Online Education: The Future Grows

This is a guest post by Christina St-Jean is an English teacher who has been engaged in virtually every level of the educational system at one point or another. When she’s not teaching, she is contributing to online education resources such as When she isn’t writing, she’s spending time with her two young daughters, who surprise her daily with what they’ve learned.

Online education is an increasingly popular method for people to improve upon their existing skills or earn diplomas and degrees. There are many who can’t afford the high tuition costs associated with returning to school and potentially residing on campus; with the cost of raising a family, housing and food alone, the cost of attending a physical campus is getting to be too extreme for a good portion of society. In addition, the National Center for Education Statistics (2008) has noted that the numbers of public school students alone engaging in online course studies grew by 65 percent between 2002 and 2005. This number continues to grow as there are a multitude of educational options in online education; this is, of course, a viable option for those who live in isolated communities and may not be able to access the educational opportunities available to students in larger centers. There are, of course, other educational options and while some may not provide you with certification, they can give you an idea of what career options you could explore.


Coursera is a company that has partnered with various top universities to offer online courses for free. The move is unprecedented, given education has become a huge business in recent years. However, Coursera offers a wide range of university courses for people to expand their knowledge base, with subjects spanning Humanities, Sciences and Information Technology. The fact that the course offerings are free doesn’t hurt its appeal, either; the subjects offered continue to grow, and Coursera’s audience continues to expand. While Coursera is very convenient for people looking to simply expand their knowledge base, it should be noted that you won’t necessarily score credits towards a certificate or diploma, so sign on with that caveat if you’re interested.

University of Phoenix

This is a for-profit American university and as such, you can expect to pay similar tuition fees, but there will be the payoff of a diploma or degree in the end. Offering courses ranging from Business Studies to Technology, the University of Phoenix has over 35 years in the educational game, with at least 20 of those being offered in an online stream. There are over 200 locations worldwide to choose from, and the main campus is headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, so students who might be living in isolated locations can access educational opportunities and the social scene as well, as the university also boasts a campus-wide social network.

Online education is a growing way to demonstrate to employers that you’re serious about continuous learning; this is a quality that many employers are looking for in their employees as they determine who’s worthy of raises or promotions. In addition, successful pursuit of online educational options are a tremendous way to boost confidence and obtain credentials – or, at the very least, show your friends how much you’ve learned in the comfort of your own home. You simply have to be discerning about the organization you choose to study with.


We Are Austin Tech Launches Second Season

Weekly video blog spotlights leaders in Austin’s tech community

We Are Austin TechThe weekly video blog We Are Austin Tech, live for nearly a year at, has launched its second season. Today’s post features an interview profile of Gazzang CEO Larry Warnock, which followed last Tuesday’s conversation with VolunteerSpot CEO Karen Bantuveris.

Both videos are currently live on the blog and on the We Are Austin Tech YouTube channel. In their five-minute video profiles, both CEOs discuss the keys to their companies’ success and offer guidance to new entrepreneurs. Don’t miss them!

Also live are over 25 video posts featuring the wisdom (and wit) of Austin tech community leaders Bob Metcalfe (Ethernet/Internet pioneer) Pike Powers, Richard Garriott (Portalarium), Bryan Mennell (SubtleData), Andrew Allison (Main Street Hub), Mellie Price (Front Gate Tickets), Sam Decker (ex-Bazaarvoice, Mass Relevance), Kevin Koym (Austin Tech Ranch), and Lloyd Armbrust (, among others.

About We Are Austin Tech

Inspired by We Are NY Tech, We Are Austin Tech provides a way for the region to put more than just a face with a name by providing weekly video profile interviews of leaders in the Austin technology community. The goal is to evangelize the people who empower the Austin tech scene in order to attract more talent and opportunity to the city.
WAAT Team Austinpreneur Joshua Baer (founder, Otherinbox and The Capital Factory), Ruben Cantu (CORE Media Enterprises), René Lego (SolarWinds), Austen Trimble (, Nicholle Jaramillo (The Capital Factory), and Paul Schomer (Radio Crowdfund). The initial blog was designed and built by Austin-based Thinktiv and is hosted by WPEngine.


The internet reacts to Aaron Swartz death

Aaron Swartz, Internet activist dies at 26. We all need to learn more about him, the great things he did and what he was all about. we’ll miss you Aaron.

Remember Aaron Swartz



Internet celebrities: What about reciprocity?

What is an internet celebrity? I guess you call internet celebrities to whoever has a large social media following, correct? These people are usually leaders in their communities (online and offline), respected voices on specific topics (especially technology), founders of well-known startups, high-profile angel investors, and on and on. What gives them the title of internet celebrities is the fact that many of us want to hear what they have to say, what they are doing, who are they talking about and thus we follow them in Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, subscribe to their blogs, etc… We, the internet nobodies make them into internet celebrities because we cannot stop following them, re-tweeting their tweets, participate by commenting in their blogs and sometimes even buy their products, services or tickets to events where they participate. All of that is good, we usually follow these people because we are truly interested in their expertise on certain topics, we want to get their insights, we want to know how they achieved success in their professional lives, we follow them because they have achieved some sort of success and everyone wants to be around successful people, and sometimes we want their attention as well.

