Eric Ziehle

Tuesday, 23 May 2006 05:36

Summertime learning

Summer is my favorite time of the year here in Columbus, and I’m sure many readers hold the same opinion. It’s the perfect time for us to enjoy our homes and our neighborhoods working in the yard or cooking out with friends. It’s a chance to celebrate our city and our diverse communities at the many festivals held throughout the season. It’s an opportunity for us to relax and take pleasure in life. But it’s also a time that we don’t take for granted. We want to make the most of the summer — and for some of us, that means getting back into the classroom.

Making the most of the summer months can mean taking advantage of opportunities to improve your business and professional skills or pick up new ones. Many local colleges and universities offer summer courses for busy adults, where you can learn about everything from finance to French cuisine. It’s a great way to meet new people and add to your portfolio. For some, summer classes can mean getting a head start on bigger goals before the leaves begin to fall.

If you’re thinking about going back to school, you’ll have a variety of scheduling options. Some colleges and universities start classes every quarter or semester, while others are less traditional in their approach.

Many people have found it more convenient to enroll prior to the autumn rush, easing into their studies before the days get shorter and their schedules get fuller. A large number of our existing students who started programs last summer are now a year closer to earning their bachelor’s or master’s degrees.

Because summer is such a popular vacation season, the decision to go back to school is often postponed. However, many colleges now offer ways to combine in-class and online learning, making it possible to log on and conduct your coursework over the Internet. Rather than catching up with Danielle Steele or Dean Koontz at the beach, you could log onto your laptop from a breezy patio and make some much needed progress toward your degree. Or, after you’ve tested the performance limits of your family’s minivan at the Grand Canyon or Mount Rushmore, you can log on for a quick economics lesson while the kids play at the hotel pool.

That probably doesn’t sound very relaxing. We all know that school is not easy. But knowing that you are taking steps to secure a brighter future for yourself and your family make it worth the effort. Your investment now is one that will last a lifetime.

So, why should you begin your education this summer? Here are just a few of the tangible benefits of going back to school this summer:

  • Knowledge you can apply on the job. Your experience in the workplace will help you succeed in the classroom. At many of today’s forward-thinking universities, you’ll study more than just theories. You’ll be able to focus on how they actually apply in today’s business world. You will utilize advance business simulations and discuss the problems that instructors and classmates face in their jobs — often presenting solutions that can be tested on your job the following day.

  • Networking. Since classes for today’s working adults are typically filled with professionals, summer courses are a great way to boost your networking skills and opportunities. Chances are you’ll meet classmates from a wide range of industries with a common goal of self-improvement through education.

  • Career advancement. If you knew of an investment opportunity with a proven track record of high returns, would you wait to take advantage of it? Studies continue to show that higher degrees equal higher paychecks. New information from the U.S. Census Bureau reinforces the value of a college education: workers 18 and over with a high school diploma earn $27,915 while those with a bachelor’s degree earn almost double — an average of $51,206 a year. Workers with an advanced degree do even better, making an average of $74,602. In a competitive job market, employers are searching for characteristics that set you apart from other applicants for hire or for a promotion. A higher degree is a great way to make that distinction.

So, as the evenings warm up and you consider your possibilities, think about your potential and what your future could look like with a bachelor’s or master’s degree. The sooner you get started, the sooner you will accomplish your goal, and the sooner you can take advantage of the opportunities an advanced degree may afford you. Why wait? This may be your best summer yet.

ERIC ZIEHLKE is campus director for the University of Phoenix-Columbus campus. The University of Phoenix is the nation’s largest private university, with more than 230,000 students at more than 150 campuses in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Reach Ziehlke at (614) 433-0095 or Eric.Ziehlke@phoenix.edu.

When I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree, I remember taking copious notes from textbooks and during lectures supported by overheads and chalkboards. And that really wasn’t very long ago. When I was pursuing my master’s degree, curriculum delivery and educational assessments had already changed drastically. The trend is not only continuing — it is accelerating.

These days, most classrooms have evolved well beyond overhead projectors and transparencies in favor of computers and PowerPoint presentations. One interactive CD can replace an entire wall of encyclopedias. Some professors even offer live video streaming and podcasts of their lectures. And many colleges and universities are offering entire courses or programs over the Internet.

