Motivational Minute: Envisioning your Future

Picturing your goals is like super charging your ambition toward achieving them. When you have a clear, conscious mental image of what you want your life to look like in the future,  all of your conscience and, more importantly, your unconscious efforts will be directed at achieving that future. The key is to look at every area of your life, in turn, and build on that image so the picture becomes clearer over time. Try the following exercise at your leisure and take note of how you feel after completing it:

Sit in a comfortable position and breathe deeply and slowly.

Close your eyes and picture yourself 3 years from now (you can choose any length of time). Here are some probes you can use during the exercise to focus on different aspects of your life:

What do you look like? What type of physical shape are you in? What are you wearing?

What job do you have? What type of work are you doing at your job? Are you fulfilled and doing purposeful work?

What new skills have you acquired? What new positive characteristics have you developed? What lessons have you learned? 

What new hobbies have you explored? What does your social life look like? What are you doing for enjoyment?

Let this be a free-flowing exercise with no time constraints and see where your imagination takes you. When you’re ready, open your eyes and notice if there is any boost in your motivation and vigor. Sometimes the only thing standing in the way of the future you’re supposed to have is your own mind. Be limitless and work towards the life you want for yourself! Namaste.

-Jennifer, NOVA Online Success Coach

You can practice this exercise daily by downloading the free meditation app Omvana on any Apple product, i.e. iPhone, iPad, etc. and trying “The Envisioning Method: Envisioning the Future by Vshen Akhiani” and “6 Phase Meditation by Vshen Akhiani.”


Don’t Get Lost In Your Online Classroom

The best thing to do when you are lost, driving in an unfamiliar area without GPS, is to pull over and ask for directions so why not have the same mindset in your online classroom. If you are feeling lost and confused, do not hesitate to take time to reach out and seek direction from your instructor.Map tacksLearning how to ask detailed questions and communicate them to your instructor, in the online environment, is one of the most important skills you need to be successful in your courses.  Since you are not face to face with your instructors, as in a traditional classroom, maintaining communication with your instructor is essential.

Recommendations to promote communication with your online instructor:

Email: Do not hesitate or put off contacting your instructor. Your instructor is there to help you and to promote your success. You can send an email anytime. Please Note: Always use your NOVA email address when communicating via email. Instructors are unable to reply to a non-NOVA email address. Some instructors teach several courses, so please begin your email with your name, student ID and the course and section that you are enrolled in.

Office Hours: If you prefer one-on-one communication, consider contacting your instructor during their office hours, which are posted in your course syllabus.  Office hours are an excellent resource to get the extra help you may need.

Course Discussion Boards/Student Lounge: Discussion board forums, located in your Blackboard course site, are another way to contact your instructor.  Some instructors may even setup a Student Lounge just for questions about the class, which they check regularly. This is an excellent forum to ask questions about assignments, concepts, theories, as well as to clarify policy and due dates. You would not want to use this forum to ask a personal question.

Course Chat: Some instructors hold regular chat sessions at specific times. This is another excellent setting to get your concerns/questions addressed.

Expressing Your Question: When you are writing or asking a question, be sure that your question/concern is clearly stated. It can be confusing for an instructor to receive an email stating, “I don’t understand the week one assignment”.  It’s better to write, “I need some clarification about the week one assignment titled, ‘xx’.  I’ve downloaded the template that contains the exercises for week one but I’m having trouble answering question two and three.  I did the reading and took notes but I’m still not grasping the concepts in regards to the Freudian theory. I would appreciate any assistance you can provide”.  If your question is clearly stated, your instructor will be able to better address your concern. Finally, always include the title and section number for your course in the subject line of your email.

Responses: If your instructor does not reply to your email in a timely manner, check to be sure that your email was sent from your NOVA email, consider contacting your instructor during office hours or through the discussion board (if it is not a personal concern). You can also try resending your email indicating, ‘Time Sensitive’ in the subject line. In the body, write, ‘I am writing to follow through on the email referenced below.”

Do no get lost in your class – if you are feeling lost or confused with an assignment, lesson, or concept, contact your instructor right away! For additional assistance in your online classes, feel free to contact the NOVA Online Success Coaches. They can assist you with time management, academic resources or study strategies to include free online tutoring for NOVA Online Students. Please contact your NOVA Online Success Coach at NOVA or call 703.764.5076.

Critical Course Deadlines

One assumption some online students make is that all NOVA Online courses are self-paced. To that end, they may put off getting started and learn that their instructor has withdrawn them for not meeting course deadlines. Don’t let this happen to you!DeadlineIt is very important to understand that most NOVA Online courses have weekly or even mid-weekly due dates. There are critical enrollment dates, that include your First Assignment Due Date – requiring you to log into your Blackboard course site and complete your First Assignment by the assigned due date. Failure to follow these guidelines may result in being dropped from the course without a tuition refund. Summer courses may be 12 weeks, 8 weeks, 6 weeks, or 4 weeks in length; each course has specific start, refund, first assignment due date, withdrawal, and end date that you should be aware of when you select a particular course. View the summer 2015 critical enrollment dates early and know your options.

