Friday, June 27, 2008

Testing Out of Class: Part One

Today I began my quest to a) get out of taking a snoozer of a class and b) saving some moolah (the test costs $10 as opposed to almost $300 for a few credit hours). I took part one of four of the test for my general education Computer Science requirement. The test covers four different windows based software programs and today's section was over Access.

I have never, ever used Access before.

Needless to say, I was quite nervous about this test. I'm pretty computer savvy, but I had no idea how the test would operate or if the training software would be adequate preparation. OR if my brain would function properly (that's always questionable).

I had to pass with a 70% and you can only take each section of the test twice (and you can't move on to another area until the first is passed). Scary!

The test was almost game-like. First of all, it was timed (50 minutes). Second of all, if you made three wrong moves, you were out (well, you missed the question). So, when I actually answered correctly, I had to restrain myself from doing fist-pumps in the air....probably because I seemed to be missing so many! There were SO many times when I was just on the brink of getting it right, but I had used up my three wrong moves. OUCH! There were other times when I had one wrong move left, and I managed to pull out a winner. WAHOO! Oh, and don't even think about trying to use the "Help" function if you are stuck...that would be a definite "strike!"

Wanna know my score? 70%. Exactly 70%! You should have heard the major sigh of relief coming from my cubicle.

What have I learned from this fiasco? Actually use the training software; it really does help (even if it is somewhat annoying to go through). Also, schedule your test for later in the afternoon so you can go through your training software one last time before the test. This totally saved the day for me.

I kept thinking, "If I have only missed one more...." Instead, I switched gears and treated myself to some Mexican food. :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Traveling & Online Classes: A Tricky Combo

My online summer class has been going well, but it has taken a lot of diligence on my part to keep up. After all, it is a regular 16 week class that has been condensed into 8 weeks. Last week, I was traveling and most of that time without internet connection. I used drive time (well, I wasn't driving but riding) to keep up with my reading (50-something pages) and preparing for tests. I had to spend one evening away from my travel group (I found a library with an internet connection so I could take my first test), but all's well that end's well: it worked out fine. The problem was that I had two tests waiting on me when I got home in addition to the many aspects of my job that were neglected for a week and my two children who wanted to spend time with their mother who had been gone. I was just TIRED having had little sleep and being on a trip that required a lot of work, so all I wanted to do was crawl into bed early & out of bed late. No such luck. Sometimes it feels like there is just not enough time in a day, but I'm guessing most people in North America feel that way.

My tips for summer travel while taking online classes:

*Check your syllabus & plan ahead--For this particular course I had to study some maps. I printed out maps for the week of my travels as well as the following week so that I would be ready to test when I got back home. Also, knowing when assignments or tests will need to be taken/uploaded will help you call ahead and find internet connections if you need to do so.

*Make sure you have internet access--Although I do have a laptop with wireless capabilities, I don't have a mobile broadband card. If you have one, that's super! Otherwise, you will have to find places with internet access. McDonald's, Panera Bread, Starbucks and most bookstores have internet accessibility. Even if you have to pay a buck or five, it's well worth not getting a zero on a test! I wasn't staying at a hotel this week, but most chains offer free wireless these days. If you don't have a laptop, call ahead to public libraries in the area you are traveling; they should have computers with internet for the public to use.

*Use your downtime to stay on top of things--No matter how you travel--by car, boat, plane--there are always periods of downtime. It's easy to take on "vacation mentality" and not want to do anything while you are out and about, but you'll be doomed to failure if you don't use your time wisely. If you are waiting on someone in your travel party to get dressed for dinner, crack open a book and read a few pages. Study your notes while you are stuck in an airport for a layover. Check for new announcements or discussions online while your three-year-old finishes his McDonald's chicken nuggets. I found my downtime studying to be more productive than studying at home!