In part two of this series, I’d like to share a few dynamic ways technology is rapidly changing the field of education. In the process, the change in education is keeping up with — and in some cases, even preceding — advancements in the business world, suggesting a strong link between the two realms.

E-books and online libraries
The educational environment at the University of Phoenix (and other schools that have made similar strides) more accurately approximates the environments our students encounter in the workplace.

Variations of online learning, like Web-based training, are a staple of many companies’ employee development programs. The ability to deliver material online helps reduce the cost of such programs and can help increase their effectiveness.

Likewise, more in-depth academic curriculum and materials can be effectively delivered electronically. One major contributor to that effectiveness is the implementation of e-textbooks, a more advanced and cost-effective solution to traditional textbooks.

These e-books make key text available to students in a number of user-friendly ways including Palm Pilot uplink, mobile phone downloads, online viewing and PDF formatting. Students still have the ability to print copies if they wish.

Some schools like the University of Phoenix have developed an extensive, state-of-the-art library consisting of digitized books and the most up-to-date information. At the core is a collection of 72 online databases that can be accessed by students and faculty from virtually any location where an Internet connection is available.

Next-generation education models
Many seasoned professionals have looked at a new hire and think, “They may have good intentions, but they just don’t know how things work in the real world.” New learning programs are now challenging that school of thought.

More and more students are being exposed to advanced interactive learning simulations that give students real-world, professional scenarios that take the “choose your own adventure” concept to a high-tech — and highly effective — level. The programs require students not only to identify business problems, but also to analyze alternatives, recommend solutions and defend their decisions.

Computer-based interactive tools and business simulations help students to make decisions in a learning environment where they receive immediate feedback. The simulations adapt to the skill level of the learner, and participants may repeat the process using a variety of scenarios to determine the best outcome. This ability to determine “what if” in a relatively risk-free environment encourages exploration and learning.

Many universities now realize that, in order for students to make “real-world” decisions, they will need to rely on realistic data. Through programs such as “Virtual Organizations,” available at some local universities, students are able to view mock company Internet and intranet sites. Programs are worked out via simulated e-mail chains that mirror the most popular business communication channels.

Marketing trends
The advent of the Internet has dramatically changed how businesses market themselves. The same is becoming increasingly true for educational institutions, both traditional and nontraditional.

More consumers are receiving e-mails promising instant degrees if we fill out a simple form and pay a few hundred dollars. It’s part of a growing and disturbing trend. In fact, the National Consumers League estimates that Americans lost nearly $13.8 million due to Internet fraud in 2005. Furthermore, a recent Consumer Reports “WebWatch” study found that Internet users assess the credibility of sites based more on visual appearance than any other factor.

As business leaders, you will naturally want to research the educational background of your new hires. You’ll also want to carefully research your options for any continuing education courses you decide to take on your own. You might even be in the position to approve or reject options for your employees. Beware of sound-alike universities, and watch out for schools that offer degrees in a matter of weeks or months or for “life experience.”

ERIC ZIEHLKE is campus director for the University of Phoenix-Columbus Campus. The University of Phoenix is the nation’s largest private university, with over 230,000 students at more than 150 campuses in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Reach him at Eric.Ziehlke@phoenix.edu or (614) 433-0095.

Tuesday, 27 December 2005 06:46

The education advantage

You may already be familiar with the new Ohio Means Business campaign. The Ohio Business Development Coalition is placing pro-Ohio business advertisements in national publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Fortune. It’s a comprehensive marketing effort to show the nation’s business leaders the benefits of doing business in Ohio.

To this point, a new study from Site Selection magazine reveals that our state has the nation’s fourth best business climate according to its 2005 rankings.

All of this news is encouraging amidst a trend of the decline of traditional manufacturing jobs in the Midwest. Yet, we must do more to diversify our economy, especially in rural areas. One way to reach our business goals as a state is by increasing our focus on higher education for those in the work force.

According to a recent poll by the KnowledgeWorks foundation, Ohioans overwhelmingly agree that a college education is as important as getting a high school diploma once was years ago. In fact, only 32 percent of Ohioans agree that high school graduates are well prepared for the work force.

A majority of the new jobs created in this decade will require education beyond high school, yet Ohio’s adults are still lagging behind. Only 24 percent of Ohioans have a bachelor’s degree according to 2004 US Census Data, compared to more than 28 percent of the American public.

