With technology having evolved so fast throughout the last couple of decades, it has modernized everything, including the education system. Technology has made almost all of the traditional educational model possible to conduct online.
There are many articles that you can find on the internet with different opinions about online education that usually compare the pros and cons of online classes and the traditional education system.
Online college is now widespread since many accredited institutions that now offer online access for their enrollees. The nonstop advancement of technology has made it possible for universities to offer more courses every year for students, giving them plenty of choices. This was all true even before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has only ushered in the age of online education all the faster.
However, before diving into the decision of enrolling yourself in an online college, there are some things you must know first to find out if online college is the right option for you.
Is Online College the Right Option for You?
There are plenty of benefits to enrolling in an online college. For people who need to balance their studies with work and family, online education provides a flexible schedule that can easily be adapted to whatever other demands are in your life. Professionals, such as registered nurses, also take online classes when looking for career advancement. Some parents enroll themselves in an online college to continue where they left off before. Some online programs also offer an online education system that’s based on your learning pace.
Taking up online college may be a drastic change from the traditional education system, but it’s actually an upgrade for many people. This option may be a new experience, but it allows you to learn and work at your own pace while striving for a better life for your family. Most importantly, an online college lets you fuse your studies into your busy schedule at your convenience.
However, if you haven’t enrolled in one before, you may have plenty of questions about how online courses differ from on-campus schooling.
Does enrolling in an online college fit your needs?
Basically, you all have different reasons for switching to an online college. Whether it’s to balance your studies and work, or to pursue career advancement, you have to make sure that it fits your needs. Make sure you’re choosing an online course you’ve always wanted to take. If it’s not yet offered online, you may have to think twice first. Don’t settle for an alternative as it may not fit your needs and may only be a waste of your time.
How much time can you consistently commit?
As much as online education offers you flexibility in schedule, the lessons themselves are not self-paced. Just like a traditional classroom setup, your professors will give you deadlines, group projects, and written tasks that you’ll have to submit each week. In fact, more writing is required when you’re in online schooling. Your professors depend on your written assignments to evaluate your performance.
If you want to go through with an online college, you must set aside enough time for your online classes. You must be organized with your time management and schedule. If you’re a beginner, don’t take too many subjects all at once. You may take up at least one to two subjects first and become familiar with online learning. This will give you time to adjust, and soon you’ll be able to juggle more subjects in one day.
What’s the most effective way to manage classes on my own?
The most efficient way to manage your classes by yourself is through effective time management. As mentioned, you must know how to divide your time for your classes, work, and other family obligations. This part shows how flexible you can be with your schedule, and how much you are willing to give for your classes.
Are you equipped for online learning?
Since this is online learning, you must have full-time access to a good computer. Make sure you have access to applications and software that are required for your online classes. Most importantly, you must be knowledgeable in using all these tools, such as Word and Excel.
You must also have a functional camera and microphone. These items will come in handy during your online meetings, or online collaborations when you have a group project. If you think you aren’t equipped enough for online learning, take your time first in learning and obtaining all the essential equipment and applications needed for an online college. By the time you enrolled yourself, you’ll be able to focus more on learning the lessons, and not on figuring out how to work the necessary technology.
What kind of student are you?
There are plenty of schools that offer online programs supporting specific student populations. For instance, you may be an adult returning to school after a long absence, a transfer student, a student with a disability, an international student, or a military member. If you find yourself belonging to one of these groups, you should consider enrolling in a program that’s specifically made for you.
How successful is your chosen school?
If you have several schools on your list, you can check out the statistics for each of these schools. You can visit each of their websites and search about their placement and student loan default rates. Moreover, you can read student reviews about courses and professors. Take time to research the school ranking sites and who your instructors will be in each program. Better yet, contact the schools directly for your inquiries and they can provide you answers in real-time.
Being well-informed will help you choose the best online college for you.
What You Need to Know Before Enrolling in an Online College
If you choose an online college over the traditional one, here are the things you must know before you proceed with your online enrollment.
