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Archive | June, 2015

How Gaming Can Change the College Experience

How Gaming Can Change the College Experience

chemblasterYou may have heard someone talk about the power of play, but chances are you didn’t associate that phrase with higher ed. New research is showing that when people treat life more like a game – and incorporate games into their daily lives, too – they can accomplish more for less. For the college student, that might mean more credits accruing with less time studying and (more importantly) less tuition paid because you’re earning your degree on time or even early. It’s called gamification, and it’s the newest strategy universities are employing to boost student interest, engagement and grades.

Researchers have known for some time that games can have a positive impact on learning in K-12 classrooms with higher ed students largely left out of educational studies. But today’ college kids are the original digital natives so it only makes sense that more schools are looking for ways to use games to motivate students and even teach them.

This is happening now largely because mobile and technology advancements have finally made gamification in education possible. Most students will have access to some form of device with mobile processing capabilities advanced enough to handle today’s games. And these are the same students for whom hitting the books frequently means firing up a tablet. Whether bringing games into the higher ed experience is about creating titles or tracking student habits to gamify learning, more and more colleges are getting on board.

Penn State, for instance, created the Education Gaming Commons to both research the power of games to positively impact the student experience and to build educational games from scratch. One such game, ChemBlaster, teaches some of the basics of chemistry by turning tedious memorization into a more engaging and exhilarating experience that has the potential to keep students coming back for more study time.

This kind of play with a purpose may actually be doing double duty when it comes to helping students conquer college. Science is finding that gaming itself, whether educational or not, can have a positive impact on learning. A German study found that participants who played video games for just a half hour per day had more gray matter in the regions of the brain associated with the formation of memories and strategic planning. Fast-paced, action-packed games were in some cases even better than educational titles at boosting brain power because these types of games promoted faster learning and better data retention in some people.

Outside of the brain case, gamification in education can work wonders for a few very obvious reasons. First, if something is fun people will do it again and again. Staring at the periodic table will put you to sleep. Harnessing your growing knowledge of the period table to kick butt at a bubble shooter is anything but boring. Second, gamification can get a student’s competitive juices flowing, whether that means competing against oneself to rack up points or competing socially against fellow students. In either case the motivation is there to study a little longer and work a little harder.

Don’t expect that tomorrow’s students will be playing their way to degrees, however. Games are still very much seen as an add-on to a more traditional college experience – albeit an add-on that can speed your progress from the freshman 15 to Pomp and Circumstance. That said, the lecture, exercise and test progression that has defined coursework for hundreds of years may finally be evolving. And that in turn may make college easier, faster and cheaper for some as well as just plain more accessible for others.

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Helping Your College Bound Student Choose A Credit Card? Check Out These Tips!

Helping Your College Bound Student Choose A Credit Card? Check Out These Tips!

creditcardcollegestudentGetting a credit card is a right of passage for college students. It’s a symbol of newfound freedom and responsibility. In order to prevent your child from racking up a high bill that he cannot afford, have a candid discussion about all of the ins and outs of that little piece of plastic. Over 84 percent of college undergrads have at least one credit card, according to a study by student loan giant Sallie Mae. The average balance on those cards was a whopping $3,173. Review the following credit essentials with your college kid before signing up for a credit card.

Find a Low APR

The annual percentage rate (APR) is the interest rate you pay when you borrow money through the credit card. The higher the APR, the more money it will cost if your kid doesn’t pay the entire balance every month. At the same time, make sure you pay attention to credit cards with too-good-to-be-true introductory offers because as those offers expire, the APR may skyrocket. In any case, an unexpected interest rate hike can instantly make using credit cards significantly more expensive than either of your expected, so be prepared and always strive to pay off the balance each month.

Understand the Annual Fee

Some credit cards charge an annual fee, which is a fee you are charged on a yearly basis for simply having the card. This fee must be paid even if the card is never used. Aim to find a card that doesn’t have an annual fee.

Know the Terms and Conditions

Simply put, the terms and conditions of some credit cards are much worse than others. In particular, some cards are specifically designed for college students. If your college kid is just getting started with managing their finances, it may behoove you to have a prepaid credit card or a secured credit card at least until your child proves he can handle more responsibility. This will help him get in a good habit of paying off the balance on time and keep spending within his means.

Learn About Identity Theft

Before your child signs up for his first credit card, be sure he understands how it may increase his risk of identity theft. As the fastest growing crime in the nation, there are over 9.9 million incidents of identity theft every year, according to the FTC. Protect your college student from becoming a part of that statistic by investing in identity theft protection services. These services provide 24/7 monitoring so that suspicious activity can be remedied quickly before major damage is done.

Don’t Miss a Payment

Missing a payment can be extremely detrimental to your college student’s credit since he likely has a limited credit file. Discuss with your child the importance of paying off balances in a timely manner. One missed payment can result in a staggering 70 to 90 point credit score decrease. While the best practice is to pay the balance off each month, at the very least make sure your child always makes the minimum payment.

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How to Enjoy Your Summer Vacation Without Breaking the Bank

How to Enjoy Your Summer Vacation Without Breaking the Bank

CollegeVacationYou’re a student and working diligently toward your educational goals. Often times, it can feel as though your head is always in the books. When time off finally rolls around, you’re ready for a study detox treatment. If, like most students, you are living on a tight budget, don’t worry when vacation time rolls around and your wallet is a little light. You have options!

Pack Your Suitcase
Some people have a notion that travel is completely out of their reach. Travel is so exotic and luxurious sounding that without even exploring their options, a person can automatically dismiss the idea that a much-deserved vacation is within their budget.

Is travel really so out of reach? Perhaps not. Sites such as StudentUniverse offer free student memberships which provide access to some pretty impressive discounts on flights, hotels and tour packages. As one of the biggest travel companies in the world, you can bet they are busy negotiating affordable travel options for their members.
Surprisingly, one of the most overlooked vacations are all-inclusive resort packages. For as little as a few hundred dollars, you can score an all-inclusive getaway at a beautiful resort in the Dominican Republic with food, beverage and sometimes even transportation, included. Staying at an all-inclusive resort is a quick and easy way to convert your vacation fantasy into a reality.

For those who need to stick a little closer to home base, there is always the “staycation”. Making a vacation out of staying local doesn’t have to be uneventful. Tapping into resources like Groupon can yield some pretty big surprises. Groupon has evolved into a fabulous resource for deep discounts on everything from food and entertainment, to spa services and gift items. Known initially for “buy one, get one” offers, Groupon has expanded its horizons and truly has great deals for every budget.

Frugally Creative

Now is certainly not the time to let being frugal deem you boring. There are plenty of fun activities you can explore this summer without breaking the bank. The next few months are the most popular times for concerts, fairs and festivals. Have a favorite band you’ve been wanting to check out but didn’t have time because of finals? Take a road trip and catch a show from your favorite musician in person.

Summertime is all about fairs and festivals. These inexpensive events are a great way to see what your community has to offer, from rides to food to artwork, there is plenty to see and do. If you want to explore other regions of the world but don’t have the resources to do so, visit a museum. This is a great way to get perspective on different countries without having to physically travel to them. If you prefer to stay local, ride the train to an area of the city you’ve always wanted to explore.

Whatever your budget, the most important thing is to nourish and rejuvenate your body and mind. Grab a friend, share some good deals and remember that resourcefulness can be as good as cash.

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