Fear of taking an online class

I have been teaching an online class for a couple of years now at a local community college. I have my students introduce themselves on our discussion board and I always have several students who are new to an online class. Of course, they express fears and concern.

There are usually a combination of fears: the class will be too difficult, you don’t believe you will be able to work independently because of limitations on time or poor time management skills, and it is very common to be concerned that online study will be an isolating experience and that you will have no one to turn to when you are having difficulties. There is a perception that online classes mean no teachers or instructors will be available to help when you need it the most.

While these are all valid concerns, there are a few things you can do to be successful. Over the past several semesters, I think it comes down to three key things: take responsibility, time management and communicate.

Responsibility

Online classes take a certain amount of responsibility. You need to make a schedule for yourself. Don’t think you can just do everything the day before it’s due, because it’s impossible. It’s a good idea to sit down and set aside certain times when you’ll do certain assignments.

Also take the responsibility to read what the instructor has posted. I often post hints to assignments, answers to commonly asked questions and other various announcements.

Time Management

The flexibility to create your own schedule is often one of the biggest appeals of taking online classes. But that freedom can also be detrimental if you do not have solid time management skills. It can be easy to let assignments slide and miss due dates because of the flexibility that come with online courses.

It’s important to stay organized and follow a schedule because it’s difficult to catch up once you fall behind.

Communicate

You are not on your own. Your instructor or teacher is there to help. But you have to communicate with that person. Whatever the method is for you to contact your instructor or teacher, use it! Never feel like you are being the needy student and you don’t want to bother the instructor. Every instructor wants you to succeed.

You can search online for how to be successful in an online class. All the information you will find is valid. However, from my experience, it really does come down to those three things.

Take that online class, you will succeed.

The Excel Worksheet

Did You Know?

A worksheet is organized into a grid of cells, which are formed by the intersection of rows and columns.

Rows are identified by numbers. Row numbers can range from 1 to 1,048,576.

Column labels are identified by letters and start with A to Z. After Z, the next column heading is AA, AB, AC, and so forth. The last possible column label is XFD, which means there are 16,384 columns in a worksheet.

The total number of possible cells in a single worksheet is more than 17 billion. That is just one worksheet!!

I have just posted my first class on Udemy and need your help!

I have just posted my first class on Udemy: Excel Basics: Learn While Creating a Personal Budget.

It is a course for those new to Excel beginners or those that want to fill in some gaps.

This is a project-based course that takes you through creating a personal yearly budget. It is a step-by-step process broken down into multiple videos.

Along the way, you learn:

  • Entering text and numbers
  • Formatting text and numbers
  • Aligning and indenting text
  • Borders
  • Column width
  • Row height
  • Fill color
  • Copy and paste
  • Wrap text
  • AutoSum
  • Sum function
  • Simple formulas
  • Printing features

I am looking for feedback and reviews on the course. My students options matter and help me improve the course material and overall learning experience for future students.

If you are interested in checking out the course and giving feedback/reviews, I have a coupon code for free access.

Click on the link below to go directly to my Udemy course and sign-up for free:

https://www.udemy.com/excelbasics-personalbudgetproject/?couponCode=FOREVERMORE1ST

Phone Number Format in Excel

Here is a great tip to save you some time when entering phone numbers into Excel.

When entering a phone number into a cell, it is faster to just type the number without the dashes or parenthesis. You can format a cell to automatically format the phone number for you.

phone number with dashes or spaces

On the Home Tab, in the Number group, click the launcher arrow.

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The Format Cells dialog box will open.

On the Number tab, select Special from Category and then choose Phone Number.

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Click Ok.

Enter the phone number – just enter the numbers and when you hit Enter, the formatting is done.

Phone number with dashes and parenthesis

Why Use Microsoft Excel? Need a reason to use Excel?!

Excel.

Chances are, that word alone stirs visions of lengthy spreadsheets and budgets with complicated formulas and charts.

It is true—Excel has become the standard in offices for pretty much anything that requires management of large amounts of data.

But, if you think Excel is only good for making you cross-eyed while looking at a bunch of numbers and financial reports, think again. There are tons of uses for Excel in business and at home.

