Seattle Fashionista – A Profile in Online Education

Kristin Connell keeps pretty busy these days. As the manager for Shoefly, an upscale Seattle shoe boutique, she spends between forty and fifty hours a week in the shop–that is, when she’s not planning special events or jetting off to Los Angeles for a week of meetings with wholesalers.

While she values her professional experience, Kristin also knows the importance of a solid education. In order to advance her career in the world of fashion, she’s pursuing a bachelor’s degree in fashion design. As many working students know, making a school schedule dovetail with professional responsibilities can be tough. For Kristin, the solution includes participation in online coursework. I sat down with her in her Capitol Hill apartment to get the 411 on her online fashion design class.

Mr. Smith: Your fashion design program includes both online coursework and classroom work, so you have the best of both worlds. What are you currently studying?

KC: I’m taking a few courses, but the online course is fashion sketching.

Mr. Smith: Which involves what?

KC: It’s the start of creating a piece or line of attire. You develop a basic visual concept–a sketch–for a piece of clothing. From there you can draft patterns and actually create the piece.

Mr. Smith: Could you describe your online interface?

KC: It’s basically an all-in-one website. There’s a place for you to get assignments, a place for class discussions, a link to lectures and research materials, and the grade book, which is where you can check your grades after you turn in a new assignment. That part’s helpful, because you can monitor your progress daily.

Mr. Smith: How often does the material update?

KC: Well, the syllabus pre-established at the beginning of the quarter. But the teacher can post assignments as often as he likes. The discussion boards are constantly updating, throughout the duration of the class.

Mr. Smith: Could you describe a week of coursework?

KC: The lesson plan follows the textbook, so we do a chapter each week. The teacher posts a reading assignment, discussion questions, and homework. We use Adobe Illustrator to design fashion sketches, and turn it in as an email attachment when we’re done.

Mr. Smith: How would you compare your online class to a traditional brick-and-mortar classroom?

KC: It’s actually more strenuous. It’s not like a normal class, where just showing up gets you a participation grade. The onus is on you to participate heavily. For example, with the class discussion board, you have to post often and your posts have to be insightful. I got nabbed on that a couple of times.

Mr. Smith: And compared to traditional classroom, how much classmate interaction is there?

KC: Well, of course you don’t get face time, but you have about as much interaction. It was a requirement for us. With the discussion boards, each student has to respond to the teacher’s question, and then to at least two classmates per posting to receive credit.

Mr. Smith: What’s your favorite thing about your online coursework?

KC: Well, while you do have deadlines, you can still work at your own pace. Even though we had weekly deadlines, I was able to turn in my work on the first day of the week.

Mr. Smith: How about your least favorite thing?

KC: To be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of my professor, but that really didn’t have anything to do with the online format of the class.

In addition to her online coursework, Kristin also attends a four-hour pattern-drafting course each week (the brick and mortar being necessary for hands-on participation). While her schedule is tight, she remains determined: “I work as hard as I do because I know it’s worth it,” she says. “I think it’s important to have goals and to make a point of pursuing them.”

Well spoken, I think. After all, if–as Thomas Paine once observed, “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly,” then busy professionals can look to Kristin and others like her, for a model. After all, Kristin and her fellow students may be determined, but they aren’t all that unusual. As far busy professionals who moonlight as students go, Kristin’s really a textbook example.

Adult Students With an Education Gap – No Written Language

Vanuatu’s tropical islands are renowned for their diversity, with nearly 115 distinct cultures and languages. The International Year of Languages has been declared for 2008. Now a group, from the 83 islands of Vanuatu, have met to convert their oral language to the written word.

Port Vila hosted 23 adult students from 12 different language groups, all keen to discover the power of writing in their own language. Slowly, language barriers were broken down, as these shy people began to communicate with each other.

Many Ni-Vanuatu people are multi-lingual, speaking French, Bislama, English and their home language. For 30 years or more the adults have used an oral language, with primary schooling providing no writing experiences in their own language.

Cultural ceremonies and stories discussed under the banyan tree and over the cooking pots, have seen customs and tales of ancestors passed from generation to generation.

From as far as the remote, northern islands of Motolava and the southern Tanna, these adult students have arrived in the capital. Jesse, a mother of three children, explained in broken English, “For most of us it is the first time we have left our island homes, flown in a plane, or crossed the ocean”.

An extract of literature was translated into their language. Faces glowed with pride at seeing their language written for the first time. “Communication was at the heart of the workshop,” explained a spokesperson for the project.

“The translation of important information to the Mother tongue has highlighted this. When the students return to their island homes, they will share their knowledge and show their community the power of the written word. The community will move forward in leaps and bounds in this exciting new adventure.”

Free education is not available in Vanuatu. Everyone must pay school fees as the government provides limited resources. For most families the fee is beyond the small incomes of villagers, living in a ‘no-cash-economy’.

The horrific consequence is:

o Only 55.8% of Vanuatu kids will get to grade 6;
o Of those only 18.2% will go to high school;
o 26% will never go to school.

Many parents are not able to read or write in any language.

Vanuatu desperately needs help to educate the next generation. Although rich in knowledge about their land, culture and traditions, the Happiest Country on Earth (voted in 2006) needs help to educate the young generation, if the country is to move forward. As a Lesser Developed country, donor funding is seen pouring into the country, but education is low on the priority list.

YouMe Support Foundation, a Child Trust Fund, is dedicated to giving these children a high school education grants for the children of the outer islands of Vanuatu. You can help, donate and make a difference in the lives of these people and you might win the boutique resort. Visit our Website for your Blue Moon Opportunity.

Worth Every Penny Book Review

As a business owner of a home-based photography studio, I find that constant education is vital to the continued growth of my business. There are a variety of forms of education for photographers and other business owners: conferences, classes, local meetings, or books being a few. Books are often one of the cheaper forms of education and I find a lot of great insights from books like Worth Every Penny.

Worth Every Penny is a business book written by both Sarah Petty and Erin Verbeck founder and chief of The Joy of Marketing. This book is targeted toward small business owners running boutique style businesses. While bigger businesses are focused on volume, boutique businesses are focused on experience and high-end, quality products. This book helps boutique business owners understand some of the keys necessary to running their boutique business.

Worth Every Penny gives great advice on how to build a strong brand to market to your ideal client base, which is crucial in a boutique business. It’s importance to convey luxury and a high-end experience to your current and feature client base. The book also discusses strategies for creating a strong marketing and advertising campaign to reflect this idea and what makes your business unique. It is always important to convey what makes your business different and more desirable than your competition.

A huge part of boutique businesses is building relationships. When you aren’t working with a high volume business, you have the time to invest in getting to know your clients. Worth Every Penny discusses ways to convey your appreciation to your customers and develop strong relationships with them, which can help grow your business.

And of course, with the extra time, value, and care dedicated to the customers of a boutique business, a higher price is often a necessity. Worth Every Penny discusses methods for pricing your products and adding additional value to your clients orders. After all, to be a viable business, you need to make a profit.

I personally found Sarah Petty & Erin Verbeck’s book, Worth Every Penny, to be incredibly beneficial and insightful in working on my own business. Determining my strengths and unique products, how to market them and provide my clients with the best care possible are incredibly important to me, and this book has helped me narrow down and hone these things. I would highly recommend this book to any boutique business – not just photography business owners!