I recently read a blog post by Jason Cohen (@asmartbear) about how to get attention from such internet celebrities and the points he makes are that to get these people’s attention (including himself) you need to think about and be respectful of their time, understood. We are all busy right? even if you are not an internet personality I am sure none of us has the time to respond to emails or Tweets from people we don’t know, we get it. Jason’s blog post then goes into explaining how and when you should make contact with an internet celebrity, for example if you want an internet celebrity to help spread the word about something you should first think if what you have is appropriate to them, then you need to craft your “request” so it does not become a job to them, make it as easy as possible for this person to just copy-paste and submit your Tweet. This is good advice. However, Jason writes, you need to do your job and figure out what will make the internet celebrity personally interested in your request. He points out a clear example of a request from someone who will make him personally interested, something like the following is something he will do in a heartbeat:

“I know you do a podcast with startup advice.  I have 7 companies here I think you’d find interesting, and they all need advice! Could we schedule a podcast episode just for our accelerator group?  It would take two hours, but I think it would be fun for everyone.”

Jason offers more specific examples in his blog post, you can read them all here…

When a person reaches a certain number of Twitter followers and/or a large number of subscribers in their blogs, it becomes really hard for them to reply to all requests from people who don’t have or have not reached the same “internet celebrity status” that they have. I guess it means for the most part that if you don’t have a large following base then you are probably not an interesting person, or perhaps not successful enough to spark interest from them, sad but true.

There are many spammer-like people on the internet, trolls and the like. Most of us aren’t, and most of us follow these internet celebrities because we care about their knowledge and expertise on topics that we care about. The “rules” and advice that Jason Cohen writes in his blog about getting attention from internet celebrities should not apply to real people who are truly interested in their opinion, and that perhaps have contributed to their “internet celebrity” status as well. If you pay attention to his blog post, Jason does not apply those rules to people who participate in his blog or Twitter feed, he gets it. Unfortunately, some internet celebrities only interact with other internet celebrities and pay little attention or none to their followers or active blog subscribers.

The advice that Jason Cohen offers in his blog post is fair and well intended, but he is missing on one really important point, people that are nobodies on the internet today, might well be very interesting people offline and perhaps become “someone” on the internet tomorrow. People who perhaps are not too engaged with an internet celebrity but care about their honest opinion might be worth paying attention to, even if they are not common participants of the internet celebrity’s online world. In the end, it is really easy to filter spammer-like requests from an email or tweet by someone who is only looking for some advice or help of some sort.

To be fair, Jason also makes a clear point about people who he recognizes from his blog comments or from Twitter interactions, he does make an exception and engages with people who are truly engaged with his blog or in Twitter, as he put it:

When I get email from someone I recognize from blog comments or Twitter interactions, I almost always help out with advice, spreading the word, anything. Because we’re engaged.

Reciprocity, that is the word. This is the first thing that came to mind after I read Jason’s blog post. I was happy to read, almost at the end of his blog post, that he will pay attention to those people who are engaged with him online. I agree and expanded on it a bit by adding a comment on his blog:

What about reciprocity? internet celebrities have thousands of followers, subscribers, etc… however, there is always that smaller group that participates in their Twitter feed by adding comments, re-tweeting  and participating with good comments on their blogs… shouldn’t these internet celebrities take the one minute it might take to do a re-tweet or perhaps 5 minutes replying to an email when one of these people who clearly are not just their followers but are also participants and the cause many of these people are such internet celebrities in the first place, just a thought.

Apparently there have been studies that show that people who follow a celebrity online are more likely to be engaged with a brand online and to even become customers of such people and brands…

U.S. adult Internet users who follow a celebrity on a social networking site are four times more likely to follow a brand than the average American Internet user.

The above is a statement from The Nielsen Company study about people who follow celebrities online and how they are 4 times more likely to follow a brand than the average American internet user. This is good for business and internet celebrities should start paying attention to us as well. Nielsen’s study also reveals that about 64% of those people who follow internet celebrities are about 18% more likely to purchase items online, 86% more likely to comment or post on social networking sites, 83% more likely to view consumer generated online video content, 67% more likely to visit social networking sites, and 45% more likely to play online games. This is very telling, according to this study we matter, and we do because we are more likely to comment on these internet celebrities’ blogs, we are more likely to re-tweet their tweets and we are more likely to purchase their product or service than the average American internet user.

Internet celebrities:

Your internet celebrity isn’t worth shit if you’re an asshole. If you have 60,000  Twitter followers and 1 million people like your Facebook page, and you think you’re entitled to anything, you’re crazy. Thank the people who re-tweet your stuff and engage with them when they try to engage with you, anyone posting on your blog and/or following you in Twitter are worthy of a reply when they ask you for a re-tweet to help spread the word about something they care about. Perhaps (internet celebrity) you should also follow Jason Cohen’s example and advice. Reciprocity. Enough said.

Digital World – Are We Internet Addicts?

