Choosing an Online College

Student can earn college degrees onlineWith all the options available today for education, one opportunity you have likely come across is online education. The increasing accessibility and subsequent popularity of the Internet has paved the way for distance learning via the Web, creating an abundance of institutions that now offer online degree programs. This leaves many students wondering how to choose an online college that is right for them.

Identify Your Needs

Asking yourself a few questions prior to researching different online colleges will help keep you focused on your ultimate career goals. It is important to identify what you want so that you can choose the college that is right for you. Write down your answers to the following questions so that you can reference them throughout your search:

  • Do I want to continue education in my current field or obtain a new degree to further my knowledge?
  • What qualifications must I meet to be eligible for admission? Are there exams to take as part of the application process?
  • Will I need financial assistance to enroll in a degree program?

Explore the Institutions

Before you settle on a particular online institution, be sure to thoroughly examine the school’s requirements and course offerings. Exploring all facets of the organization will not only assist you in narrowing your search, it can also offer valuable insight into degrees that may guide you in selecting a program.

  • Is the college accredited or reputable?
  • How many students are allowed to be enrolled in each class? Are there class attendance minimums, and if so, will the class be cancelled if the minimum is not met?
  • What courses are offered? Is there a variety of classes and times (or lack thereof)? Do these courses support your personal or career goals?
  • Does the online college provide opportunities for flexible payments or financial aid or assistance?

Research the Faculty

Another very important aspect of choosing an online college is researching the credentials of the instructors and professors that teach there. Investigating the qualifications of the instructors, as well as examining their teaching and communication styles, can further ensure that an online college will align with your needs and goals. For example, some professors will only be available via an email address provided, while others might provide a phone number so they can be contacted directly.

Contact the Institution

Once you know what you want and have done some investigative work, contact the school through the request forms on this site. Someone from the school will contact you as soon as possible to answer any questions you might have. Prepare a list of questions ahead of time that will help you remember all of the information you need to obtain. Finding out as much information as possible about each institution you are considering is crucial in this process and will help you ultimately choose the best online college for you.

Remember, there are many options for online colleges out there. Equipped with this methodical approach to identifying your personal goals and examining different elements of the institutions that offer online degree programs, you will be well on your way to earning a degree.

Macular Degeneration: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Campus Health and Wellness

macular degeneration
Macular degeneration is the most common cause of blindness in developed countries. Macular degeneration also affects many people in developing countries where cataract and glaucoma dominate. It is the third cause of blindness worldwide. Studies say that macular degeneration will affect more people in the coming years. Macular degeneration is a disease that common among those aged 50 years and above. It affects the most important part of the retina – the macula.

To understand the meaning and definition of macular degeneration in simple words, let us understand the condition first. Let us find out why it is called  “macular degeneration”.

Macular Degeneration Definition & Meaning

People afflicted with this condition usually visit their doctors with a chief complaint – loss of their central vision. They report that they see a black spot in the center of their vision. They also experience  loss of the ability to see details of faces, difficulty reading, and diminished capacity to differentiate colors.

Specialists try to find the problem with these people by running diagnostic tests. Aside from abnormal changes in the central retina, they usually find a buildup of deposits of abnormal material around the macula. These deposits appear as yellow spots, which are called “drusen”. These are accumulation of damaged cellular components of  deteriorated tissues.

Macular Degeneration

Researchers wanted to give this eye condition a name or a term that differentiates it from other vision problems. Because the abnormal changes affect the macula, they call it “macular”. And because it is the result of  tissue deterioration, they call it “degeneration”. So, the final name of this condition is “macular degeneration”.

The macula is the most important part of our eyes. Located at the center of the retina, it gives us central, detailed, and color vision.

Macular degeneration affects the macula in stages while others call it types. So, what are the types or stages of macular degeneration?

Macular Degeneration Stages or Types

Studies have revealed that the disease presents in two different types.