You’ll have real professors
There’s a wrongful perception that online professors are less skillful compared to professors you meet in person. However, online courses are conducted by the same highly-qualified teachers who also teach on the campus. You might not be able to meet them personally, but that doesn’t mean your interaction with them is any less valuable. The only meaningful difference between traditional and online education is the medium used for interaction. Instead of meeting face-to-face, you will have to utilize your emails, online meetings, online lecture sessions, and discussion boards to converse with an online professor.
Helps you save money
Compared to enrolling in a traditional college program, you can definitely save a lot by enrolling in an online college. Some students go for online education as an alternative to save themselves from large expenses. You’ll save yourself from the expenses of traveling to a far-away college, and even your housing expenses. Additionally, the tuitions for online courses are often less than those for traditional programs.
Requires an effective time management
Online courses may let you study according to your convenience, but that doesn’t mean you’ll spend any less time studying. Even though online classes offer self-paced learning, it requires effective time management. If you easily get distracted or procrastinate, an online college might not be for you yet.
To keep track of your progress, it’s best to create a to-do list of your tasks and deadlines to meet so it’ll be easier for you to monitor your assignments and written projects. This will also help you memorize things that are essential for your classes. Effective time management and timely compliance with your school requirements can surely get you back on top of your studies.
Make an effort to make connections
One of the most common misconceptions when it comes to online education is that you’ll have fewer chances of interacting with other people or students. Fortunately, that is not the case with an online college. You may not be sharing a classroom with your classmates, but that doesn’t mean that you don't communicate with them.
Online classes make use of video conferences, online chatting, and discussion boards. You need to make the most of online interactions and technologies so you can work together on your assignments and projects. Although it can never replace face-to-face interaction, technology makes communications easier and more convenient.
Facilitates transferring of credits
Another advantage that an online college offers is that the online credits you receive during your courses can carry over to your offline program as well.
If you will take the right online course, they can assist you in your traditional courses as well. If you play your cards right, you can skip a few courses in your traditional program, making your education easier on your wallet.
Your success is determined by your effort
Online colleges are not meant for everyone. It needs the same degree of effort as with a traditional college schooling. You need to be self-sufficient, independent and disciplined in order to be successful.
Online college is as difficult as the traditional college setup
Some students may jump into the decision of enrolling in an online college because they think it sounds easier than a traditional program—however, they are both difficult, despite whatever differences they may have.
Opting for online courses is not an easy way for your education. They may offer you flexibility, but that doesn’t change the required amount of effort that you should put in.
Its flexibility can be helpful to busy students and professionals, but it can also generate additional pressure on the enrollees. You must have it in yourself to stay on track and avoid any distractions that might ruin your opportunity to better your education.
Online classes can track everything you do on your computer during examinations with the use of special tools. The use of these tools is critical as they help maintain academic integrity and sustain the reputation and quality of your online degree. Some online colleges even require you to take a proctored exam on campus after you’ve completed the online exams. If you live far-away, you may have to check for this first before enrolling in your chosen school.
Tips in Adjusting to Online College
- If you have already made the final decision to take your college degree online, here are a few tips on how you can adjust to your online classes.
- Learn how to use your required equipment, applications, and educational platforms.
- Know your long-term schedule and daily obligations, and learn how to manage your time effectively.
- Always communicate with everyone in your online classes with professionalism. Just because you’re interacting with your professors online doesn’t mean that you are free to text or chat with them in a casual way.
- Prepare all the materials you need before your classes start. Set aside a few hours to complete your assignments. Develop a routine that fits both your studies and your job.
- Take your time to really get to know your professors. Introduce yourself to them too and let them know how much you are looking forward to your classes with them. This can help you if you need letters of recommendation in the future. Moreover, communicate with them through proper channels.
- Create a space in your home that inspires you to be studious, focused, and energetic. Just because you can do your online classes everywhere, doesn’t mean you should.
- Online education requires extensive focus, so learn how to avoid distractions.
Enrolling in an online college has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, but it's up to you to manage your education. Choose an online course that provides you with an ideal balance of flexibility, cost-efficient, and matches your effort. Assess any online college based on the aforementioned questions above so you won't have a tough time choosing the right online course for you.
Author: Sharlene Puckett
Sharlene Puckett is a full-time blogger who focuses on publishing content about family, parenthood, and health. Sharlene also submits guest posts to other websites to expand her reach and gain more traffic to her own blog.