2018, Vol. 2

Since Spring 2013, implementation of eCore Open Education Resources (OERs), resulted in an estimated cost saving of 10M dollars. OERs improve access to course materials and reduce barriers for students; no book purchase and just-in-time availability (University System of Georgia eCore Factbook, 2017). 

OERs influence learning by increasing opportunity and can dramatically impact lives of millions of people around the world, through high quality, locally relevant educational materials (Bliss, Robinson, Hilton, & Wiley, 2013; Cape Town Open Education Declaration, 2007). Bliss et al. (2013) provided the following quotes from college faculty; "I am able to refer to material knowing that all students will have access to the same material." and "The materials were free to my students, which reduced a barrier to their chances for academic success." 

Hilton (2016) reviewed 16 OER studies that involved over 46,000 students and concluded that OERs do not appear to negatively influence student learning. As a result, he questioned the rationale for traditional textbook costs. 

Open Education Resources (OERs) are an important feature of eCore courses that help reduce students’ out of pocket cost per course. OER textbooks are carefully selected by a team of content experts from various resources such as OpenStax, Saylor Academy, and University Press of North Georgia textbooks. In some courses, several OERs are used to satisfy course learning objectives. eCore also supplements OERs with course content developed by University System of Georgia faculty subject matter experts. Scholarly articles and external websites serve as valuable OERs as well. OERs are reviewed and revised periodically to ensure quality (University System of Georgia eCore Factbook, 2017). 

Karen LingrellAssociate Director for Collaborative Programs

klingrel@westga.edu, 678-839-5278 

Dr. Randy Blackmon, Director of Enrollment and Strategic Projects
rblackmo@westga.edu 678-839-4898 

Bliss, T. J., Robinson, T., Hilton, J., & Wiley, D. (2013). An OER COUP: College teacher and student perceptions of open educational resources. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2013(1). 

Declaration, C. T. O. E. (2007). Cape Town Open Education Declaration: Unlocking the promise of open educational resources. Retrieved from: http://www.capetowndeclaration.org/read-the-declaration 

Hilton, J. (2016). Open educational resources and college textbook choices: a review of research on efficacy and perceptions. Educational Technology Research and Development, 64(4), 573-590. 

University System of Georgia eCore. (2017). Factbook-2017. Retrieved from: https://ecore.usg.edu/about/factbook/factbook-2017/

Last year, the U.S. Department of Education announced that the award window for the Federal Pell Grant would be extended to include the summer semester. This is in contrast to the previous policy, which restricted eligibility to the Fall and Spring semesters, when college students have traditionally taken the bulk of their classes. 

This is great news for adult learners who do not typically follow the “traditional” schedule but, instead, prefer to take courses in shorter accelerated terms with minimum breaks in-between. This accelerated schedule allows students to take more classes within the same amount of time, shortening their path to graduation. As Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said herself, “this decision is about empowering students and giving them the flexibility and support needed to achieve their goals. Expanding access to the Pell program, so that students who need additional resources can graduate more quickly and with less debt, is the right thing to do." 

Whether you are a current college student receiving the Pell Grant, or someone considering returning to school— you may have questions about this new funding opportunity and how you can utilize it to achieve your goals. 

Here are three things you should know about the Pell Grant:
  1. Pell Grant eligibility is determined through the FAFSA form.  The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the official application to apply for all Federal Student Aid. Many adult learners do not complete the FAFSA for different reasons. They may think they are “too old” to qualify for financial aid, or they may be reluctant to take on the debt that comes with student loans. However, by not completing the FAFSA, you may be leaving free money on the table. When you complete the FAFSA, your eligibility for all types of aid is determined— including the Federal Pell Grant which, unlike loans, does not have to be repaid. That’s right, it’s free money!
  2. There is no age limit for Pell Grant eligibility. There are some common misconceptions out there about financial aid. One is that you must be a traditional college student to qualify for aid, or that there is an age limit to receive aid. This is false! Whether you are fresh out of high school or in your 40’s working on a degree you started years ago, most people qualify for some sort of financial aid. Eligibility for the Pell Grant is determined strictly by your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Your age has absolutely nothing to do with it, so don’t let that deter you!
  3. You must be enrolled full-time to be eligible, but... The phrase “full-time” student may scare some adult students. However, it doesn’t always mean what you think it means. The U.S. government defines “full-time” enrollment as six hours for the summer semester. So, even though you may work a full-time job and take classes on the side, you are still eligible to receive Pell funding if you are enrolled in at least two three-hour courses for the summer.
Now that Pell Grant is back for the Summer, eligible students can receive up to 50% more than their original award amount. The bottom line is this: If you are eligible for Pell, or think you might be eligible for Pell, do not let this opportunity pass you by! Summer is a great time to get ahead in your classes, and by taking classes online, you can still travel and enjoy the sunny season as you normally would. Check out the eCore summer schedule and the eMajor summer schedule to see what online classes you might want to take with your summer Pell money. 

