Cathryn with three of her eight grandchildren. 
Cathryn Vandiver
Age: 56
Institution: Dalton State College

Why is completing your college degree important to you?
Completing my college degree will be a dream come true! I started this journey over 37 years ago and did not finish. Since then, I have raised a family as a single parent for 14 years with three young children. I worked two jobs for many years, and I was a legal secretary for attorneys for over twenty years. I currently keep three of my grandchildren while my two daughters teach school. I want my college degree because I need it to pursue my ultimate goal, and to be an inspiration to others that it is never too late to learn and contribute to society! Thank you for the opportunity eCore gives students like me who could not otherwise attend classes in person to get their college degree.

Why did you choose to take online classes through eCore?
It was offered by the college I wanted to attend, Dalton State College.

How would you describe the instructors you've had in your eCore classes?
This is the first time I have ever had eCore or online classes before so it is very new to me. The two professors I have seem to really care about us succeeding and try very hard to explain any questions we have. So far, so good!

Besides being a college student, what do you spend your time doing?
I keep three of my grandchildren, ages 2, 3, and 5. My hobby is studying the Bible and I spend time with my elderly aunt, age 81, who recently had two strokes. I have 8 grandchildren so I make sure I spend quality time with them also.

How and when do you make time to spend on your school work?
I spend a lot of time reading and I am one of those students who has to read first before I can discuss. I want to know what I am going to be discussing! I cannot skip to the specific point, I have to read the lesson. That is hard for me. I would say I spend at least four hours every day on eCore classes.

What would you say to someone who is considering taking their first online class through eCore?
That it’s great! It is taking me a little time to get to where I can discuss earlier in my weekly assignments but I am learning and the program is set up for just that, for us to learn! I highly recommend it and look forward to many more eCore classes. One big advantage, you have a calendar. There is nothing that can interfere like in a classroom. You know exactly what is expected of you and you do it! It certainly is the only way I can attend college at this stage in my life, and you meet lots of wonderful students in your discussions. If you don't need outside motivation, if you are focused on your goals at college, eCore might be the right answer for you!

What has been the best thing about your eCore experience?
The best thing about my eCore experience is bringing the classroom into my home so I can work on my lessons at my convenience. I am learning so much, and retaining, I believe, more than I do in a classroom. It seems to be working not only for a grade but for why I am here which is to learn!
If you are currently, or soon-to-be in the market for a new job, then you have probably heard the saying – it’s all about networking. Employers today receive stacks and stacks of resumes for open positions, making it harder and harder to stand out as an applicant.  Sure, you may have impressive work experience and a killer cover letter, but odds are that there is at least one applicant in that stack who already has name recognition within the company – and that person is much more likely to get an interview. When searching for a job – it’s all about who you know. If you don’t know the right people, and the right people don’t know you – then you need to change that. The way to do that is through networking.

Ten years ago, networking had a completely different meaning than it does today. Sure, joining and being active in professional groups is great, but today we have a much more powerful professional networking tool right at our fingertips – LinkedIn. To a beginner, LinkedIn can be a bit overwhelming. You may have already created an account, even added “connections,” but are still unclear about how this platform can actually help you get a job. The key is – you have to be strategic in your approach. Here is my four-step process to effectively using LinkedIn in a job search.

Step 1: Start with a complete, professional profile.
This is NOT the first impression you want to
give employers on LinkedIn.
First things first – you have to have a complete profile to be taken seriously on LinkedIn. Think of your profile as your digital resume – it is the first impression you are giving to potential employers, and it should reflect your PROFESSIONAL brand. Just like your real resume, you don’t want to leave the crucial parts empty. The main components of the LinkedIn Profile are:
  •  Profile Photo: Starting at the top, you need a professional – looking photo of just you. Again, this is not the appropriate place to use your St. Patrick’s Day photo, or a photo of you and your kids. Remember – you are branding yourself professionally. The photo should be high resolution, and in a professional setting.
  • Contact Information: Some people are hesitant to post contact information on social networks. But, if you are trying to appeal to potential employers, you want them to be able to contact you if they see something they like. Even if you only share an email address, you should have something here. Another great tip – you can customize your profile’s URL so that it is easier to share in job applications. Once you get your profile completed, you are going to want to share it as much as possible!
  • Employment History and Education – You can use the same information from your resume here. Several Companies and Universities have LinkedIn Pages, so link to those in your profile so that the logos will show up, and other employees/alumni will then be included in your “network.”
  • Recommendations– This a way to enhance your resume by asking coworkers and supervisors in previous positions to write a recommendation specifically related to your work at that company.
  • Optional Areas: You can also add areas for volunteering, projects you’ve worked on, certifications, specific interests you have, and many other things.
Step 2: Build your Network through Groups
Once you have your profile completed, it’s time to start building your network. You’ve already done some networking by connecting with others at companies you’ve worked at and schools you’ve attended. Another great way to extend your network is by joining groups. You want to join groups that are relevant to you both by your background and your professional interests – so if you are seeking a job in Human Resources, look for HR industry related groups to join. This will help you to stay in the know in that industry, and will also extend your network to include people already working in the field. Also, if there is a specific company you want to work for, look for groups related to them that you can join.