Numbers floating off of a spreadsheet.

The problem is that when people are asked to find a use for it outside of business or number crunching, most people are stumped.

I teach an Excel class at a community college and I get students who say they hope they don’t forget what they have learned.

Maybe you learned a little bit of Excel at work and you want to get better at it, but you can’t think of a reason to use Excel.

One thing I usually recommend is create a personal budget. But using Excel, doesn’t always have to involve numbers. When you have data, any data, use Excel to store it. One of Excel’s simplest yet most fundamental abilities is organizing data.

You can create:

  • Grocery lists
  • Inventory
  • Budget plans
  • Expense tracking
  • Vacation schedule
  • Trip planner
  • Tracking birthdays and anniversaries

You don’t have to have a lot of data to use Excel.

Of course, there are plenty of fancy apps and tools out there to help you do a lot of what I just mentioned. But, if you want to become really good with Excel, then you need to use Excel.  

A passion of mine is cycling. I ride almost year-round. I have a few different bikes and I have to keep them maintained. What does that have to do with Excel?

I keep a very simply log of my bicycle maintenance. I track the date, which bike, what the maintenance was or the purchase made, cost and who performed the maintenance.

Really the purpose of this spreadsheet is so I can remember what I did with what bike. Because I am tracking this information in Excel there are some basic tasks I can do with this data, such as

  • Sort and Filter
  • Using the SUM function to see what my total expenses have been
  • Rename a worksheet
  • Add borders and fill colors
  • Use the Sumif and Countif functions
  • Create charts

Watch the video on my YouTube Channel.

Freeze Columns and Rows in Excel

My years working as an IT trainer, I’ve helped with many issues. One of the most common had to do with data entry and knowing what heading (column) the data was being added to.  

My office had a conference table that could seat 4 people comfortably. I often had what I would call “open project days.” Anyone could come in on those days and work on their Excel project and I was there to answer any questions. Sometimes people just used this to get away from their desks, but I never went through one of those days without being of some assistance. It usually did not happen in the form of a question, but rather an exclamation of frustration.
Jeanie mumbled “There are so many date columns, I can’t remember what goes where.”
“Do you not have headings?” I questioned, misunderstanding.
“Of course, I have headings, but when I scroll down to enter data, I can’t see my heading,” she responded in a frustrated tone.
“I have a cure for that,” I said as I walked over.

Here is what I showed Jeanie to make her data entry a little easier – Freeze Panes

Freeze panes allows you to lock specific rows and columns so that they will always be visible on screen no matter how far you scroll to the right or down.

From the View Tab – Freeze Panes

From the drop down menu you have three selections: Freeze Panes, Freeze Top Row and Freeze First Column. 

Freeze Top Row and Freeze First Column are just as they say. Row 1 and Column A will freeze. 

With Freeze Panes, you must be aware of what cell you are actively in. Everything above and to the left of the active cell will freeze.

For example, if you want rows 1 and 2 to freeze, you need to actively be in cell A3. 

If you want column A and B and row 1 to freeze, you need to actively be in cell C2. 

Display Numbers as Phone Numbers

(Excel versions from 2007 to current)

When entering a phone number into a cell, it is faster to just type the number without the dashes or parenthesis. You can format a cell to automatically format the phone number for you.

Excel provides a special number format that lets you format a number as a phone number. For example, you can format a 10-digit number, such as 3039032362, as (303) 903-2362.

Select the cell or range of cells that you want to format.

A number without formatting

On the Home Tab, in the Number group, click the launcher arrow.

Number group launch arrow

The Format Cells dialog box will open.

On the Number tab, select Special from Category and then choose Phone Number.

Format Cells dialog box

Click Ok.

Enter the phone number, just enter the numbers and when you hit Enter, the formatting is done.

Excel cell showing a number with phone number formatting

 

Want to read more about Excel’s number formatting? Read this post: Number Formatting in Excel

Excel’s Active Cell & a Grayed Out Ribbon?