In addition to logging in and completing your first assignments (as referenced in your Quick Start Syllabus and Blackboard Course Site), NOVA Online courses also have regular weekly assignment deadlines.

When taking a NOVA Online course, it is important to understand that assignment due dates as well as test and quiz due dates come quickly. Due dates are firm and in some NOVA Online courses, assignments and tests/quizzes are sometimes removed after the due date.

To be successful in your course:

Read through your course syllabus on the first day of class. Understand all the deadlines that apply to your course and record them in your planner.

Establish a Routine – Visit your Blackboard Course Site daily and read all of your emails and announcements.

Make Note of your Course Deadlines, and turn your assignments in on time.

If possible, take your test prior to the testing deadline—you never know what might come up at the last minute!

To ensure that you understand the NOVA Online course deadlines, know your course specific critical course deadlines and review the important dates to include refund date, first assignment due date and last day to withdraw with a grade of ‘W’.

Make sure to watch out from emails from the Student Success Coaches – – that will give you reminders of specific upcoming dates and helpful tips for success throughout the term.


FAFSA has eliminated the pin and has a new process. Make sure you understand your own personal financial aid process. Contact the Student Support Center with questions! You can also review the Financial Aid Video for more information. FAFSAID


Motivational Minute: Silencing your Inner Critic

inner critic

Sometimes our perception of ourselves creates boundaries and limitations on what we think we can do. We tell ourselves, “I can’t do that because…” before we even entertain the possibility that success is a possibility. We doubt that we have what it takes to be successful in our endeavors because we automatically think it’s beyond our competency. I say NO WAY to that! Those very thoughts diminish our ability to be successful not our lack of skill! So here is my challenge for you over the next week: For each reason you have to tell yourself you “can’t…”, “won’t…”, “will never…”, I want you to find two reasons why you “can…”, “will…”, “will always…” Too often we talk ourselves out of the good things we deserve by convincing ourselves they aren’t meant for us. Let’s change the story we tell ourselves about ourselves and acknowledge that once the glass ceiling of self-doubt is shattered, more doors of opportunity will open simply because our mindset has changed. Perception is reality. Perceive yourself as incapable and your reality will follow suit but see yourself as great and all you do will be soaked in success! Namaste.

–Jennifer, NOVA Online Success Coach


Ten Tips to E-Mail your Instructor

Need to email your instructor and not sure where to start? These ten easy to follow steps will help you get that email written and the send button hit in no time!4805341351. Use your NOVA student email account to send your email. All correspondence relating to your courses should come from and go to your NOVA email address. Email messages originating from other email addresses may go directly to your instructors SPAM folder and go unnoticed.

2. Make your subject line meaningful. Your instructor likely teaches multiple courses and may even teach on other campuses. Include the course and section number along with a quick description of why you are writing your instructor.
An example might look like this:
Subject: PSY 200-E05W, Question about grade calculations

3. Briefly and politely state the reason you are writing. Be sure to include all of the relevant information pertaining to your question and leave out anything that does not relate directly to the situation.

4. If you are writing your instructor because you have a problem, include a proposed solution in your email. The instructor may or may not agree with your suggestion. Regardless, it does demonstrate to your instructor you are taking the initiative to actively work towards resolving the situation.

5. Sign your email with your complete first and last name along with your student ID number.

6. Read through your email to check for spelling and punctuation errors. Make sure all of your sentences are complete and do not contain any abbreviations or other modified text that is used in text messaging.

7. If your email is lengthy, have a second set of eyes proofread your email for clarity. This will be an opportunity to make sure you have clearly articulated what it is you wanted to say.

8. Send your email.

9. Allow adequate time for a response from your instructor. Many NOVA Online instructors also teach campus based courses so they are not always sitting at their computer in their office. Often you will find information in the syllabus relating to how soon you should expect a response from your instructor.

10. Once you have received a response from your instructor, acknowledge it. A simple “Thank you” may be all that is needed. If your instructor asks you questions in their response to your email, be sure to answer all of them thoroughly.

This post was adapted from by the NOVA Online Success Coaches to help you develop skills to effectively communicate through email to your instructor for the February focus on communication. NOVA Online Success Coaches can be reached at or 703.764.5076.

First Day of Class Reminders!

Happy First Day of Classes, NOVA Online Students!

Today’s first day blog is provided by student blogger Rebecca! She has been taking NOVA Online classes for two semesters and has some tips to help new NOVA Online students get started in summer classes.

It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m scrambling to finish a paper by the 5pm deadline. I am just about to submit my paper at 4:55pm but I decide to proofread it one more time. By the time I finish it is a couple minutes after 5pm. Okay, I’ll go submit it now. It’s only two minutes, right? WRONG! As I click on the assignment I am startled to discover that the submission page has disappeared off of blackboard!

Yes, this did actually happened to me last semester. Luckily I emailed the professor and was able to turn in my assignment, although I did lose a lot of points. Don’t let this happen to you!

