circumstances that have interfered with their educational goals. 

Those who fall into the nontraditional learner category meet at least one of the following common characteristics: They
  • have delayed enrollment into post-secondary education
  • attend part time
  • are financially independent of parents 
  • work full time while enrolled
  • have dependents other than a spouse
  • are a single parent
  • have a G.E.D. or High School Equivalency certificate  

Why the growth in nontraditional student population? Many professionals realize that career growth, higher earnings and the chance to maximize their potential are either slowed or are non-existent without at college degree. 

Given that so many adults are furthering their education, the importance of the University System of Georgia's efforts to provide quality, flexible opportunities—such as distance learning, accelerated course formats, and prior learning assessment (PLA)—is profound. These programs are increasingly commonplace today, allowing for greater access and completion rates. In fact, the Lumina Foundation found that the number one factor contributing to an adult learner's persistence and achievement in Higher Education is the availability of online courses and resources.

What does this mean for those out there considering starting or returning to college later in life? It means you are not alone - you are actually in the majority right now! So brush off that thinking cap of yours and join the 8.4 million other adults who are advancing taking charge of their futures through higher education. 

Need help getting started? Georgia has a great resource for adults returning to school called Go Back. Move Ahead. Here, you can browse all of the adult-friendly programs in Georgia, and get in contact with a representative that can help you navigate the enrollment process. 

What is your title and what is your current non-eCore job?
I'm currently an Assistant Professor of English and the Teaching Matters Conference Coordinator at Gordon State College.  I teach composition, poetry, American literature, world literature, and special topic courses.

What are the two main reasons you teach through eCore?
I am passionate about online education because it provides opportunities to some people who would not otherwise be able to earn a degree. Yet, convenience and easiness cannot be confused; one of the other reasons that online education is so rewarding for both students and teachers is because of its rigorousness. Online education requires more--and continual--dialogue between each (and every) student and the professor. In other words, a student is simply unable to sit in the back of the classroom and remain unnoticed; participation and growth is not only encouraged, it is required.

What do you do differently now than when you first started teaching through eCore?
In my first class, I kept most of my dialogue with students about their ideas restricted to the "hidden comments" section of the gradebook. I would generally respond to discussion posts but really interrogate ideas; but, I realized this is not how I taught in traditional courses and my students (and I) were "missing out" on dynamic discussions. So, now, I try to incite more discussion between students and critical consciousness by asking questions, helping students develop their ideas, and "playing devil's advocate"; and, I focus more heavily on writing and grammar in my comments (in the gradebook).

What would you do to your eCore course if you had a "magic wand"?
Students' computer would actually blink, dance, and sing--like an alarm--every day when they have committed to log-in and engage the course :-) Then, if they still ignore that, I will come on the screen and begin trying to motivate them--reminding them why they are enrolled in the course (and college). And, voila, everyone's "on the right track" for success again!

What's one of the coolest things you do in your eCore classes?
Honestly, I pride myself in creating a community; I want all of my students to feel comfortable discussing ideas and questions with each other and myself. I also like to think that I allow flexibility while maintaining the course's integrity. Something that I instituted a couple of semesters ago (and it seems to work effectively) is to provide a deadline for portions of the units' assignments; for instance, all activities to help write an essay are due one day (but graded as soon as each individual student completes the smaller assignments)--before the actual essay is submitted. This allows students with complex scheduling concerns to complete their work when it's most convenient--and it encourages students who enjoy "working ahead" to do so. So, while "hard deadlines" still exist, there is flexibility that students are not penalized for having intense work and/or family schedules.

Other than yourself, who do you think is a simply fabulous eCore instructor, and why?
I'm so fortunate that I can't count because I must mention a few individuals on the eCore team that I believe are absolutely fabulicious! Christy Smith, Ashleigh Paulk, Reynard Van Tonder, Michael Harris, and (last, but certainly not least!) Brett Miles--I cannot sing their praises enough! They are passionate about helping both students and teachers reach their potential; and, no matter how silly my questions are, they never make me feel like I'm bothering them...even with the incredible amount of work they are responsible for!