An active cell is outlined by a heavy border, which allows you to easily see where the cell is that is being worked with and where data will be entered. It can also be referred to as the current cell or selected cell.

Active Cell

Why is this important to know? I have a couple of reasons to share with you.

First, it lets you know what cell you are in. When you start typing text or entering a formula, this is where that data will appear.

Second, if you are in edit mode, some commands on the Ribbon will be grayed out and you can’t use them.

“Ms. Harris, my Ribbon isn’t working,” a student says out loud in class.

By now, when I hear something to that effect, I know what they are referring to. But I go ahead and ask

“can you be more specific?”

“Nothing I click on will work, everything is grayed out,” comes the response.

Let’s take a closer look at what this student is referring to. Take a look a Figure 1 below. The cell E2 is selected, but not in edit mode. You can see the commands are available on the Home tab of the Ribbon.

Active cell not in edit mode
Figure 1 Cell Selected, but not in Edit Mode

Now let’s take a look at Figure 2 below. Cell E2 is in edit mode. You can tell from the insertion cursor in the cell. Also notice that the commands on the Home Tab of the Ribbon are grayed out.

Figure 2 The cell is in Edit Mode
Figure 2 The cell is in Edit Mode

You can edit the contents of a cell directly in the cell (you can also edit the contents of a cell by typing in the formula bar.) When Excel is in edit mode some features work differently or are unavailable. For example, you cannot change the alignment of the contents of a cell.

Also, the arrow keys behave differently. Instead of moving the cursor from cell to cell, in Edit mode, the arrow keys move the cursor around in the cell.

To exit edit mode, simply hit the Enter, Tab, or the Esc key on your keyboard. Or click another cell in the worksheet.

Number Formatting in Excel

I was in Shannon’s office, sitting in her visitor’s chair across from her desk. She had requested a one-on-one Excel training session and I was waiting for her to finish up whatever she was working on currently.

“I just need to get these last few numbers entered into our department budget,” she announced as I waited.

“No worries, I will just sit here and watch you work,” I said half-jokingly.

As I sat there her hand movement caught my attention. The index finger of her left hand was tracking the information on the paper in front of her. Her right hand was flying over the 10-key on the keyboard. I also noticed her double tap on the zero key. I realized for every number, she manually entered .00 or if there was a needed comma, she was manually entering the comma.

“Shannon, I think I know the first thing I want to cover in our training session,” I said.

Here is what we covered:

Don’t put those commas in yourself.

Number formatting is used to change the appearance of a number or value in a cell. Formatting numbers does not change the actual number that you enter, just the way it appears in the spreadsheet.

Commonly used number formats include:
percent symbols ( % ),
commas ( , ),
decimal places, and dollar signs( $ )

Number formatting can be applied to a single cell, entire columns or rows, a select range of cells, or the whole worksheet.

The default format for cells containing a value is the General style. This style has no specific format and displays values as plain numbers – no dollar signs, commas etc. Just a plain number.

To change a cell’s format, you can use one of the buttons on the Ribbon, such as comma, percent or currency which apply preset styles to the selected cells.

Another option is to click the drop down arrow next to General on the Ribbon. This will give you additional formatting options.

After Shannon applied the Currency style to her columns, all she had to do was enter the number. The dollar sign and .00 were automatically added.

Currency Style and Accounting Style – What’s the difference?

They do look similar to each other.

The Accounting style aligns the dollar sign at the left edge of the cell and displays a dash for zero values.
The Currency style places the dollar sign right next to the number.

Note: The Currency format can display negative numbers with a minus sign, in red, with parentheses, or in red with parentheses.

The Accounting format displays negative numbers in parentheses.

You can also watch the video on my YouTube channel: Number Formatting in Excel

 

Navigate a Word Document with Shift + F5

Microsoft Word has some nice shortcuts that are not well known. One of those is the Shift + F5 shortcut.

Use this to cycle between your most recent edits. With a large document, Shift+F5 is handy to see what you have edited most recently. And, you can use it when you first open a document to take you to your most recent edit.

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If you are on a laptop, you may need to use your function key along with the F5 key.

Shift + Fn + F5