Interested in furthering your education, but not sure if it will fit around your schedule? It’s common for adult learners to have a desire to go back to school but feel unable to pursue their interests due to full-time work, family obligations, or frequent travel. Members of the military are not capable of utilizing traditional education options due to deployment; businessmen that are constantly on trips and in late meetings can’t find a way to squeeze regular class times into their routine. That’s where online education truly shines, bringing the classroom to you instead of bringing yourself to the classroom.
Online Education Programs
But online education isn’t about convenience alone. According to a 2009 study from the U.S. Department of Education, online education ranked as a more rewarding educational experience than campus-based education, with higher test results and learning. Hybrid education—the combination of both online and campus-based education—ranked even higher. This is largely attributed to the customization of online education programs, which let the student spend as much or as little time as necessary (within the due dates of assignments) on material, in a study environment and method that best suits them. Students interested in online education programs should consider the following:
- The Online School’s Accreditation. Quality online education programs have some kind of accreditation to back up their program. Campus-based colleges undergo the same kind of accreditation processes as online colleges, so accreditation ensures equal educational standards regardless of the method of study.
- The Specific Online Education Programs Available. A student that is studying for an online MBA degree will find an abundance of options from respected online colleges across the Internet, such as Saint Leo University, American Sentinel University, and Hawai’i Pacific University. Each of these universities offers specific online MBA specialization options; one may be more attractive than the other for a student’s career goals.
- The Option for Hybrid or Campus-Based Learning. Some schools are online-only, such as American Sentinel University; other schools offer online education programs, such as Saint Leo University’s Center for Online Learning, while also offering campus-based classes for the hybrid learner. Saint Leo University, as an example, has provided quality campus-based education for over a century. Students that are interested in possible campus-based learning options to compliment their online degree program should look for a college that can accommodate. Of course, online-only colleges have their perks as well; the instructors at these universities are wholly devoted to the online learning community.
- The Opinions of Other Students that have Attended the Online College. Most online degree programs are backed by the positive reviews of students that have completed them before. Take some time to research the success of the online degree program or online college that bears the most interest and find out where the distance learning experience took its graduates.
- The Online College’s Other Options. Some online colleges are military-friendly and offer special programs for military members. Other online colleges have the ability to accrue a certain amount of credits through work or military experience.
Once the student gets a better understanding of the online degree program and online college that is right for them, the next step is to go through with the application process. This is yet another benefit of most online degree programs; enrollment may be offered every month instead of every semester, making college a year-round option instead of a twice-a-year decision. But surely there is a setback to online education! Students that are concerned about online education setbacks should be aware of the following disadvantages:
- Online Education Requires Discipline. The student must be able to dedicate themselves to a class on their own time. Many students succeed better in campus-based programs because there’s this sense of being forced to attend the traditional classroom.
- Online Education does not Offer Face-to-Face Interaction with the Professor or Fellow Classmates. Students still communicate with one another via message boards and e-mail, but it does not offer the same friendship opportunities as campus-based programs.
- Online Education has no Immediate Answers. When a professor is not available at a specific time in a particular classroom, it may be several hours before students e-mail them and hear back again; students can’t rely on that campus-based classroom window.
Of course, there are also misconceptions about online education that may seem like setbacks but are really just myths. A couple of these are:
- Employers do not Respect Online Degrees. Most employers have recognized the evolution of the online education industry and its merits and achievements. For potential employers that don’t (and this is few and far between), students can provide the research from the USDE and the good word of the school they attended to convince the employer.
- Students Can Buy Online Degrees without Attending Classes. Degrees that are given to “online students” that never participated in an online degree program are fakes; they are issued by false colleges known as “degree mills.” Students should be aware not to fall into the trap of a degree mill and not consider an authentic degree on par with a phony one.
- Online Education is Easier than Campus-Based Education. Accredited online education programs are held to the same standards as campus-based education programs. The online education program is in no way any easier or more difficult; it is only executed differently.