For specific questions about your financial aid eligibility, please contact the Financial Aid Office at your eCore home institutioneMajor home institution, or the institution to which you are considering applying. 

2018, Vol. 1

Georgia’s dual enrollment non-need based grant has resulted in increased dual credit participation. According to University System of Georgia (USG) enrollment reports, the increase in dual enrollments over the last two years was over 50 percent, representing a 3,500 student gain across the system. These students are earning college credits face-to-face and online. Dual credit eCore students achieved ABC rates at over 90 percent!  
2,100 Courses Taken, 90% Earned College Credit

Research indicates that students participating in dual credit programs show an increase in college persistence, grade point average, and college graduation (An, 2015; Hoffman, Vargas & Santos, 2009: Hughes 2010). Most USG dual enrolled students attend courses face-to-face at around 88 percent for FY17. There are several reasons why a high school student may require an online option to attend a USG institution.

The state of Georgia has over 100 counties that are designated rural, less than 35,000 population, by the Georgia Department of Community Health. Many of our rural county high school students may not be able to attend on-campus courses at a USG institution due to distance challenges. In addition, many high school students who are within reach of a USG campus may not have transportation or are busy with high school clubs, band, sports, or part-time jobs. For these students, who cannot attend on-campus courses, there are online college course options.

Dual enrolled students taking eCore courses have consistently achieved just over a 90 percent ABC rate. Research indicates that eCore dual credit students from rural Georgia counties tend to earn ABC rates at or better than those students from more populated counties (Blackmon, 2017).

For more information about online dual enrollment and increasing your institution's geographic reach, please contact the USG eCampus Partnerships and Enrollment team. 

Karen Lingrell, Associate Director for Collaborative Programs
klingrel@westga.edu 678-839-5278 

Randy Blackmon, Senior Enrollment Manager
rblackmo@westga.edu 678-839-4898

An, B. P. (2015). The role of academic motivation and engagement on the relationship between dual enrollment and academic performance. Journal of Higher Education, 86(1), 98-126.

Blackmon, R. B. (2017). 
The effects of online dual enrollment in the state of Georgia (unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Georgia, Athens GA. 

Hoffman, N., Vargas, J., & Santos, J. (2009). New directions for dual enrollment: Creating stronger pathways from high school through college. New Directions For Community Colleges, 2009(145), 43-58. doi:10.1002/cc.354

Hughes, K. L. (2010). Dual enrollment: Postsecondary/secondary partnerships to prepare students. Journal of College Science Teaching, 39(6), 12-13.

Online Learning allows students the flexibility of continuing their educational journey from anywhere in the world. Online classes are an excellent option for students who are studying abroad for the semester, military members and families who are stationed overseas, or even those who want to take classes while traveling for pleasure.

While online classes can usually be accessed from anywhere with a reliable internet connection, there are some things to consider before registering for class if you intend to complete the course while located outside of the U.S. 

