What type of College Classes should I take?

Thinking about going to college or returning after a period of time? With most colleges you have some options when it comes to taking classes.

Traditional classes are by far the most inexpensive tuition wise. You have the opportunity to interact with other students and professors when you take on campus courses. So, if you have any questions, need study buddies, tutoring or have to work on group projects this is the best way to go. Also, if you know you have struggles in certain subject areas it is best to take courses on campus.

Video classes can be an inexpensive option though check with your college to verify that they do offer video classes and what they charge for tuition. Typically you will go to the college library and check a video out for a specific period of time to watch on your own. Some libraries may still have VHS tapes but most have converted to DVD.

Evening classes are usually the same tuition wise as a traditional day class. If you are one who is busy during the day taking an evening class can be ideal. All the evening classes I have taken usually do not go the length of  the time schedule. Most professors have been on campus all day and want to go home just as much as the students do. They may set a schedule where they will always end classes an hour or half an hour earlier. I personally have been in classes that were supposed to last three hours and get out within an hour to hour and a half after it started.

Accelerated classes / Mini-mester classes may cost the same as a regular class on campus they just last a shorter period of time aimed towards students who are in need of specific courses, usually the popularly taken ones. These classes are usually Monday through Friday for a few hours for approximately half of the time a regular semester class lasts. For example, every year the local community college where I live offers Spanish I & II classes in the Spring in what they call a “mini-mester.” The classes last two weeks each and are very intense. It is geared towards those who need to take Spanish as part of their education requirements.  This Fall there were about a dozen of the most commonly taken courses offered at an accelerated period, 10 weeks instead of 15. The courses end quicker so people who are on time constraints can complete required/needed classes towards graduation.

These type of classes should be only taken by those who know they can handle intense situations. The courses are more concentrated which means more study time in a shorter period of time. It is best if this is the only course taken, possibly another regular course if one can handle it.

Online classes are the most flexible, however, they are by far the costliest. Majority of the course is online with the exception of mid terms and finals that have to be taken at a nearby campus testing center. Now, some colleges that offer online courses may or may not give tests. College courses may give tests or quizzes online between the more important ones.


A student needs to recognizes their weaknesses and strengths when it comes to studying, completing assignments and whether they like to interact with other students. I have met some people who don’t do well in crowds or socializing with people so I have encouraged them to consider online classes instead. I do tell people considering online classes that they really need to be self disciplined as most of the work, studying, reading is done on your own. There are plenty of ways a person can attend college. It is just up to them to know the pros and cons of the various opportunities that lay in front of them.

Taking Online College Courses

Have you ever considered taking your college courses online or know someone who is considering it? There are a few things that need to be taken into consideration before diving in to taking college courses online.

Are you a self disciplined person?

Online courses are moderated by instructors. They are there to answer your emails, get involved in discussions, review your work, and grade them. Many instructors will also include a syllabus and course calendar that tells you when discussions and assignments are open as well as when they close.

The one thing they won’t do is personally remind you when something is due.


Do you have the time to set aside for the online course(s)?

Online courses are meant for those who are unable to attend on campus classes for various reasons, however it is important to make sure before signing up for online courses that you know what your daily schedule is like. Instructors have the ability to check to see when you are logging in, how long you have been logged in and what activities you have been doing. Some instructors will go as far as telling you how much time you should put aside weekly for the course. For example, I had one social work related course that the instructor specifically stated you have to set aside a minimum of 20 hours a week . At that time I had two online courses plus three on campus courses so you can imagine what my schedule was like.


Consider where the mid-term, final and other tests are taken.

Depending on the course, your tests may not be taken at home. Most of my mid-terms, finals and other tests had to be proctored at the nearby community college testing center. That meant I had to call or look online for the schedule of the testing center to ensure I took my test in the allotted time. Typically the testing center has a password for that class/instructor that they have to enter after I have logged in to my course on a testing center computer. If I were traveling within the state (TN) I could go to any of the Tennessee Board of Regents colleges or Universities and take my test. Also, make sure the testing center doesn’t require making an appointment so be sure to call ahead!