Online classes are great because they let you have flexibility in your schedule. However without a physical class everyday to remind you what is due, it’s easy to get behind if you don’t pace yourself. My #1 tip for students new to online classes is keep track of your course deadlines and your professor’s policy on deadlines.

Here are five things to look for on your syllabus:

  1. What day of the week and time are assignments due? The day and time of deadlines may vary for different courses. In my experience most classes have Sunday deadlines but the times may vary. For example, last semester one of my courses had a Sunday 5pm deadline, another had a Sunday 11:59pm deadline and another had a Monday 6am deadline. It’s helpful to write deadlines on a calendar (especially if you are taking multiple courses, so you don’t get caught off guard by a busy week)
  2. Are there any midweek deadlines? Once in a while there may be a group project or discussion board posting with a midweek deadline, leaving time later in the week for comments.
  3. Are there strict deadlines? Some professors have strict weekly deadlines while others will accept all work right up until the course end date.
  4. Do exams have to be taken during a certain window? Are exams only available for a limited time? Can you take them early or late?
  5. Does your instructor accept late work? Some instructors will let you turn in work a day or two late if you email them and explain the situation. Other instructors will accept late work but take points off. Others are very strict about deadlines and will not accept work even a minute late.

We’ve all been there: You have a busy week and struggle to find the time. You have last minute computer problems. These things can and will happen. Avoid a stressful situation by learning about your Critical Course Deadlines, course specific deadlines, and professor’s late and grading policy before you are too overwhelmed!

SmarterMeasure Assessment

Are you ready for Online Learning at NOVA Online?SmarterMeasure Logo

Online learning is different in from traditional face-to-face learning in many respects. Some individuals feel more comfortable learning in an online environment than others.

SmarterMeasure is an assessment that measures learner readiness for Northern Virginia Community College’s Extended Learning Institute. SmarterMeasure is an indicator of the degree to which online learning and/or learning in a technology rich environment will be a good fit for you.

Take your time to rate yourself honestly. It is a tool that will help you assess your strengths and opportunities for growth related to online learning in 6 areas.

1. Life Factors
2. Individual Attributes – procrastination, time management, willingness to ask for help, academic attributes
3. Learning Styles – what is your predominant learning style?
4. Technical Competency, Skills, and Knowledge
5. Reading Rate and Recall
6. Typing Speed and Accuracy

You will receive a full color report immediately following the completion of all areas of SmarterMeasure. You may email this report, print it, or download and save for future reference. It also provides some remedial tools related to each area. For more information about SmarterMeasture, view this video.

This assessment is available in all NOVA Online courses. You will see it as a required assignment in some courses, but as an option in others. Access a username and password here.

Motivational Minute: Reach out to your Instructor

Unlike an on-campus course, students in an online course may complete the entire course without any interaction with their instructor and student must establish a virtual relationship with instructors.  Students may be a bit unsure about how to navigate this new virtual student-instructor relationship and may hesitate to email an instructor when the need arises. Instructors can offer students unparalleled guidance on the course policies, assistance with course content, and course-specific resources.  Here are some things to consider when reaching out to your instructor: things there is a delay in response time, and some students find verbal communication much easier.

Establish communication early. Reach out to your instructor at the start of the course and introduce yourself. You can locate your instructor’s contact information in your course Blackboard and in NOVA’s online faculty directory here.

Be thorough in your  communications. Because there can be a delay in response time when emailing and calling instructors (instructors have up to 2 business to respond to students), the process of getting assistance can be prolonged by asking multiple questions multiple times. To avoid this, be sure to include all the information you need in your initial contact with the instructor and ask your questions clearly and concisely.

Keep records of your interaction. Using written forms of communication with your professor can serve as a great reference to return to for future use. It’s always good to establish the habit of having a hard copy of all email communications in school and in your professional life.

Facilitate respectful communication with your instructor. Try to facilitate a dialogue of mutual respect and avoid using abrasive, accusatory, or otherwise aggressive language in all communications with instructors. Review tips on emailing your instructor for more tips!

Distance learning doesn’t have to be marked by a distance between professors and students. Reach out to your instructors, they’re here for you! Namaste.

Jennifer, NOVA Online Success Coach

NOVA Online Success Coach Team 703-764-5076 and

Credit for Prior Learning

Are you an adult learner who has acquired college-level learning from your work and life experiences? The PLACE Portfolio Development course (SDV 298) may be a great option for you to turn that learning into college course credits toward your NOVA degree!

What is PLACE? Offered at NOVA since 1987, the SDV 298 PLACE portfolio development course provides a means for adult students to use the college-level learning they have gained through workplace training, employment, family life, volunteer work, and other experiences to earn college credits toward their NOVA degrees or certificates.

  • Take the one-credit SDV 298 PLACE portfolio development course
  • Articulate experiential learning as it aligns with specific NOVA courses
  • Create electronic portfolios using Google Sites through VCCS student emails
  • Submit portfolios for up to 15 degree credits or 10 certificate credits

Who are candidates for this program? Adults (typically 25+ years) who have gained significant learning through their work and life experiences that can be applied to their NOVA degree or certificate programs.

Visit NOVA’s Prior Learning website for more information.