Census data also shows that a bachelor’s degree can nearly double your salary. Workers 18 and older with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $51,206 a year, while those with a high school diploma earn $27,915. Workers with an advanced degree make even more money, averaging $74,602, and those without a high school diploma average just $18,734.

What does all this data mean? And, more important, how can we encourage more of Ohio’s working adults to go back to school? While the challenge is great, there are three simple steps we can take to move in the right direction.

  • Make education accessible. The vast majority of adults cannot take four years off from work to attain a higher education degree. That’s why potential students need to find programs that offer courses at times outside of traditional work hours.

Several institutions offer night and weekend programs, which make it easier for adults to earn their degrees. Further development of these programs should be encouraged in both public and private institutions. Ohio’s working adults cannot afford to sacrifice their future education goals because of scheduling challenges.

  • Make education relevant. Many of us remember the stereotypical college lecture hall, with the witty (or dry) college professor espousing theory to the masses.

While theory is important, today’s working adults demand to know how academic theory is relevant to their careers — and their lives. We must continue to encourage institutions to teach courses that allow our workforce to apply class work in the office the very next day.

  • Make education affordable. College is getting increasingly expensive, but it is still an excellent investment. Colleges and universities need to better publicize scholarships and grants that are available to all students, including adult learners.

The government has several programs available to help adults finance their education, yet many prospective students are unaware of the financial aid. A personal meeting with a financial aid counselor will help prospective students better understand that financing college doesn’t have to be painful.

There are several other ways that we must encourage adults to earn higher degrees, yet we can make major progress by committing ourselves to these three ideas. We know that Ohio means business, but business will only come if Ohio continues to improve adult education.

We’re no longer a capital of manufacturing. We must face that new reality with confidence, assured that we’re doing everything we can to help adults achieve their potential — and improve the state’s economy.

Eric Ziehlke is campus director for the University of Phoenix — Columbus campus. The University of Phoenix is the nation’s largest private university with more than 280,000 students at more than 172 campuses in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Reach Ziehlke at Eric.Ziehlke@phoenix.edu.

Thursday, 29 June 2006 13:30

A nationwide scramble?

In Columbus, we have historically been blessed with a solid job market, even during tougher economic times. Between the state capital, a major university and big-name employers, the number of middle- and high-level jobs in our community is higher the average Ohio city.

Yet, surveys show that even among top-paying jobs, there is a significant amount of dissatisfaction. University of Phoenix polled nearly 2,500 working professionals in diverse industries to determine the benefits needed to keep them happy, motivated and loyal in a changing workplace. The Zoomerang survey, conducted in June 2005, carries a margin of error of +/-1.8 percent.

According to this nationwide online survey of working adults, more than two-thirds of the respondents (67 percent) are looking for a job. In addition to sending out resumes and interviewing with companies, survey respondents are taking calls from recruiters, surfing job boards, and perusing education options to prepare for a job move.

While 58 percent of the respondents cited better pay as the primary reason for jumping ship, one-third would leave for more interesting or rewarding work, and 26 percent would resign for positions of greater responsibility. Nearly half (47 percent) reported no opportunities for advancement at their current companies.

These statistics certainly look alarming on the surface, but they may indicate better times are at hand. As the job market improves, workers are beginning to check out other options in their industry. Younger workers are especially mobile, and it’s important to help them achieve internally in order to keep them at your company.

One way to accomplish this is through education, which most employees — 64 percent — consider essential to keeping them happy on the job. This finding is even more evident among Generation X (those between the ages of 26-39), 70 percent of whom say that education is important and Generation Y (in the 18-25 age range), 77 percent of whom agree.

Respondents acknowledged that many of their employers have education and training programs in place, but that they don’t encourage employees to take advantage of them. For instance, nearly half said their companies offer tuition reimbursement for those seeking college degrees, along with mentoring, professional development, on-the-job training and other assistance. However, only one-third said their companies actively promote these benefits to their workforce.

The research uncovered other insights about today’s workers.

Loyal ... for now
Almost half (49 percent) of survey participants have been working for the same employer for five or more years, and more than one-quarter (29 percent) have stayed with their company for 10 years or more.

However, at least one-third (34 percent) of the respondents plan to change employers within the next three years. These statistics are even higher among Gen X and Y workers - 45 and 55 percent, respectively.