These types are called “dry” and “wet” macular degeneration. Usually the disease starts as dry macular degeneration and it may stay in the dry stage in some people. However, it may progress to “wet” type in others.

1. Dry Stage Macular Degeneration 

This is the starting stage of macular degeneration. Majority of macular degeneration cases are of this type.

This stage includes the presence of yellow abnormal deposits called drusen. Considering these deposits as a disease or part of  “normal aging” is controversial. This accumulation of these yellow deposits starts as small nodular spots called “hard drusen”. These are sharply out-lined with distinct borders. This hard drusen may turn into soft drusen over time.

Soft drusen is larger with indistinct borders. The development of soft drusen predisposes the patient to the second stage or type of macular degeneration which is the wet stage of macular degeneration.

2. Wet Stage Macular degeneration 

This stage is characterized by the growth of new abnormal blood vessels “neovascularization” in the macula from underlying tissues. It is also called the “neovascular” or “exudative” stage.

This growth of new blood vessels damages the cells of the macula. Also, these new vessels are so fragile and usually leak blood and exudates which lead to severe problems in vision.

How do these two types affect vision?

Macular Degeneration Symptoms

Patients may completely have no symptoms in the beginning of macular degeneration.

After a while, patients with dry and wet macular degeneration may still have no symptoms or may have vague visual complaints including: the need for increased light intensity when reading and doing tasks, fading of vision after short periods of being under bright light, and rapid visual fatigue when reading.

The symptoms start in the wet stage as blurred vision. The patient sees straight lines  as tilted, wavy, and distorted.  This is called ” metamorphopsia.” Another symptom patients experience in the wet stage is seeing things as smaller than they actually are or ” micropsia”.

The unique symptom of macular degeneration experienced in the wet stage is seeing black spots in the center of visual field and images.

Macular Degeneration Causes

The causes of macular degeneration are still unknown. Researchers are still looking for the exact cause and mechanism that leads to the development of this medical problem. However, in the process of searching for the certain cause, scientists found many links and associations. These may be called the risk factors for macular degeneration which include:

  1. Age is the biggest predisposing risk factors of macular degeneration. The condition usually affects people 50 years age and older. The risk factor of developing macular degeneration increases after 65 years. Also, about 30% of people above 75 years age have macular degeneration.This high relation between age and macular degeneration leads to controversy in whether macular degeneration can be considered part of the “normal aging” process or a pathologic process.
  2. Hereditary and environmental factors. Studies found that hereditary and specific genetic factors predispose certain people to develop macular degeneration. Family history also increases the risk of getting macular degeneration and this supports the theory of hereditary factors or causes. Family members usually share the same environmental factors, and studies found that the environmental circumstances have a role to play.
  3. Ethnic factors. It is found that specific races are more likely to develop macular degeneration. The disease affects whites more than blacks, particularly the more severe stages of the disease.
  4. Sex. Macular degeneration affects females more than males. This may support the presence of a genetic factor that plays a significant role in the development of the condition.
  5. Excessive light exposure. Studies found people who undergo excessive sunlight exposure  are more likely to develop macular degeneration than those who are less exposed. Ultraviolet light rays have been found to increase the chances of getting macular degeneration

Macular Degeneration Treatment

There is no known cure that restores vision or heals macular degeneration. However, there are many things that can be done by the patient and the doctor to manage this disease.

Persons diagnosed with macular degeneration in the early dry stage should be monitored closely. The patient should visit his eye doctor every 6 months. He should also be very aware of any development of new symptoms. If he feels any new symptoms, he should visit his doctor immediately even if it is not the time of his next visit. This will lead to an early detection for any development of the disease to the wet stage.

macular degeneration prevention and treatment

The patient should also avoid excessive sunlight exposure and wear colored contact lenses or sunglasses to protect the eyes from ultraviolet rays. He should have a balanced diet full of fruits and green leafy vegetables. Smokers are advised to quit smoking and reduce or stop alcohol consumption.