Tell us a secret - something about yourself that few people know.

I'm easily startled, which entertains my friends. I love viewing scary movies, especially sci-fi and supernatural thrillers--but I'm afraid to watch them by myself! And, it doesn't matter if I've seen the film before...I will still scream, jump, and cling to whomever is brave enough to watch the film with me!
Dress appropriately for the interview. 
Much information is available regarding interviewing and how to be a top notch interview candidate, but one must avail toneself of the most relevant information. Knowing the phases of the interview process and some key strategies will help you better prepare and will ultimately put you on the "short" list with potential employers. Seems simple, but you have to be diligent with all 3 phases of interviewing (before, during and after).

Preparation is twofold. Thoroughly research the organization, specific department, and the job role. This requires significant time and energy. At the same time, you will be doing some self-reflection to determine if this is a proper fit for you. Prepping the resume for EACH  job that you apply to will help you define and determine your skill sets to see where you may be lacking for the industry or job, and can also help you appropriately articulate your strengths. You know your resume is done well if you get called for an interview. You should spend ample time reviewing interview questions so that you are comfortable with how to "sell yourself."

Ask yourself if you "look the part," during the interview. Are you equipped with Skype, conference calling, or other possible mode of connection with the interviewer if that is part of the process?  Have you paid special attention to proper grooming, hygiene, dress and manners for the face to face interview? Are you leaving a positive impression on everyone you have encountered in the process, including the administrative assistant who checked you in?

After-the-interview practices can carry you over the top as a candidate and can, in some cases, salvage a poor or botched interview experience.  The same day that you have a phone or face to face interview - sit down and pen a hand-written thank you. Purchasing a box of 10 generic thank you cards at the Dollar Store to have on hand for all professional encounters will demonstrate proper etiquette and gratitude for time each person spent with you. The thank you should be sincere and mention specific talking points discussed during your call or face to face meeting. With a quick website search - you can locate the correct spelling of the persons' names with whom you spoke, their titles, and a mailing address.  An email can also be sent and is absolutely better than no acknowledgement at all.

For more detail on these and other interviewing tips click here to view the 15 minute archived webinar. The internet is full of great material that covers all aspects of the phases of the interview process. Plus, be sure to check in with your home institution's Career Services Department for direct assistance with resume assistance, interviewing practice, employer networking opportunities and career fair information.

Success can be yours! "Success is where preparation and opportunity meet." Bobby Unser

Studies have shown that students who regularly participate in exercise have better grades than those who do not; is there a causal connection between the exercise and better grades or is it discipline that students display across both studying and exercising that is the determinant?

The evidence showing that regular exercise should be a component of our lives is compelling and is being expanded upon with regard to the physical and mental benefits; it's so good for you! So how can it help you be a better student?

Feeling down?  The demands of school can sometimes be overwhelming, especially when combined with work schedules, home life…the list of stressors goes on. Exercise has been shown to positively affect mood, lowering stress and anxiety. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that are believed to leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. Think about using exercise as a time to decompress, or alternatively, an opportunity to reconnect with family members. Remember, exercise can be as simple as taking a walk, playing Frisbee, even housecleaning…yes, it counts, but really?

Too tired to study? Regular physical activity can not only improve your muscle strength and boost your endurance, but it also helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And when your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you have more energy to go about your daily chores, and that includes studying. Regular exercise can also help you sleep better, which in turn helps renew your energy.

Get laser focus. In order to study effectively, a certain level of focus on the material is required; even moderate exercise can help. Physical activity is key to improving mental alertness and improving the capacity to concentrate. A short burst of vigorous exercise, even as short as 10 minutes, is said to improve the ability to focus and stay alert. Increased blood flow to the brain is thought to be the reason behind improved alertness.