Not all online instructors are alike

Chances are in the beginning of an online course the instructor will lay down some ground rules about the course, expectations and how things are graded.  It is important to note what the expectations are. Also, make sure you have the instructors contact info too. You never know what issues can arise. One semester I was taking Biology I online. I had a text book as well as computer software for the lab work. When I received my lab software it would not work. I even called technical support and let my instructor know the situation. Interestingly enough I found out the instructor I had for the course was the person who developed the software!  He quickly shipped out a replacement copy of the software at no charge to me.

The following semester when I was taking Biology II I fell severely ill at the very end of the course. Just before being admitted to the hospital for pneumonia I contacted my instructors to let them know what was going on and when the doctors thought I would be released after treatment. Once I was released I was able to finish up most of my course finals within the allotted time. With my Biology II course though, I was not able to find a testing center opened at the times I was able to so the instructor decided that I would just get the same grade I got for the mid term (which was ok with me).


Communication is Important in online courses

It should be apparent by now from reading the previous paragraphs that communication played a vital role in how I did in online courses where something came up. Instructors will tell you one of the most important things in an online course is communication. If anything comes up email or call the instructor right away. Most are understanding as long as you are not doing every time something in life happens. Don’t let what the syllabus says scare you. That information is there for general purposes. Most instructors have their own set of “rules” or guidelines to go by. I have found that when something has happened majority of the time the instructor is very understanding and willing to work with me.


Online courses require a lot more discipline than on campus courses. It is up to you to do the reading, complete assignments, study for tests, print out notes, assignments, study guides, note on your calendar when things are due. Online courses are made for people who can get things done on their own even with a busy schedule. If you are not sure if an online course is for you, most colleges and universities now offer a test course so you can see what it is like and it tests you to see if you are able to handle an online course. I personally tell people considering it if you are disciplined but not sure you are very well self disciplined to try one course.

Since 2006 I have taken well close to 40 online courses from lower level college courses to graduate studies. When I first learned about online courses I wasn’t sure how I would do. My first semester in college (after a 10 year absence) I tried three on campus courses and three online courses. I was  able to keep up with all six of my courses (18 hours) and make the honor roll!

The biggest reasons for why I chose to take online courses was that at the time I did not have reliable babysitting. This proved to be the case when I returned to college and was left one day without a babysitter (my mom took a half day off from work so I could go to my classes). It actually happened a second time but I was able to set up a neighbor watching my kids while I went to my classes. After those times I decided it was best I took my classes online. I didn’t have to worry about missing classes and important information or my grades suffering because I was not there.  It was a tough decision to make but I had to for the sake of my education.


Taking online courses is not something to take lightly. They are still college courses, but they take more self discipline and time than an on campus course does. Chances are they also cost more because they are online. Three important things to ask yourself before considering taking online classes: What are the reasons I need to consider online courses over on campus courses? Am I self disciplined?  Do I have the time to set aside?


Swingin’ Midway Drive-In Theatre

Last night was my first time to visit the Swingin’ Midway Drive-In Theatre located on Highway 30 between Athens, TN & Etowah, TN. For years I have been wanting to visit there and for awhile I had people telling me it had closed so I forgot all about it, until I came across their Facebook page almost a year ago. What prompted me to go was that a movie I have been wanting to watch since it came out in June (Madea’s Witness Protection) was being shown all this weekend. After talking it over with my best friend we decided it was time to go visit the Swingin’ Midway.

I hadn’t been to a Drive-In movie theatre since I was around 4 or 5, about the time they were dying out. I remember my parents taking me to one near where we lived in SE Texas. Up until a few years ago I didn’t think any of them existed anymore. But what I have recently learned though is that they are trying to make a comeback or at least stay with the times.