  1. Availability of a Reliable Internet Connection
    To access most online classes, students must have a reliable internet connection. This may be a challenge in some areas of the world due to various issues such as local network instability, outages, firewalls, or restrictive local internet policies. Before registering for an online class, research the internet accessibility situation in the area in which you plan to travel. Although you may not have designated "class times" when you are required to be logged in, it is important to log in daily so that you do not fall behind in the course.
  2. Materials Needed for the Course
    Ordering and receiving items while overseas may be difficult and may also require additional shipping costs. You should research and attempt to obtain all materials required for the course prior to leaving the U.S. This includes textbooks (if they are not included digitally in the course as is the case in all eCore classes), lab kits for science courses, and any other support materials. Keep in mind that some lab kits may include materials that cannot be shipped internationally, so you may need to make arrangements to purchase these locally upon your arrival.
  3. Proctored Exam Requirements
    Online courses often include some sort of proctored exam component as a way of validating the identity of the student and the integrity of the course. While virtual proctoring services may be an option, you may also want to explore opportunities to take the exam in a face-to-face setting. Options may include a local college or university, a study abroad faculty member, or an on-base Educational Resource Officer. Alternatively, you may want to proactively contact the instructor and arrange for an exam extension so that you can take the exam once you return to the country.
A little research can save yourself a lot of headache in the long-run. The last thing you want to do is find yourself in another country with unexpected roadblocks that can cause you to be unsuccessful in the course. By planning ahead, you can set yourself up for success and enjoy your time abroad while you're at it!

Detailed information about taking eCore classes while overseas can be found on the eCore website
Stephanie Lampp, 36
Georgia Southwestern State University
Major: Criminal Justice

With 15 years of police experience under her belt, Stephanie had started to see opportunities for advancement come and go because of just one thing: her lack of a 4-year degree. Now, she’s starting the new year by tackling one of her biggest goals (and fears) and going back to school online through Georgia Southwestern State University. Read more about Stephanie, and the journey she’s taken to get to this place in her life. 

Tell us a little about yourself. Other than being a brand new college student, what do you spend your time doing?  I am a Lieutenant in the Police Department at Middle Georgia State University. I oversee day to day operations on our Dublin and Eastman Campuses. I am the Training Coordinator, Assessment Coordinator, & Clery Coordinator. I am married (10 years) to a Drug Agent and we have an 8-year-old daughter. Our schedules are often hectic and never the same. Our family loves camping. We go as often as we can and feel it is important to spend this time together making memories.  I love to read books during my downtime and my husband often jokes that he lost me to a Kindle = ). My husband also has a cook team (Pigs cooking Pork), and we spend a lot of time mixing cooking with our camping. 

In 2009 I almost died due to HELPP syndrome. My daughter was born 3 months early as a result and was 2lbs 9oz. In the following year, I lost my ability to walk. The steroids that were given to me to develop my daughter’s lungs caused my hip joints to deteriorate. From 2009-2015 I’ve had both my hips replaced and a portion of my lower back fixed. I say that to say this: It’s a miracle that I am still able to serve in any capacity in Law Enforcement. It’s the only job I know and it is important to get an education so that when I’m too old to work a beat— I’ll be able to work on the administration side to finish out my career. I try to remind myself every day that life is precious. 

What circumstances led you to return to school at this time in your life?  I have been in law enforcement for 15 years. In 2003, I chose this career because it was a skilled trade and didn’t require a college degree. Here I am 15 years later and policing in higher education has transitioned and now does require a degree for ranking positions. As a Lieutenant, I am as high as I can go at my institution without having a 4-year degree. Although I do have an Associate’s degree, doors are starting to close in my face because I don’t have that last 2 years of education.

Why did you choose this particular program? Returning to school had been on my mind for quite some time. One day, an email came through from the University System office about the eMajor program in Criminal Justice. It was completely online, could be paid for by my employer’s tuition assistance program, and there was even a chance to earn college credit for some of my training and experience. I jumped right on it! The admissions team at Georgia Southwestern helped push my application through so that I could meet the tuition assistance deadlines to start in January.

Why is completing your college degree important to you? I want to retire with the University System, and I want to be able to pursue opportunities for advancement within the system during that time. Most importantly going back to school is intimidating to me. I am overwhelmed with feelings of defeat and dread that I can’t succeed, and I feel like I need to prove myself wrong about that.

What is your experience with online classes, and why did you choose to complete the program online? Our law enforcement required training has moved to online training, so I am more comfortable with it now than I was when I first attended school 10+ years ago. My job and home life do not allow the time needed to go sit in a classroom. I am a wife and a mom; online classes are my only option to obtaining a 4-year degree. 