The best and worst parts of the job
Employees said the best parts of their current job are co-workers and good management (26 percent), followed by flexibility/hours (14 percent), job satisfaction (10 percent) and benefits/vacation (9 percent).

Stress and low pay tied as the worst characteristics of jobs held by respondents. Each of these aspects were reported by 16 percent of the participants in the survey. These were followed by dissatisfaction with upper management and co-workers.

Who’s responsible?
Virtually all (97 percent) employees take all or some of the responsibility for their happiness on the job, though Gen Y workers claim slightly less responsibility for their job satisfaction (92 percent).

To improve their job satisfaction, two-thirds of employees ask for more responsibility, resources and work that increase their visibility to management.

These findings highlight the fact that it takes more than a decent work environment to retain employees-it also takes perks such as advancement opportunities and education. As the economy continues its recovery, employers throughout Columbus should consider ways to help their employees with professional development. It won’t just benefit the employee in the short term, it will also help both the employee and the employer in the long term.

ERIC ZIEHLKE is campus director for University of Phoenix’s Columbus campus. University of Phoenix is the nation’s largest private university, with more than 230,000 students at more than 150 campuses in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Reach Ziehlke at (614) 433-0095 or Eric.Ziehlke@phoenix.edu.

Tuesday, 28 February 2006 10:45

MBAs pay

Professionals with graduate degrees generally earn higher salaries than those with bachelor’s degrees — and much more than those with only high school diplomas. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau is an accurate portrayal of how higher education can lead to higher salaries.

Now, there is even more specific data that shows salaries and signing bonuses of fresh graduates took a double-digit leap last year. According to the Graduate Management Admissions Council, the organization that oversees the test for prospective business students, recent grads snagged average salaries and signing bonuses worth $106,000, a 13.5 percent jump from 2004. When looking at just the salary, the average is $88,600.

Why the increase? Most likely it’s because the improving economy is leading to an increase in demand for professionals who are well-educated. And today’s MBA graduates enter a wide variety of fields. From higher education to technology, many industries are looking for MBA grads, so there’s never been a better time to return to school to earn your MBA.

How exactly do you choose the right MBA program? Here are a few questions to ask yourself.

  • Where is the campus located? You’ll want to make sure that the campus is at a convenient location so you’ll be able to make it to classes with little hassle. Some universities combine physical campuses and online programs to offer increased options for adults seeking flexible schedules.

  • When are courses offered? Full-time, daytime MBA programs are great for recent grads in their twenties, but not all of us can afford to quit our full-time jobs to pursue an MBA. Fortunately, the Columbus area has several options for adults who want to attend courses at night or on weekends.

  • Who are the instructors? It’s important for instructors to be well-educated and possess valuable real-world experience. At many universities, instructors must have a master’s degree or higher, and they must also have experience in the field they teach. This ensures that instructors can discuss relevant theory and its practical application.

  • What is the cost, and what are my financial aid options? You’ll want to carefully check tuition costs and account for additional expenses such as books, course materials, child care and transportation. The good news is that there are several financial aid opportunities for working adults, so don’t let the sticker price of tuition deter you from your dreams.

Make sure your prospective college or university pairs you with a qualified enrollment counselor, so you can determine a financial aid package of grants, loans and/or scholarships that works for you.

  • Who are my fellow students? You’ll find that a classroom of working adults is often the best type of learning environment because you can discuss the real world application of theories — and offer anecdotes from the career world. Many universities also require work in learning teams, so you’ll be able to interact further with your classmates.

  • What technology is available? Does the classroom feature wireless Internet access? Does the library feature an extensive online database of materials? Do students use traditional textbooks or online course materials? Are real-world computer simulations part of the curriculum? These are all questions you should consider before enrolling in an MBA program.

Each college and university in Columbus offers a different type of MBA, and no two schools are identical. By asking the right questions, you can determine which program is the right one for you — and be on your way to higher earnings and a more rewarding career.

Eric Ziehlke is campus director for University of Phoenix — Columbus campus. University of Phoenix is the largest private accredited university in North America and is owned by parent company Apollo Group Inc. As of Nov. 30, 2005, 315,400 students attended Apollo Group Inc. institutions. Reach Ziehlke at Eric.Ziehlke@phoenix.edu or (614) 433-0095.

