"Workforce Education at Green River was VERY instrumental in allowing me to go back to school, and I'm grateful for all the assistance I received and continue to receive." - Genie L, Green River Student

"Make sure you talk to Workforce Education...They can help in many ways to make things go smoothly and make sense." - Chris S, Green River Student

"Workforce Education...will embrace you and lend a helping hand with open hearts." Elsie Q, Green River Student

"Workforce Education has been there for me since day one!" - Jenny S, Green River student

Sep 29, 2010

Tutoring Resources

Now that the fall quarter is underway, you might be starting to feel the weight (and stress?) of attending class, doing homework, writing papers, and attending study groups. Maybe the work's piling up.  Maybe you're falling behind.  Maybe you need additional help to be successful.  If so, today's blog post is just for you.  Specifically, let's briefly talk about three different free tutoring resources available on the main campus at Green River Community College. 

1.  The Writing Center.  The Writing Center is located in RLC 173, and offers both one-on-one and online tutoring services for students at all stages in the writing process.  Check the Writing Center website for hours of operation and for a more detailed explanation of available services.

2.  The Math Learning Center.  The Math Learning Center is located in SMT 335, and offers help to those who are struggling with math.  In addition to tutoring services, students can also access a variety of free learning resources including math videos, computers, and textbooks.  Check the Math Learning Center website for hours of operation. 

3.  The Tutoring & Resouce Center.  The Tutoring & Resource Center is located on the second floor of Holman Library, and offers tutoring in all subjects except math.   Services are available by appointment or on a walk-in basis.  Check the Tutoring & Resource Center website for hours of operation.

Sep 15, 2010

Mind Your Study Habits

In a recent article entitled "Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits," Benedict Carey discusses good study habits.  Specifically, he outlines a handful of effective learning approaches that may improve how much a student learns from studying, and he also cites a variety of cognitive scientists to back up his claims. Some of the approaches outlined by Carey, interestingly enough, contradict conventional wisdom on the subject of retention. 

As a way to kick off the start of the fall quarter at Green River Community College, and in the interest of stimulating more productive study habits, this post will briefly address three of Carey's findings.  Also note, the three study habits discussed below can help anyone, from a fifth grader doing long division to a retiree learning a new language, at least according to Carey.  So let's get started.

Study Habit #1 - Instead of sticking to one study location, simply alternating the room or location where a person studies can improve retention.  This contradicts the conventional practice of finding a specific place - a study room or a quiet corner in the library, for example - and plopping down for hours on end to do school work.  The research on study habits, says Carey, shows that switching up the locale in which one studies can dramatically improve retention.  As Carey writes,
"The brain makes subtle associations between what it is studying and the background sensations it has at the time...regardless of whether those perceptions are conscious.  It colors the terms of the Versailles Treaty with the wasted fluorescent glow of the dorm study room, say; or the elements of the Marshall Plan with the jade-curtain shade of the willow tree in the backyard.  Forcing the brain to make multiple associations with the same material may, in effect, give that information more neural scaffolding."
Study Habit #2 - Spacing out the study of a specific skill or concept, as opposed to cramming / intense immersion, can also improve retention. The spacing approach to studying favors shorter, more frequent study sessions and goes against the common practice of cramming, say, Math, English, Anatomy, or whatever for 8 hours on a Tuesday and then ignoring the subject until next week.  As Carey observes,
"Cognitive scientists do not deny that honest-to-goodness cramming can lead to a better grade on a give exam. But hurriedly jam-packing the brain is akin to speed-packing a cheap suitcase, as most students quickly learn - it holds its new load for awhile, then most everything falls out....When the neural suitcase is packed carefully and gradually, it holds its contents for far far longer.  An hour of study tonight, an hour on the weekend, another session a week from now: such so-called spacing improves later recall, without requiring students to put in more overall study effort."
Study Habit #3 - Studying distinct but related skills or concepts in one sitting, rather than focusing intensely on a single thing, can also improve retention.  This habit, again, contradicts the common practice of studying one, and only one, subject for long stretches of time and then moving on to the next.  Interweaving different subjects allows the brain to pick up on a deeper patterns and leads to more nuanced understandings of a given subject.  As Carey observes,
"Varying the type of material studied in a single sitting - alternating, for example, among vocabulary, reading. and speaking a new language - seems to leave a deeper impression on the brain than does concentrating on just one skill at a time.  Musicians have known this for years, and their practice sessions often include a mix of scales, musical pieces, and rhythmic work. Many athletes, too, routinely mix their workouts with strength, speed, and skill drills."
In sum, change up the locale in which you study. Also, avoid cramming and space out your study of a given subject.  Finally, try interweaving and studying different but related subjects in one sitting. Cognitive science argues that these habits may lead to improved retention and increased academic success. Give them a test drive, see what happens, and make it a great fall quarter!

Sep 2, 2010

Make Career Development Pay

In turbulent economic times like these, attending a community or technical college to update a skill set or retrain for a new occupation is a logical course of action to pursue.  But the decision to go to school, according to a recent New York Times article by Tara Siegel Bernard, needs to be treated like any other investment decision. You need to weigh the potential returns and closely manage the costs.

When considering an "investment" in education and especially before enrolling in a training program, Bernard argues that you should ask the same sorts of questions that a portfolio manager might ask when analyzing a stock investment, including: 
  • Am I earning a reputable credential, degree, or certificate?
  • Is the cost of earning that credential feasable?
  • How can I minimize my expenses?
  • What is demand like in the field I'm retraining for?
  • What are my earnings potential?
As Bernard goes on to observe in her article, the more radical the shift in careers you contemplate, the more research you should do in answering these questions.  This is an obvious but important point to make. She therefore proceeds to offer the following tips for those who are considering a change in careers.

Research Career Options.  Bernard recommends O*NET OnLine, which is a website maintained by the Department Of Labor and which allows users to research employment opportunities and salary information for different professions.  Washington State residents can also cross-reference O*NET findings with www.wilma/org/wdclists, which is a website that allows users to reseach employment and salary information on jobs across the state.

Seek Employer Aid. If you have a job, writes Bernard, ask your employer about available tuition-assistance programs.

Ask For Government Help.  Bernard correctly points out that people collecting Unemployment Insurance may be eligible to collect benefits while going to school and even to receive additional benefits after their regular unemployment claim has run out. This is true in Washington State.  The Employment Sercurities Department offers the Training Benefits Program to unemployed workers who are in need of retraining. For more information, check out our ealier blog post entitled "Let's Talk Training Benefits."

Apply For Grants.  A no-brainer.  Before you borrow money, cautions Bernard, search for grants and scholarships to help you pay for school ("grant" = gift aid = money you don't have to pay back).  For potential Green River students interested in job (re)training, significant funding streams may include Worker Retraining, Opportunity Grant, Basic Food Employment & Training, WorkFirst, Federal Financial Aid, GRCC Foundation Scholarships, Workforce Investment Act Funding, WAVE scholarships, as well as scholarships advertised on http://www.thewashboard.org/.  

Investigate Tax Breaks.  Bernard also highlights the fact that the Lifetime Learning Credit, which is geared for continuing education, can be used for an unlimited number of years and for a wide range of schooling.