For the Swingin’ Midway Drive In Theatre, this season is quite important. They are still running on 35 mm film and they have to convert to digital, which they have until the end of this year to do. Word is spreading they need to raise between 70K & 90K to make this conversion or they have to close their doors…possibly forever.

Every patron is encouraged to purchase snacks and drinks from their snack bar since most of those sales will help contribute towards the money needed to make the conversion. The snack bar offers everything from sandwiches, nachos, popcorn to candy and drinks. Just before it opened at 8 PM, there were plenty of people standing in line ready to get snackin’. I for one was ready to enjoy some popcorn, one of my all time favorite snacks to have while watching a good movie.

Restrooms were very conveniently located, at least for us as they are located behind the building of the snack bar. They were shockingly very clean too.

It was definitely a neat experience to be at a drive in movie theatre that still had some of the feel from 3,4 and even 5 decades ago. The people there were all friendly and it was obvious they were thankful we were there patronizing their establishment. For 3 adults and two children ages 10 and 7, it cost us $31. We also received two Swingin’ bucks to save towards future visits, if you save 8 of them you can get a free pass. And by the way, that $31 covered seeing two movies, but we were very exhausted after the first one which ended shortly after 11:30 PM.

When we first arrived there a little after 7:30, there were probably two handfuls of vehicles. By 8:30 when the movie was starting, the parking area was starting to fill up and by 9:30 it was pretty much covered up. We chose to park close to the front, near the snack bar (of course). I was glad to see that there are speakers still available because I had assumed it was all FM radio converted. Now I know that I can bring my Jeep which doesn’t have a working radio right now.

Since we were all newbies to the Swingin’ Midway we learned that: We could and should have brought our lawn chairs, been aware that some of the cars around us do have smokers and we could have brought our beloved dog, Smash although he would have loved to been petted by a multitude of people before and during the movie.

If you love movies or are trying to find a great way to spend time with those you love, going to the Swingin’ Midway Drive-In or really any other one that you know is still in existence is a great reason to not only have quality time but also help contribute to saving an icon. For my kids, it was definitely a treat. My youngest son thought it was the neatest thing to be able to sit in the vehicle and watch a movie outside. The only downfall was that there were smokers standing near our vehicle.

My personal hope is that the Swingin’ Midway is able to do the conversion and continue running so I can make some more trips with my family and friends.



Ten Ways to Save Money on College Textbooks

Whether you are a seasoned student in college or a freshman just starting out in college the one thing besides tuition that may leave you gasping for air is the price of college textbooks. Years ago I learned to do research before diving in and purchasing my required textbooks from the college bookstore.

Before starting research you do need to make sure you have the name of the textbook(s), the authors names, what editions and the ISBN numbers.

Just a note too: Even though some classes may have “custom” textbooks does not mean you cannot find them.


1. Before your classes begin, locate your professors email address and email them asking if it is possible to use the previous edition of the required textbook. Some professors will give you the ok, sometimes recommending during specific chapters to have some pages copied that may not be in the older edition(s). Other professors may say no possibly due to significant changes to the textbook. It never hurts to ask!

2. Visit directtextbooks.com. Type in your ISBN number and you will see the picture as well as info on your textbook. You will also see that just about every website and store that has that book in stock will appear with the price ranging from lowest to highest. This is a great way to price your textbook. BTW: sometimes Walmart.com will have your textbook so if you are a recent graduate and received a walmart gift card that can be a great way to save some $$!

3. Consider renting your textbook. Now before you run over to your local college book store that now rents books please make sure you do your research on pricing the textbooks. I discovered my local college bookstore now rents textbooks, BUT you rent them for the same price as purchasing them. So you are not saving money at all. Websites like Chegg.com and textbookrenter.com are great, reliable websites. Their shipping is fast and at the end of the semester or quarter you simply login to your account on their website and print out the return shipping label.

4. Look at your local college bulletin boards. Towards the end of the semester students will post their textbooks for sale typically at lower cost that used prices.