Are we addicted to the internet? to online gaming? to the idea that multi-tasking is somehow a way of being more productive? The fact is that we are connected ALL the time and this is creating some social problems as many people young and old are abusing the internet by monitoring social networks all day, playing games online for countless hours causing them to get distracted from other tasks such as school, work, family, etc… Are we just too connected? let’s take South Korea for example which is one of the most connected nations in the world, just see the infographic below:

Kids in South Korea are the most connected people in the world, unfortunately this has caused some social problems and even some death in some extreme cases of online gaming addiction. In July, 2012, a 21-year-old online-gaming addict was found dead in his home in Inchon, South Korea. He’d played intensely since graduating from high school, rarely sleeping or leaving his room, according to family members. Two months prior to his death, he’d begun complaining of difficulty breathing but had refused to seek medical attention. The Inchon death is not the only sensational gaming case in South Korea, there have been many other cases in the past 10 years that involved a young person loosing their life due to playing online games non-stop without eating or drinking anything.

In the US, researchers say the lure of smart phones, social media, YouTube, etc, while it affects adults too, is particularly powerful for young people. The risk, they say, is that developing brains can become more easily habituated than adult brains to constantly switching tasks — and less able to sustain attention.

Their brains are rewarded not for staying on task but for jumping to the next thing,

said Michael Rich, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and executive director of the Center on Media and Child Health in Boston. And the effects could linger:

The worry is we’re raising a generation of kids in front of screens whose brains are going to be wired differently.

What’s interesting is that even as parents and school officials express their worries about this, most parents and everyone for that matter is in favor of intensifying efforts to make sure students use more technology in classrooms and at home. In the US, schools are adding more digital resources to help take back the student’s attention from technology using technology that they can control. It is not uncommon for students to send hundreds of text messages a day or spend hours playing video games and on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter… during classes.

Many people are used now to the instant gratification that smart phones and tablets offer where any song, any video, answer or blog are just a click away. This always-connected generation has the risk of making poor life decisions based on status updates in Facebook or Twitter, a search in Google or Bing or even a text message response from a friend or family member.

Many people today are nimble, quick-acting multitaskers who count on the Internet as their external brain

said the “experts” surveyed by Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center and the Pew Internet Project.

People have become accustomed to this idea of instant gratification, where you just type something on your phone and the next thing you know, you have what you need.

– TaskRabbit spokesperson Johnny Brackett, talking to the New York Times about retailers’ attempts to offer same-day shipping.

Being a hyper-connected society has also brought many good things such as the ability to be more connected with friends, family and even co-workers that live far from us, it has also helped many communities around the world to tell the world about unjust government actions, etc… But the problem is that many people are becoming addicted to the internet, to their smart phones, not being able to go for more than a few minutes without having to look at their phone looking for the latest Facebook or Twitter status update, a Google search, a text message or a new email. Many of us have drank the kool-aid about the idea that multi-tasking is good and let me tell you this, it is not. We are less productive when we try to do more than one thing at a time such as writing an article while at the same time checking on social network updates, etc…

Image Source: Modern Intelligentsia
Image Source: Modern Intelligentsia

We are also loosing our brain’s memory capacity, the Internet has dumbed down society as for most people the Internet has become an external storage unit that “feels” as it enhances and increases our brain’s memory capacity. It is the opposite; led by Columbia University psychologist Betsy Sparrow, the researchers conducted a series of experiments whose results suggest that when people are faced with difficult questions, they are likely to think that the Internet will help them find the answers. In fact, those who expect to able to search for answers to difficult questions online are less likely to commit the information to memory. People tend to memorize answers if they believe that it is the only way they will have access to that information in the future. Regardless of whether they remember the facts, however, people tend to recall the Web sites that hold the answers they seek. In other words, as we continue to depend less in our brain to store information, its efficiency and capacity to retain information decreases and this is not a good thing, it can’t be.

How do we gain control of our time, keep our brains healthy and start focusing on the important tasks and people who are in front of us? disconnect, it is like any other addiction, you need to first accept you are spending too much time online in order to be able to reduce your “connected” time. These are some things that might help you achieve this:

  1. Sleep well: A well-rested brain is less likely to be distracted.
  2. Eat well: Good nutrition is important to brain functionality.
  3. Minimize stress and anger: it tends to ramp up production of brain chemicals such as norepinephrine and cortisol, which can lead to problems.
  4. Watch out for time wasters: It’s easy to get distracted when you have your smart phone in your hand or in front of you, put the phone down and do not pick it up unless somebody calls you, you’ll be surprised by how much time you’ll gain back just by doing this. Stay focused by setting time limits for online activity.
  5. Keep it simple: It is about performing simple tasks, one at a time. This allows you to work smarter and not harder since you’ll be concentrating on one task at a time which will lead you to better results and eventually become more productive.

Today is the Internet, before the Internet it was the TV the reason many people lost jobs, relationships and their intellectual capacity due to spending long periods of time in front of a TV set. The problem of distraction is not new but today’s digital world have exponentially increased our ability to get distracted anytime and anywhere. It is the Poverty of Attention as Sam Anderson pointed out in New York magazine and we need to do something about it today, before it is too late.

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