Keep your chin up! Regular exercise helps boost self-esteem. It’s not only the physical changes (body composition) that help self-esteem improve, but the fact that you’re making a commitment to your own well-being is empowering. Further, a boost in self-esteem may help you participate more fully in class as well as in social situations.

What are some easy solutions to getting much needed exercise? Even if you don’t have the opportunity to get to the gym, you can add activity to your daily routine:

  •  Park farther away from the entrance to your job, the grocery, or to classes while you are on campus.
  •  If sitting at the computer, stand up and stretch, do jumping jacks, push-ups, or some other form of calisthenics. Encourage others to participate.
  • Take the stairs!
  • Breathe! Read the blog entry on breathing at

Online institutions of higher education tend to offer multiple class formats in order to fit the needs of their non-traditional student base. Some schools may require you to choose one format over the other, while others allow you to mix long and shorter classes at once.

eCore and eMajor courses are offered in Full Session formats, consisting of 16 weeks of instruction, as well as two 8 week Short Sessions in both the Fall and Spring Semesters. Students at affiliate institutions are able to register for any combination of Full Session, Short Session I, and/or Short Session II courses. While mixing class schedules can be convenient, it can also be a recipe for disaster if you’re not prepared.  Unprepared students who register for Short Session II courses have a significantly higher chance of getting behind and performing poorly in the course.

Here are 5 signs that an eCore or eMajor Short Session II course may NOT be for you.

1. You have never taken an accelerated course before.
Accelerated classes are just that – accelerated. With just eight weeks of instruction, it can seem like it’s time for your midterm just a few weeks after the start of class. With less time in the session, it can be very easy to get behind and even harder to catch up if you do. The stresses of starting an accelerated course in the middle of the semester can make it difficult for some students to maintain the pace required to be successful in a Short Session course. If you have never taken an accelerated course before, it is a good idea to “get your feet wet” with a Short Session I course, which starts at the same time as regular Full Session courses.
2. You have never taken an online course before.
Some students jump right into online learning with ease, while others take more time to become familiar with their new environment. You know yourself and your comfort level with technology. If you are completely new to online learning and think you may need more time to get the hang of it, a full session course may be a better option for you, as there is more time within the term to familiarize yourself with your new virtual classroom.

3.   You have scheduled your classes for mostly Full Session or semester-long courses.
Students who perform best in Short Session II courses are on a schedule where they take ONLY Short Session courses. These students are already in the mindset of accelerated classes, and have completed their Short Session I courses prior to starting their Short Session II courses. If you are taking mostly Full Session courses, it can be hard to add an additional class in the middle of the semester when that “beginning of class” energy may have subsided.

4.   You are attempting to add the class “last minute” in the middle of the regular semester.
You may find yourself at the beginning of the semester, and the class you need is already full. In that case, you may have no other option than to register for the course in Short Session II. In this scenario, you have registered for the class at the beginning of the semester and have a whole 8 weeks to make sure you are prepared for the start of class, which is great. However, if you are considering adding a Short Session II course during the short registration window that opens up in the middle of the semester, consider the time you’ll need to get prepared for the course which includes acquiring any necessary textbooks and materials. Remember, it’s easy to get behind in accelerated courses, so if you’re not able to start the class prepared it may be best to wait and take the class at a later time.

5.   You do not have strong time management skills.
This is true for any online course, but especially for those on an accelerated schedule. Taking a class online means you do not have a “time” to be in class. To stay on track, it is important that you manage your time well, and assign specific blocks of your day to work on assignments for the class. Failing to do so may leave you in a situation where you are several weeks into the class and struggling to make up coursework before the midterm. You know yourself – if you’re not good with time management but need an online class to fit your schedule, then a Full Session course is your best bet. The full 16 week schedule gives you much more time to “catch up” if you happen to get off schedule and fall behind.