Step 3: Join the Conversation
You have an awesome profile, have joined very relevant groups, and have 300+ connects. You’re done, right? Wrong! Just like a physical networking group, if you sit in the corner and don’t speak to anyone – you will not be noticed or taken seriously. You have to be active and participate in conversations. A good way to do this is to subscribe to different “channels” through LinkedIn Pulse, which will funnel articles and blog posts to your news feed. You can then comment and share as appropriate. You can also subscribe to companies of interest, who often post news and updates to LinkedIn, that you can then interact with.

To subscribe to channels: Interests – then Pulse. Discover, will show you recommended people and channels to follow. Stories will show in your news feed, making it easy to comment, like, and share. This will position you to your connections as knowledgeable within the industry. Plus, it will actually help you to become more knowledgeable about current events and topics within your fields of interest.

Step 4: Find and Utilize Meaningful Connections within your Network
When you go to any networking event, you should go with a goal in mind – “I want to meet someone that works at XYZ company,” or “I want to introduce myself to someone working in XYZ industry.” The same is true on LinkedIn. Think about – where you want to work, what type of profession you are seeking, then we’re going to see who in your network has an “in” and can help you get there. To do this, we’re going to use the University Pages, and Advanced Search.

  •     University Pages: The great thing about established colleges and universities is that you are automatically adopted into a vast network of students and alumni who are quite often willing to help fellow alum get a “foot in the door.” LinkedIn does a great job of helping these networks to connect digitally through their “Youniversity” section. To find yours, go to Interests – Education. Here you can search people connected with your school and look at them by industry, location, company, and in several different ways. If you have a connection to a company you’re interested in – reach out to that person!
  •       Advanced Search: This feature searches for people within and connected to your network, so it is important that you have  already made those connections through groups and companies. The advanced search option givse you the ability to search your network by current and previous company, among many other things. Results will either be 1st connections, 2nd, or 3rdconnections, or by a group you have in common.  If a prominent 2nd or 3rdconnection shows up – Click “shared connections” to see who you know that can introduce you to that person. REMEMBER – If you click on someone’s name and actually view their profile, they will see that you looked at them. So just be aware of that before you click onto a profile.

So now you have it, 4 steps to finding your “in” through LinkedIn. You can view our previously recorded webinar at the link below for a walk-through of LinkedIn and how to specifically access some of the functions mentioned above.

I hope you found this helpful, and I encourage you to log on, buff up your profile, and start networking!

Access a walk-through of these 4 easy steps here. 

Jessica Blakemore
Associate Director of Marketing for Collaborative Programs 

If you are or ever have been a college student, you know that textbooks are expensive. Affordable Learning Georgia estimates that at the current rate, students in the University System of Georgia would spend a total of $1,400,000,000 on textbooks. With student loan debt already a major issue in our country, it goes without saying that this type of expenditure needs attention. So – what is the higher education industry, particularly in Georgia, doing to address this issue?  

The answer is Open Educational Resources, or OERs, which are freely accessible, openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching and learning. Many colleges and universities are making efforts to transition to the use of OERs in their classes as opposed to traditional textbooks, which provides a zero-cost textbook option to students. Our state is paving the way for this movement, with programs like Affordable Learning Georgia, which has set a goal of providing faculty in the USG with a zero-cost textbook option for each of the System’s top 50 lower division courses.

At eCore, we are proud to offer open educational resources in over half of our curriculum. We continue to work with faculty to develop and implement Open Educational Resources throughout the entire eCore curriculum.

March 9 – 13, 2015 is International Open Education Week. In celebration of Open Education, we would like to express sincere and tremendous thanks to the eCore faculty who have worked to create and adopt open (free) textbooks and materials to make learning more affordable and possible for students throughout the University System of Georgia and beyond.

eCore has many points of pride regarding open resources.
Many faculty are working currently with eCore and Affordable Learning Georgia, OpenStax and the University Press of North Georgia to create and implement even more Open Educational Resources.

An OER Event:

Dr. Sarah Mergel (eCore ENVS Instructor), Dr. Andy Meyer (VPAA of Dalton State University) and eCore Senior Instructional Designer, Ashleigh Paulk will be part of a panel presenting an OER webinar on Thursday (March 12)  at 12 PM noon. 

If you can join them online, registration is free at

BIG thanks and cheers to the textbook heroes!! 

Christy Talley-Smith
Director of Curriculum and Instruction
USG eCore