Wednesday, 02 November 2005 06:55

Moms with class

If you were to encounter a mom during your lunch hour today, chances are she will have her worst-case carryall slung over her shoulder. Meticulously stuffed with everything from juice boxes to soccer cleats, these bright, padded sacks are part of the uniform for many moms.

However, it is becoming more and more common to see some quite unchildlike things poking out of these knapsacks — laptop computers, presentation decks and course packets.

From soccer fields to professional fields
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 70 percent of mothers in the labor force worked in some capacity during 2004. In the past five years, women have made a marked move in the highest of high-powered business arenas.

Some of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing corporations have flourished under women CEOs, including Xerox Corp., eBay, Avon Products, Lucent Technologies and Sarah Lee. Interestingly enough, the aforementioned companies not only have female CEOs, but these driven women are also dedicated mothers.

Adults flooding the education pool
Women now account for nearly half of the United States labor force. As a result, we are seeing more moms getting ahead by going back... to school. Whether it is men or women, the National Center for Education Statistics has reported a distinct increase of students who are parents.

Moreover, the U.S. Census Bureau found that six million college students are now over the age of 25, comprising 37 percent of the entire college student population. Of this nontraditional college category, 58 percent of students are women.

One of the reasons why women are able to earn a degree while juggling the roles of mother and dedicated professional is the variety of educational options available to working adults.

Looking for flexibility outside yoga class
Everyday, we are seeing more moms excel as students, thanks to flexible class options, a focus on team learning and an immersion in real-world business situations.

Kim, a mother of three and registered respiratory therapist, went back to school to hone her business skills, with plans of starting her own company. She explains, “When I decided to get my bachelor degree, my husband and I looked for a school that offered flexible options. I had class once a week, which was intense, but manageable.”

Other students, such as Joan, who earned an MBA while her youngest child was also in college, are looking to better prepare themselves for the added responsibilities of a managerial position.

In anticipation of these challenges and evolving professional environments, area schools have perfected detailed business simulations which are led by established professionals from local companies.

We have also found that working adults thrive by learning with others in their same situation. Perhaps even more interesting, we have seen students make their own unique learning bonds. For example, some schools have mother-daughter teams persuing degrees at the same campus.

Lynne Heaggans and Renee Jenkins, coupled with their adult daughters Amanda Heaggans and Maria Jenkins, have excelled in school while working full-time. All four women are friends and attribute their success to mutual support and a strong personal and maternal bond.

Business successes
As an increasing number of moms sport briefcases and book bags, these motivated professionals have emerged as an inspiration for men and women alike. Juggling family, job and school can be challenging, but today’s dedicated mothers are proving they can do it all, thanks to flexible education and career options.

Eric Ziehlke is campus director for the University of Phoenix-Columbus campus. University of Phoenix is the nation’s largest private university, with over 280,000 students at more than 172 campuses in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico.

For years, the rallying cry of every technology-based vendor from computer watches to international servers has been “more efficient employees and streamlined systems” -- the holy grail of business planning.

The truth is technology does not make people more efficient. Technology makes things work more efficiently. People are people, and someone who has trouble prioritizing and organizing will face these same challenges.

Productivity paradox
Our personal productivity is not automatically improved because the underlying technology to which we have access is better. In fact, the opposite may actually be true.

A now-famous theory that was debated by the likes of Nobel Laureate economists and MIT professors for years. The productivity paradox of information technology seems to point to a “work begets more work” situation.

While more than a trillion dollars has been invested in information technology since 1970, numerous studies have found productivity to be stagnant or even declining. Of course, this can be debated on many grounds, including quality of life, capability for innovation, and the opportunity cost of not advancing.

Knowledge economy
Regardless of its effect on business productivity, the Information Age demands technological innovation at an increasing rate. This both mirrors and drives the pace of our lives, not only at work, but at home as well.

A simple example is e-mail. In just over a decade, e-mail has become indispensable to all business. So much so, that we need to have e-mail available at all times. According to an August 2005 Forester Research study, more than half of all companies use wireless e-mail service. This translates to an estimated 5 million mobile e-mail users in the U.S. -- and that’s just the start.