How and when do you plan to make time to spend on your school work? My plan is to spend the first two hours that I’m off every day and dedicate it to school work. I will let you know how it works!

What goals would you like to accomplish after earning your degree? The goal at the moment is just to prove to myself that I can do it. Beyond that, I want the next Captain’s position.

What would you say to someone who is considering taking their first online class or returning to school after being out for many years? It’s a scary thing to commit to but it’s not unachievable. If it were, people wouldn’t be succeeding at it every day. I constantly tell myself that, “they are going to provide you with what you need to know to be successful.”

Stephanie is pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice degree through Georgia Southwestern State University completely online through USG eMajor. For more information on this program, or Credit for Prior Learning opportunities with eMajor, please visit emajor.usg.edu.  

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Visit emajor.usg.edu/CPL for information on Credit for Prior Learning opportunities in USG eMajor degree programs. 
The most wonderful time of year is upon us once again and, if you’re like me, you’ve got shopping on the brain. Gone are the days of hitting every big-box store in four surrounding counties looking for the must-have gift of the year. With the power of the internet, you can easily compare inventory and prices among different stores and have that item on your doorstep in two business days. All of the information you need to make the best purchase as a consumer is literally at your fingertips—you just have to take the time to do your research and find it. 

The same is true for higher education. If you’ve decided to return to college, either full or part-time, your first step is likely a Google search. Then, you start comparing your options. In addition to the obvious comparisons you’ll make on tuition, online options, and degrees available, one of the most important things you should compare is an institution’s accreditation. Sounds simple enough, right? Actually, there are a lot of different types of accreditation out there, and knowing the difference is important when choosing to go back to school online. Here are the most frequently asked questions that we receive about accreditation and the answers that will help you make an informed decision.

What does it mean for a school to be “accredited”?
Being “accredited” means that a school or program has been voluntarily evaluated by a third- party, independent accrediting agency to ensure that it meets a set standard of quality. Accreditation is an important way to uphold the integrity of the higher education industry and protect students against low quality (and often very expensive) “diploma mills.” Think of accrediting organizations as the Better Business Bureaus of Higher Education. However, not all accreditations are created equal, which is the most important takeaway from this article. 

What type of accreditation should I look for, or what is the “best” accreditation to have?
Although there is no technical hierarchy of accreditations, there are some that are more widely recognized than others. In the United States, the most recognized and accepted type of accreditation is Regional Accreditation. Recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), there are several different legitimate regional accrediting organizations in the United States. A school’s accrediting body is generally determined by the region of the country in which it is located.  Within the University System of Georgia, our schools are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). A full list of regional accrediting organizations is available on the CHEA website. It’s always a good idea to check that the school you are considering is included on this list. 

What is a “specialized” accreditation? 
In addition to a college or university’s regional accreditation, individual programs may seek additional specialized accreditations. These are common in areas such as education, healthcare, and business. For example, the School of Business Administration at Georgia Southwestern State University holds specialized accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), which is the most prestigious accrediting agency for business schools worldwide. This additional accreditation  means that, in addition to the institution’s quality standards mandated by their regional accrediting body (SACSCOC), the School of Business at GSW has voluntarily been reviewed by and met even higher standards set by the longest standing, most recognized form of professional accreditation an institution and its business programs can earn.

Why is a school’s accreditation so important?
A school’s accreditation is important for many reasons. Regionally accredited institutions generally qualify for federal and state financial aid, their credits are transferable to other regionally accredited schools, and a degree from a regionally accredited school is required for admission to most graduate schools. 

All in all–accreditation is something that you definitely want to confirm before you enroll in a higher education program. During my many years in higher education, some of the most difficult conversations I’ve had were with students whose courses were non-transferrable due to their previous institution’s accreditation (or lack thereof). 

eCore and eMajor programs are offered through public, SACSCOC accredited institutions within the University System of Georgia. As regionally accredited institutional credit, these courses are eligible for financial aid, employer assistance programs, etc, and are widely accepted as transfer credit among other regionally accredited schools. Please visit our eCore affiliate and eMajor affiliate institution pages for more information on accreditation at these colleges and universities.