Despite your best efforts to plan ahead, there are some instances when a student finds him or herself with no other option but to add a Short Session II course, sometimes at the last minute. In that case, there are things you can do to improve your chances of success in the course. Be sure to get your book (if one is required) before class begins. You can also login before the first day of class to access the eConnection, a tutorial class where you can practice making discussion postings and familiarize yourself with the virtual “classroom”. You should login to the course on the first day of class, pay special attention to due dates in the course, and make a plan to stay on schedule. A little bit of pre-planning at the beginning of the course can go a long way to helping you get to that “A”!
For questions about registering for eCore and eMajor courses at your institution, please visit the eCore and eMajor Institutions pages to contact the liaison at your school. Your academic advisor is also a great resource for questions about what classes are right for you.
Stressed about school? Relax!
As the time to begin classes draws nearer, many people find that their stress and anxiety levels ramp up in tandem. Let's look at some relaxation techniques to help you use less energy combating stress, thereby directing it onto tasks like school, work and family life.

Deep Breathing
As stress increases, we clench our jaws, and our shoulders ride up toward our ears — forcing our breathing to become shallow. Shallow breathing, or chest breathing, affects our productivity significantly because it prevents the brain from getting the amount of freshly oxygenated blood it needs to function optimally. Breathing fully from the diaphragm, or deep breathing, allows more oxygen in and more carbon dioxide to exit. Deep breathing counteracts the fight or flight, or stress, response so that we are no longer reacting defensively to perceived threats to our well being, eliciting the "Relaxation Response." Coined by Dr. Herbert Benson, the Relaxation Response is the body being in a state of deep relaxation which lowers heart rate and blood pressure, and relaxes muscles.

The technique for deep breathing is relatively simple:
  1. Place your hand lightly on your belly, whether lying down or sitting.
  2. Breathe in to the count of five, ensuring that your hand rises and falls with the inhalation/exhalation.
  3. Exhale to the count of five; most people need to deep breathe for twenty to thirty minutes for the full Relaxation Response to occur, but after even a few minutes of deep breathing, you will more than likely feel your shoulders start to relax — a positive step forward.
Muscle Relaxation
The best way to get your muscles to relax is to tense them. Sounds counter intuitive, but by focusing on tensing one muscle at a time and then focusing on relaxing it, you become more aware of where you are holding stress. For instance, if you raise and tighten your shoulders and then focus on relaxing them away from your ears, you become more aware that your shoulders were tense and tight. Doing a "body check" periodically through the day, you'll begin to see where you typically hold stress and you can be mindful of relaxing that area.

Body Check:
  1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
  2. Starting at the feet, work your way up the body tensing and then relaxing feet, calves, thighs, stomach, arms, hands, and shoulders. Breathe deeply using the technique described above and as you exhale, relax each muscle group; spend 3-5 breaths on each area.
We all have different ways of coping with stress; from talking with friends to eating, and from sleeping too much to grinding our teeth — coping strategies are as varied as the stressors with which we each deal. And while you may feel tired and depleted and think you couldn't bear to do cardio or lift weights, exercise is one of the best ways to deal with stress. Stress increases our sensitivity to pain through pro-inflammatory cytokines; and our brains process emotional "injuries" in the same way they process physical injuries. Exercise has been shown to reverse the production of systemic inflammation through an increase in endorphins — our bodies' own pain relievers that act much like morphine in reducing our perception of pain.

New research has also shown that exercise is linked to an increase in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which promotes brain nerve-cell health. Better nerve cells equate to increases in learning and memory and helps push the mood reset button. Exercise encourages better sleep, more energy and the release of sex hormones in the brain. Finally, exercise increases blood flow to the brain which encourages mental alertness and concentration. So get up off that couch!

These three methods are by no means the only ways to prevent or reduce stress, but used together provide a powerful recipe to enhance your relaxation efforts. Try any or all of them as you prepare for this semester and let us know how they worked for you!
The journey to a college degree is not always an easy one, but Codee Burton is enjoying it every step of the way. He is fortunate...He has a strong support system, which can make you or break you during your college career. He also makes the most of his free time, which creates a good work-life balance. Too much work can be hard on the soul. 