Cell phones, PDAs and laptops allow us to carry our work with us wherever we go. They allow us to work endlessly if we feel compelled. This can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how well you manage yourself. Adult students who have taken on the challenge of earning their degree while they continue to earn their pay understand the strong temptation to stay connected 24/7 and burn-out is a constant threat, so knowing boundaries is paramount to their success.

The priority of prioritizing
Organizational consultant Dr. Stephen Covey tells us that it takes 21 days of consistent practice to develop a habit. Most of us who have ever taken action on a vow to hit the gym more (or the refrigerator less) know that you can lose that habit in less than a week. The key to gaining control over your time and technology might not be a PalmPilot or the latest Microsoft application; but rather the age-old habit of prioritization.

Prioritizing may be the most important step in besting the productivity paradox. The not-so-simple part is maintaining your priorities during your typically hectic day. This is where communications technology can be a source of empowerment or stress, depending on how you use it.

Here are a couple of helpful tips that can navigate you through the wires and circuits to efficiency.

  • Just do it and stick to it: When it comes to answering your multitudes of e-mails or a BlackBerry information dump, the “right here, right now” philosophy will save hours of time spent refamiliarizing yourself with the subject. Responding immediately will alleviate the compound stress of not dealing with the matter and not getting back to the person who wants your input.

  • Make technology work for you: For every industry-revolutionizing breakthrough in technology, hundreds of “advancements” only serve to clutter our work day or distract us from the task at hand. At University of Phoenix-Columbus, we put a premium on sophisticated and strategic use of online and electronic-based systems. A Web-based rEsource platform gives students a personalized homepage for their course work to streamline efficiency and provide a forum for communicating quickly with classmates and faculty.

  • Change (or update) your outlook: Make appointments to pull yourself away from the computer -- even if it means scheduling it in your e-mail server. Mentally “logging off” can allow you to stay on track and prioritize your day

  • Be master of your (Web) domain: Technology brings the promise of efficiency to every office and is a vital part of business and professional success. It’s important to prioritize and not “byte” off more technology then we can chew. We take a critical eye to all technologies impacting the business word and embrace only the most effective, vital and streamlined tools.

ERIC ZIEHLKE is campus director for the University of Phoenix Columbus campus. The University of Phoenix is the nation’s largest private university, with more than 230,000 students at more than 150 campuses in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Reach him at (614) 433-0095 or Eric.Ziehlke@phoenix.edu.

Tuesday, 29 November 2005 04:45

New year, new you

The new year is fast approaching, which means it’s time for us to start our annual resolution ritual. From losing weight to quitting smoking, it is estimated that more than half of all Americans will ring in 2006 by pledging to give up a bad behavior.

Studies have shown that nearly one-third of people who make resolutions are back to their old habits by February, and only 20 percent stay on track for six months. Perhaps this year, instead of giving something up, it might be more effective to take on something new.

For many industries, a bachelor’s degree, while a necessary first step, does not get you as far up the corporate ladder as it used to. There is little doubt that master’s degrees, especially an MBA, set business professionals apart from their co-workers.

Need more motivation? U.S. Census data shows that employees with graduate degrees earned nearly $1,000 a month more than those with a bachelor’s degree. Professionals with doctoral degrees earned approximately $2,000 more per month. Most businesses would have record-setting years if they encountered such a substantial ROI.

Of course, there are several excuses that enable people to indefinitely postpone their return to the classroom. Here’s just a look at some of many reasons people share.

I’m too busy
While it’s hard work to earn a degree, many institutions make it more convenient for adults who lead active lives. Some offer night and weekend courses — a must for working professionals balancing personal and work lives. And, because they take just one course at a time, students at these schools find it easier to focus their efforts and concentrate on a particular subject.

It costs too much money
Tuition hikes have recently been in the headlines, and the impression is that going back to school is an expensive proposition. Many people think it would be too costly and that belief discourages them from taking that next important step in their lives.

However, they may be able to take advantage of tuition benefits where they work, and most do not know that adults going back to school do qualify for financial aid. In fact, there are several federal loans, grants and private scholarships offered to adults.

Students often find that it’s easier than they think to obtain financial assistance, especially if they are willing to do a bit of research. Plus, the opportunity for a higher salary in the future easily can outweigh the costs. You can check with an enrollment counselor at your school of choice for further details.

