When you are considering going to back to school, I know one of the first questions you are going to ask yourself is whether you want to go on campus or the online route. Personally, I have done both. I have my undergraduate degree from a traditional four year university and I have a graduate degree from an online learning institution. I loved them both equally.
With the scrutiny that follows online education these days, there is a tendency to not want to even hear out the online schools that call you when requesting information. However, I want you to consider some options when deciding between the two.
A traditional four year university is typically one that a student enters right after high school, or (a more cost effective solution) after spending two years obtaining an AA degree at a local community college. This route is awesome for someone who has no other obligations in life besides going to school and potentially a part time job (or full time even, depending on your schedule). Also, your work schedule MUST be flexible in order for you to attend an on-ground campus. The reason I say this is…experience. A traditional college will have classes that you have to register for each quarter or semester and it requires a lot of planning. That’s right. There are no counselors (well there are but they are incredibly difficult to reach at times) and you have to constantly be analyzing degree requirements and selecting classes with a purpose of completing a degree (be it a four year, or a two year) within that respective amount of time. It takes a lot of work, and yes…you do get a great experience and feel very involved in your education, but like I said – this is for someone without other obligations.
Now, imagine yourself as someone with children that went straight to work right out of high school, five to ten years later you are in a job being passed over for a promotion because you didn’t go out and get your college degree (either AA or BA/BS). It is at this point that you say to yourself, “I know in order to succeed, I will need to go back to school” and so you start going through the internal debate about where, when and how. Well – for starters, http://www.schoolsandfinancialaid.com has a lot of great information to help get you started, but I will continue to let you know all of the benefits of online learning and why you should do it.
1. Schedule: Online education allows for you to manage a family, work and all extra curricular activities. Most online schools will only require you take 1 or 2 classes at a time (instead of a full load at a traditional college of 4 or 5 classes at a time). On top of all of that – YOU get to dictate when you sign in and do your assignments and contribute to classroom discussions (not the other way around).
2. Assistance: As I mentioned before, on a campus program you rarely get access to counselors to help you decide your schedule, which can often lead to some mishaps in scheduling that delay your graduation date. In an online environment, the classes that will get you to graduation faster will automatically be selected into your schedule so it takes a lot of the worry out of the process!
3. Learning Environment: The online learning environment is designed for an adult learner. It’s way more intimidating for a 30-40 year old to enter a classroom full of 18-20 year old students, right? There is autonomy in an online environment.
4. Access: Not only is your access to the classroom available 24/7, but as a student in an online environment, you get access to practical learning as the professors are bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience to their teachings. Instead of theory, you’ll learn practical approaches.
5. Control and Contribution: An online learning environment allows for you to control the amount of time you spend in class each day, as well as how much and when you want to contribute in classroom discussions. Everyone is different, but in a traditional classroom – time does not permit for everyone to have a voice. In online learning, the purpose is for everyone to interact and contribute so you get more perspective and exposure to different points of views from backgrounds and cultures other than your daily exposure from you town/city. Students are all over the globe!
6.Vacation: Have a vacation planned? If you are in a traditional setting – breaks in sessions will dictate when and how long you can vacation. In an online setting, as long as you have commitment to completing your work and access to the internet, you can be on vacation AND in school.
If all of this information is not enough to convince you that online is a choice worth considering, and you have the time, and flexibility in your life to go traditionally – great. Otherwise…pick up the phone and listen to what your adviser has to say. Make sure to ask good questions (look some up if you don’t know what to ask) and have at it! http://www.schoolsandfinancialaid.com is a great place to start!