What is your occupation?  
I work at the Drury Inn and Suites in Valdosta, GA.

What is your college major?  
My major is Organizational Leadership, emphasis on Public Relations.

Why did you choose to take courses through eMajor?  
I like eMajor because it makes college, with all of it's challenges both in and out of the classroom, just a little bit more convenient. More importantly the professors and advisors on campuses are what make it so easy and accessible to use. I haven't had one professor that hasn't been more than willing to do what it takes to see us succeed throughout the course.

Who is the biggest inspiration for your education?  
The biggest inspiration for my education is my family. Most of my family did not have the opportunity to attend a college or university; many of them that did, didn't finish. This pushes me to keep going and get that degree! My grandfather, Pappy, has told me thousands of times how he didn't finish school and how he wishes he could have. I don't like regret, and his advice has always been an inspiration for everything I have done in my life. My other main source of inspiration is my Mom; she never let me quit anything. At a very young age I did not appreciate that or a lot of the things my mother did for me. Now, I cannot imagine what, or more importantly WHO, I would be without her. She is the fuel that drives me to be better than I was yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

What is something cool you've learned this semester in your eMajor class?  
One cool thing I learned this semester was how to build a "blog website." I had a class where the entire semester was to make a website, specifically a blog, and we were to "make it our own." It was overwhelming at first but then as it started to fall together I was actually kind of surprised at the end product.

What three words would you use to describe your online instructor?  
Dedicated, Sincere, Caring. eMajor instructors are how all college professors should be. They care about the well-being and education of each and every student they have. 

Where is your favorite place to visit in the USA?  
My favorite places to visit in the US of A is by far Atlanta, GA and Bristol, TN. This is where my ever so inspiring and supportive family live. My brother, mom, and stepfather are in Atlanta. I love seeing them when I get to come home. The rest of my family is in Bristol - my dad, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc. I get up there once a year around Christmas and love every second I get to spend with them!  

What kind of mood are you in right now, and why?  
Right now my mood is wonderful. Haha! I am watching Christmas movies, I have the day off, just finished school, planned a hunting trip next week, fishing trip at the end of the month, and in a couple weeks it will be Christmas! Hard to be in a bad mood at this point.

What is your favorite study spot?  
I don't have a favorite study spot, but I do the majority of studying at either my or my girlfriend's house.  

What is something your online classmates don't know about you?  
Something my online classmate's don't know about me would be that I was President of the Delta Chi Fraternity, Valdosta State Chapter from 2011-2012. 

What are your career plans beyond eMajor?  
My career plans are loose at this point, but I do have a few options. I want to stay in the business/sales department. Ever since I can remember I have been told, "you were a natural-born salesman." I rejected it at first, I think because it was the "beaten path" taken by many friends and family of mine. But as I have realized, sales is a great way to go!

Is there anything interesting you would like to share about yourself?  
I am an avid sports fan, athlete, and live to play my favorite sports; football, basketball, baseball/softball, and tennis. I have collected over 20 championships at VSU over the past years and have even traveled around the state of Georgia and Florida for annual tournaments that we WON! Recently I picked up the game of Disc Golf and won a tournament earlier this year as well as placed in my first sanctioned tournament.   

All of this has been a remarkable journey that I could not have completed without my friends and family. Buddy, my step dad, has never let me think any less of myself than he does, and although he won't admit it,  I hung the moon to him. He and my brother, Maks, are so much alike, without them it would be hard to keep on going and finish this wild ride that we call college. Of course, Pappy and Bobba are always there for an inspiring, feel-good sentiment whenever I call. My mom, like mentioned before, has never let me quit and always pushed me to do better and be better even when I thought I was at my best or my worst. It would be impossible to say that I would be the man I am today without them. 

Thank you for all of your support!