Classroom learning doesn’t translate to the real world
Now, more than ever, real and practical issues in the business world are being addressed in college classrooms. Experienced instructors use real-life scenarios as teaching tools and students use dynamic electronic simulations designed to facilitate the development of their strategic thinking and problem solving skills.

This fundamental change in leaning goals means students are able to attend classes at night and use what they’ve learned the next day in a meaningful way.

At many schools, this is called problem-based learning. Students learn not only how to solve problems, but how to identify them in the first place. Students then share their opinions and experience in a group setting. The result: a class that’s never boring and always full of lively debate.

I’m not motivated enough
Today’s working-adult-focused universities offer personal academic advisers to help navigate the challenges and added rigor of attending college. In addition, students often work in learning teams, so they have their peers to support and challenge them as well.

Of course, the ultimate decision to go back to school depends on the individual. You must draw upon your inner will and desire to do better in business and in life. Take a deep breath and envision the benefits that higher education will bring to you personally and professionally. You will find that if you return to school, you’ll be glad you took on a new challenge in the new year.

Eric Ziehlke is campus director for the University of Phoenix - Columbus campus. University of Phoenix is the nation’s largest private university, with more than 280,000 students at more than 172 campuses in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Find out more at www.phoenix.edu.

Thursday, 30 March 2006 10:11

Basking in the blogosphere

Which uses of technology reflect bona-fide trends — and which uses are fads that will disappear by decade’s end? More importantly, how do you tell the difference?

Sometimes, answers reveal themselves and you have to decide how you will participate. Other times, you seek to identify an emergent trend that may provide a new opportunity to improve your product, service, or how you operate. As we enter the second half of this decade, we certainly can count on some of these trends to influence or even change how we do business.

At University of Phoenix, we work as a team to scan and evaluate the emerging trends in business not only for the next few years, but the next few decades. In fact, we recently overhauled our entire MBA program based on years of research and planning with Fortune 1,000 companies. Executives told us that the dominance of e-mail, wireless connectivity and internet-based information has forever changed the norms of effective business communication.

More than a blip
One of the most prevalent, and challenging, facets of business communication we’re tracking is the blog boom. Five years ago, many business people considered the phenomenon to be an interesting Internet curiosity. Blogs did not represent a significant blip on the radar — yet. The influence of blogging dramatically increased, and by 2004 “blog” was the most looked-up word on the Internet, according to Merriam-Webster’s. Today there are an estimated 27 million blogs on the Web.

A blog is basically an online journal, updated daily, weekly or sometimes even hourly. Since their inception in the early part of the decade, many authors of blogs — called “bloggers” — have been at odds with the corporate world. They claim to expose product flaws, corporate scandals and political mishaps. Yet, the public loves reading blogs. Mainstream media have even begun to follow blogs, and the public is starting to look more seriously at blogs as legitimate sources of information.

How did the business world respond? Well, as the old saying goes, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”

There are many benefits to a blog. They enable you to build a community around your service or product. They can also help your company earn a higher ranking on search engines such as Google and Yahoo. And they are a great cost-effective and time-saving way to get your message out to a large number of people.

Getting blogged down
So, how do you lead a blog-friendly business?

One way is to encourage employees and customers to write their own blogs about your business. Starting In 2004, Microsoft encouraged employees to become “technical evangelists” and write blogs that included discussion about the company, even if those blogs were negative. According to Microsoft, blogs help communicate with consumers and track what Internet visitors are saying about the company. Many software flaws are first discussed in blogs. Bloggers have the capability to become loyal consumers and your company’s best spokespeople if you take them seriously.

The second way to embrace blogs is to write one yourself. In addition to consumer-generated blogs, a growing number of executives are now starting their own blogs with some impressive results. A couple of years ago, Jonathan Schwartz, president and chief operating officer of Sun Microsystems began writing his own blog. He tells BusinessWeek that his key customers began reading his posts, allowing his sales force to close deals faster. He even reports a surge in traffic from his competitors — those with e-mail addresses ending in “ibm.com” and “dell.com” — as evidence of the penetrating influence of his blog.

‘You’re Wired’
Many corporate titans have now jumped on the blog bandwagon. Everyone from the Trump Organization to McDonalds and General Motors has entered the “blogosphere.” Some blogs feature entries from CEOs. Others, such as Sprint’s blog, are written by corporate officials and guest bloggers. Corporate blogs can discuss everything from the company’s finances to new category trends.

