How to Know if Online Education is Right for You
Still not sure if online education is right for you? Read on for some questions to help you find the answers to determine whether this method of learning is an option you should consider.
1. Is your schedule limited? Students of online education often balance multiple responsibilities including caring for families, work and various volunteer pursuits. Not everyone can cut back on their schedules, but with distant learning you can still fit in a few hours per week to study. Driving to campus eats up time, but logging on to your computer to take classes can be done at any time and on your own schedule. Nights, weekends and holidays may suit you just well as you pursue your degree.
2. Would a degree help you get ahead? Degree or no degree. The difference between the two can be striking especially in terms of job opportunities and pay. Sandy Baum, a Skidmore College economist, says that obtaining a college degree can increase wages by an average of $20,000 per year. So, even if you have only about 15 years left before you retire, you could make as much as $300,000 more, providing you more cash for your later years. Likely, you already know what opportunities a college degree would afford you where you work or where you want to work.
3. Do you like to learn on your own? Some students thrive in a face to face atmosphere, meeting with students and instructors at a set time each week. Other students are self-motivated and enjoy the flexibility of working on their own time and don’t necessarily need immediate interaction with students and faculty. Online education, however, provides a blend of these two learning styles as students can interact via Facebook, forums and at times optional scheduled meetings. Distance learning isn’t completely a solitary affair — you can connect as much as you want and as much as your schedule permits.
4. Are you comfortable working with a computer? Online instruction means that you’ll be working with a computer, something most people are familiar with. If you’re reading this article, then you already know how to log on, pull up documents and scroll up and down a computer screen. You’re likely very familiar with email, which is an important way schools keep in contact with their students. You’ll be attaching assignments to emails and you will also download and upload documents. Instructions are easy to follow and help is alway nearby.
5. Will I have to take an exam in person? Some tests, quizzes and examinations are proctored, meaning you will have to take it with another person present. Of course, this is not possible if your school is 2,000 miles from your home. For tests requiring a proctor, you can take it locally as arranged by you and your college. Most other tests, however, are conducted right online.
6. Are my college classes accredited? This question is important for students and that answer lies with the school that you are considering. After all, your employer may not reimburse you for just any class or classes at schools that are not accredited. Moreover, you may want to transfer your classes to another school. Speak with your intended school’s registration department and ask about accreditation. Most online schools are accredited with online courses given equal value to courses you would take in person.
7. Can I qualify for student aid? No doubt about it a college education can cost you money. Just as you would with a brick and mortar school, you can apply for student aid. Such aid can come in the form of grants or scholarships, allowing you to attend school at a fraction of the cost. Online only schools will work with you to ease your financial burden. You may also be available to take out federal Stafford student loans and private loans to pay for your schooling.
Now that you’ve answered several important questions, you have a clearer understanding of what online education is all about and whether distance learning is right for you. If you plan to pursue a degree online, you can start off taking one or two classes to get your feet wet. Once you’re comfortable with the way online instruction is delivered, you can step up your pace. Like in-person instruction, you’ll have access to teachers and administrators, people who can help you reach your goals and achieve success.
Phil C. Stone writes for PCDI Canada a respected, worldwide leader in distance education. PCDI Canada offers online courses to complete professional-level training and to complete a high school diploma online.