5. Towards the end of the semester also ask your classmates what classes they will be taking the next semester. One semester I got to sell as well as trade some of my textbooks. Other classmates want to save money just as much as you!

6. Check local used book stores, especially if you receive a reply from your professor that you can use a previous edition of the required textbook. My second semester of college I needed a handbook for my Composition II course. Brand new I would have paid $40. I found one, exact edition at a popular used book store for $7.  It was great since some of the other classmates had to order it from the book store which was on back order.

7. Ebay.com. This is one of my favorite places to find my textbooks. It is also another great way to find previous editions at much lower prices. Just make sure you use the option lowest to highest to ensure you get the best price. I have found and purchased textbooks with great prices, in fact I found some I was able to resell after the semester was over with. *This is also a great way to find unused codes for online/lab requirements. If for some reason your class does not require it, check on Ebay to see how much that particular code sells for because you may be able to make some $$$.

I was able to help a friend save $35 by purchasing a cheap textbook that included the math lab code she needed for her math class. Our college uses Pearson educational materials so I knew to look for math books that are published by Pearson. Do your research and save money!

8. Consider the eBook option. A lot of textbooks are now also available through their publisher online as an eBook. Coursesmart.com for example will give you 120 days to view the eBook textbook and also will allow you to print your textbook out and then some.  Most of the textbooks I’ve been able to get as an eBook cost at least half of what a new book would have cost me. The ones I purchased cost anywhere from $50-$80.  Also, Kindle offers this option although their prices are at or slightly below buying one brand new.

9. Amazon.com. I mentioned Kindle offering the eBook option earlier although their prices will probably not save you much money. If you don’t like Ebay but like Amazon they are just as good at selling or locating a book you can rent.

10. See if your college has a book sale day organized by fraternities or other organizations. More colleges are getting into this savvy way to trade textbooks or sell them at a great price.


Even though you may not find your textbook or necessary lab manuals, CD’s in one place don’t give up especially if you still have plenty of time before school begins. Another place to ask about textbooks and other required items is through Facebook. You never know if any of your friends or family may have that particular book you need.

My PDD-NOS Child

It hasn’t been too long ago that my oldest son Caleb was finally diagnosed with something that made sense. A year and a half ago we were given the diagnosis of PDD-NOS, high functioning Autism. PDD-NOS stands for Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.

Basically, Caleb is borderline Autistic. If one were to hang out a few days to a week with him you might otherwise disagree. He is the sweetest, loving, caring boy at times. Other times no one wants to be around him or deal with him. You “ruin” his day and he’ll ruin yours.

I am learning to build a routine with Caleb because if I don’t then some days are like hell for me. If he asks me to wake him up with one of his stuffed puppy dogs then I need to do that. I have to make sure he has his backpack, shoes and glasses or at least remind him a few times to get them as he walks out the door. On the days he needs to carry his blanket I have to help him.

If someone else has to pick him up I have to make sure he knows or he gets upset.

For at least the last two years I have had to deal with Caleb’s incessant spitting. When I say incessant I mean it is everywhere. The carpet by the couch turned black and got stiff, spitting outside our apartment door, on the steps, sidewalk and even in my Jeep. Spit on the bathroom floor, kitchen, at my best friends house.

We have done everything suggested to us by his therapist from putting  a rug by the couch, putting plastic down to giving him his own trash can to spit in. I recently spent four hours cleaning the floor board of my Jeep and painting it because where he sits was so bad it was rusting (I removed the carpet two years ago, partly because of this).

He has even gotten in trouble at school for spitting. Caleb says it is because germs get into his mouth. It’s annoying and gross and at times I feel helpless about it. Other days he rarely spits so I haven’t pinned down why some days are worse than others although he is very sensitive to smells . That can cause him to spit more especially if he doesn’t like the way someone smells or how food smells.

One thing I am working on is understanding his sensory issues and hopefully with that we can decrease the whole spitting issue.