The above recommendations are especially important in the early dry stage to delay the progression of the disease, and to prevent the development of new blood vessels and stop the beginning of the wet stage. These health teachings are also applicable in the wet stage of the disease to prevent the occurrence of severe complications.

Once the wet stage develops, an intervention must occur to save what could be saved. Current intervention options available are:

Anti-VEGF Therapy: This is one of the most  advance treatments of wet macular degeneration available. Scientists discovered a group of proteins called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) which plays a significant role in the growth of new abnormal blood vessels in the wet stage. They also discovered the drugs that prevent these proteins from triggering the growth of new abnormal blood vessels which are the anti-VEGF drugs. Anti-VEGF drugs are applied to the eye by injection. A small amount of the drug is injected at the posterior part of the eye.There are three FDA approved Anti-VEGF drugs:

a – Macugen which is the first approved (in 2004). It has limited efficacy which make it inferior to newer drugs.

b – Lucentis which was approved in 2006. Lucentis proves great results in the conducted studies. Two years study found that Lucentis slows the rate of vision loss and stops the progression of the disease for the period of the study. The drug is  injected in one month intervals.

c – Eylea which was approved in 2011. This drug is applied in longer intervals (every month for the first 3 months and then every 2 months).  It shows similar or better efficacy than Lucentis in most people.

Laser photocoagulation : This includes applying laser impulses on the new blood vessels to destroy them. This will prevent them from branching out to new blood vessels and also protects the macula from bleeding and exudates. The process also involves destroying the area of the macula which contains these vessels. So, it is just destroying an affected area to save the other intact areas of the macula. It is more like cutting a toe in the diabetic patient to save the whole leg. The vessels growth may recur again after laser photocoagulation. Recurrent blood vessels need a second laser photocoagulation surgery to destroy them.

Optical & Low vision Management: Macular degeneration patients are usually referred to the low vision department. There are specialized optometrists in this department to give special care for people suffering from untreatable loss of vision. The low vision advices and devices that are so beneficial for macular degeneration patients include:

a – Use of direct illumination for reading and all tasks. This will improve the ability to read better than in regular light conditions.

b – Use of magnification devices for persons with macular degeneration gives considerable enhancement for their vision. There are magnification devices for this purpose.

Magnifiers for distant vision include monocular and binocular telescopes, and spectacle-mounted telescopes. Magnifiers for near vision include : hand held magnifiers, stand magnifiers, video Magnifier (CCTV) , reading Machines (Scanners with voice output) and spectacle-mounted microscopes.

c – The use of large prints and large computer fonts also help the person read with ease. Microsoft windows system includes accessibility features special for persons who have visual problems. This feature is found in the PC setting or control panel under the name “Ease of Access”.

You can also open this feature directly from the keyboard by clicking the (logo key+U). You can visit the Microsoft site for more information on how to use this feature.

d – Use of tints on the lenses of eyeglasses also enhances the vision. Low vision specialists discovered that the red tint enhances vision in macular degeneration.

e – Special absorptive contact lenses are also beneficial for persons with macular degeneration. They block harmful light rays including ultraviolet rays. They also increase contrast and reduce glare and photophobia.

Enhance an Online Learning Education Environment

College Life

The number of distance learning options for students continues to grow, as online universities and state university systems race to enter the online learning education marketplace.

However, it is important for schools to consider those online learning management techniques necessary to create positive, productive environments. This article presents some helpful tips.

Online Learning Education – Course Structures

If there are things distance learners want more than anything else, it’s scheduling flexibility. It’s for this reason that programs need to provide asynchronous course offerings which enable students to log in and take classes whenever they choose.

Distance learning with higher level of interactivityHowever, to improve student learning and enhance the online learning environment, it’s essential that asynchronous courses attempt to match the level of interactivity that live courses offer. Below are some of the ways to improve the interactivity of asynchronous courses:

  • Provide archived, streaming lectures which were recorded live
  • Provide dynamic videos and graphical interfaces as learning materials
  • Create dynamic discussion forums which allow students and professors to communicate

While the highest level of interactivity can be achieved with synchronous (live) courses which use web-conferencing technologies and chat applications, programs which demand that students take solely synchronous courses will find that busy, working students can suffer quickly from learning fatigue in such schedules (which leads, of course, to enrollment fatigue).

