Online degree programs have helped thousands of students fit higher education into a busy schedule. However, this doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for everyone. Among the many things to consider when making this big decision is your particular learning style, your comfort level with technology, your level of self-discipline, and your work schedule.
The essential question to ask here is, do you learn better when you have a professor right in front of you and your fellow students surrounding you, or can you learn on your own without this face-to-face experience? Keep in mind that those who take college courses online are not in no man’s land; they communicate with their professor and classmates through e-mail, chat, video conferencing, online class discussion boards and occasionally by phone. However, any time there is e-mail communication, there is at least some lag in response time. If you learn more effectively in a traditional classroom where you can simply raise your hand and have your question answered immediately or after class, then online learning might not be for you. Online learning might be a viable option for you if you are confident in your ability to learn on your own and comfortable with waiting for your questions to be answered. Be aware that many online professors maintain some sort of online office hours where you can chat live with your instructor and get any questions or concerns addressed immediately.
Comfort with Technology
Online courses incorporate the very latest in online learning technology. This can pose a problem with some individuals, particularly older adults, who are not familiar with video conferencing, online tools that facilitate group projects, instant messaging and other actions along these lines. The good news is that those who have at least some familiarity with computers can benefit from instructional seminars on the online learning environment and make use of an online university’s tech support team. Also, your instructor can answer most “how-to” questions you have regarding different functions in an online course. However, if you believe your discomfort with computers and the Internet are hurdles too difficult to overcome, online learning might not be for you. Be aware, though, that today’s tech-savvy world will demand computer skills from you in the workplace and that even traditional colleges and universities will require computer proficiency.
Those who take courses online must be disciplined enough to access their courses regularly outside of a structured setting. You’d be surprised how many things can distract you when you are learning from your home computer. Your family, television and household responsibilities are right in front of you, your friends might drop by, and there’s no professor present to demand your attention. If you have a hard time staying focused outside of a structured setting, online learning might not be right for you. But if you are good at completing academic tasks on your own, online learning could be just the thing you need.
Last but not least, your work schedule is often a determining factor for online versus traditional college education. If you can’t schedule traditional college classes in a way that lets you continue working, online education might be your only alternative. Traditional college classes require you to show up at the same time and place every week and the rigidity of this strict schedule is difficult for many working students to manage. Online classes, however, allow students to log in to classes after work at a time that is best for them each week. Aside from online classes, the only option available to full-time workers are evening classes, which often have limited offerings available.
This guest post is contributed by Barbara Jolie, who writes on the topics of online classes. She welcomes your comments here or at her email Id: firstname.lastname@example.org.