However, there is some danger in writing your own corporate blogs. According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, there is a growing backlash against fake blogs written by company PR representatives. Called “flogs,” they are easily spotted by tech-savvy consumers and often do more harm than good. In fact, according to the Tribune article, carmaker Mazda has come under fire for inventing a blogger who posed as a consumer and wrote several positive postings for the company.

It is crucial to understand the potential impact of blogs on any business. As this trend and others like it grow, remember the two overriding business rules regarding the Internet: (1) If you don’t do it, your competitor will. (2) If you don’t understand it, ask your kids.

Eric Ziehlke is campus director for University of Phoenix - Columbus Campus. University of Phoenix, the largest privade accredited univeristy in North America, is owned by Apollo Group Inc. As of Nov. 30, 2005, 315,400 students attend Apollo Group Inc. institutions. Reach Ziehlke at eric.ziehlke@phoenix.edu or (614) 433-0095.

Monday, 30 January 2006 19:00

From blackboards to Blackberrys

Today’s college instructors look a lot more like the office executive or manager than the traditional stereotype some of us remember. These days, an instructor’s business and technical acumen cultivated in the field, and the instructor’s ability to help students share and learn, are essential to an effective classroom (and online) educational environment.

From blackboards to Blackberrys
A new generation of professors is taking over the halls of academia. Today’s college professors are more likely to use their laptops and Blackberrys than the standard text or conventional blackboard in their classrooms.

Even the long-accepted term professor doesn’t accurately describe faculty who instruct at a growing number of institutions. Many institutions refer to instructors as associate faculty or facilitators instead.

The difference is more than just a semantic one. More and more colleges and universities are realizing that professionals with real-world expertise have invaluable contributions to make in a classroom setting. Although theory is still a vital part of a facilitator’s teaching responsibilities, the ability of the student to practically apply the learning is just as important.

Application, not memorization
In past decades, professors would spout off theory, then test students on how well they memorized the key points. That may work for more inexperienced students learning fundamental skills like math and grammar; certainly, it is crucial in some fields such as engineering and medicine. But for students — especially working adults in applied fields such as management or technology — application facilitates the learning process and memorization is ineffective.

In fact, a survey of top executives revealed that the most important skills for effective managers in today’s workplace are communication (96 percent), followed by learning aptitude/desire to grow (95 percent), collaboration and teamwork (93 percent), and creative problem-solving (92 percent).

These skills aren’t mastered by reading books or memorizing theories. They are sharpened in the workplace. And, they are discussed and debated in the lively forum of today’s college classroom.

The growing number of adult learners is helping fuel this trend. According to a 2002 report by the Association of American College and Universities, only 27 percent of college students fall within the 18- to 22-year-old age range. The rest are older, part time and/or working students. They need more than theory. They need to know how to apply that theory on the job the following day.

From department head to head of the class
Perhaps this new type of professor sounds like an interesting job to you. Maybe you’ve always had a gift for communicating but thought it would be impossible to work your way up the tenured ladder of a traditional college or university. Or you may think seeking a career as a faculty member at a local college or university isn’t manageable while maintaining a full-time job.

However, it’s easier than you may think. No longer are faculty members required to physically attend classes five days week. Colleges and universities now offer online and classroom combined courses, allowing faculty to interact with students through the Internet.

Instead of five nights in a lecture hall, you might find yourself in attendance two nights a week at class and three nights a week at home, communicating with students online.

Make no mistake. Most universities and colleges have demanding testing processes for selecting faculty members. At many schools, faculty members must possess a master’s or doctoral degree and must successfully complete a rigorous screening, assessment, training and mentoring processes.

Becoming an instructor will also boost your professional relationships. You’ll become more informed and aware of your own career and industry. You will also find yourself leading active discussions during every classroom session, challenging your own stereotypes and theories. As a bonus, you’ll even have the opportunity to network to build relationships with potential future employees.

Eric Ziehlke is campus director for the University of Phoenix - Columbus Campus. The University of Phoenix is the largest private accredited university in North America and is owned by parent company Apollo Group Inc. As of November 30, 2005, 315,400 students attend Apollo Group Inc. institutions. Reach Ziehlke at (614) 433-0095 or Eric.Ziehlke@phoenix.edu.