While synchronous courses can enhance the learning experience, they should be included as supplemental options, and not as the only way to deliver online courses.

Online Learning Education – Instructor Availability

The online learning management of a program should place a high priority on making sure instructors and professors are available to their online students. This means two things:

  1. Faculty schedules must be coordinated to allow instructors the time and energy needed to keep up with personalized discussions and queries from online students;
  2. Online institutions must place strict rules on the maximum amount of time an instructor can go without responding to a student’s request.

Many universities provide online office hours, allowing students to contact professors via chat, email, or telephone. Such a strategy can enhance the overall online learning environment and promote student success.

Online Learning Education – Accreditation

Online learning has unfairly received a popular reputation for being less rigorous or valuable (due to unregulated diploma mills). In truth, according to the U.S. Department of Education, online students from accredited, quality schools often do better on learning outcomes than on-campus students.

To promote the quality of a program and the value of the degrees being offered, online programs should seek accreditation from both professional accrediting organizations in appropriate fields as well as from national accrediting organizations.

Online Learning Education – Academic Support

The online learning management team of an educational system should place a priority on student support services, such as academic advising, mentoring, tutorial services, financial aid help, and technical support.

Traditional vs Online EducationWhile distance learners crave the flexibility online degree programs offer, they also can feel alone at times, particularly during moments when educational struggles arise. To enhance the overall online learning environment for students, and to obviously increase their learning potential, online schools should implement strong student support services that match what on-campus institutions offer.

Benefits of Good Online Learning Management

By providing students with valuable degrees, flexible schedules, available instructors, and strong student support services, online colleges and universities can produce online learning environments which create positive communities and provide for quality student learning opportunities.

Best Universities for Financial Aid

Financial Aid

Every year, high school seniors searching for the best value for their education. This year is especially crucial because the US economy continues its downward spiral. Parents are bogged down by burdensome mortgages and other financial responsibilities. Paying for school seems impossible.

Robert Franek, the VP/ Publisher of The Princeton Review (TPR), says, “The cost of college at most institutions is sobering, and the need for financial aid greater than ever in these tough economic times. But we encourage applicants never to cross a school off their list because of its sticker price, and always to get information about the schools’ financial aid offerings, and their award prospects which can be truly compelling.”

Best Schools Financial Aid, Princeton Review Rankings

TPR makes the search simple by doing the work for prospective students and their parents. TPR surveyed administrators and students receiving financial aid from 623 universities from 2016 to 2017. According to TPR’s website, the criteria is as follows:

“School data included the percentage of their students determined to have need who received aid, the percentage of need met, and the percentage of students whose aid was fully met. The rating also factored in data from The Princeton Review‘s surveys of students attending the schools about their satisfaction with their aid awards.”

For prospective students and their parents, these rankings can strongly influence decisions on where to apply.

Students at the American Jewish UniversityTop-Rated Colleges

All of the schools on this list received the highest score of 99. Upon collecting data and analyzing the surveys, TPR gives each institution a rating between 60 to 99. 99 is the best score possible. In the following alphabetical list, all 13 schools received a 99 rating:

  • American Jewish University
  • Beloit
  • Bowdoin
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Claremont McKenna
  • Gettysburg
  • Harvard
  • Lake Forest
  • Swarthmore
  • Thomas Aquinas
  • Wabash
  • Washington Univ. in St. Louis
  • Williams

Every year The Princeton Review announces the Financial Aid Honor Roll to help students and their parents narrow their search for the schools that give the best financial aid packages. It can be hard to receive money for school, but with the help of this list, students and parents can be led down the right path for their educational funding.