When it is time for college, there are many options. Whether you are graduating from your local public school, you are home schooled or you’re an older student, finding where you fit in this complex mix of options can be daunting. You can go to the local community college if you have one nearby, you can go to a private college or public university or you can go to college online. Online colleges have become very popular in the last few years for publicly educated students, home schooled students, and for adults who want to go back to school and don’t have the time to go sit in a classroom every day. Online college has enabled them to continue their educations at their own pace and on their own schedule, which is the most practical piece attending an online college.
Is an Online College Education Right for You?
Since online education is technology based in the delivery and execution of the class work, you need to ask yourself several questions when considering this path to higher education.
- How are your time management skills?
- How are your computer skills?
- Is it easy for you to put your ideas in writing so that they are understandable?
- Are you self-motivated?
- Is the college ‘culture’ the reason that you want to go to college?
- Do you have the time to commit to your classwork?
- Will you commit the time that you need to your classwork?
Online education requires that you read your textbooks or perform online labs; discussions are conducted in both written and verbal form, with the use of audio and video for some classes. Interacting with other students is still a part of the curriculum, however it too is technology based and your interactions are via e-mail and chat sessions. Some classes require group exercise, which can be challenging via electronic medium.
Other considerations include your ability to gauge your own level of progress without constant support. Depending on the school and its curricula, help may not be immediately forthcoming, so having enough confidence in your own ability is a big plus in the online environment.
Time Management Skills
Online college courses can range from a scant five and a half weeks, to eleven weeks in duration. It is necessary to produce two to four written assignments per week, and deadlines are strict. A missed deadline can mean a grade reduction. Time management skills will be crucial to your success. For some reading the material, researching and writing an essay will not be that difficult but for others, whose reading and technical skills are not as proficient, the same paper can take many hours and unless you are willing to put in the time, no matter your skill level, you will not succeed in this endeavor.
Taking the time to read, study and understand the material, as well as giving yourself ample time to write your essays is the recipe to successful students in online college. For those of you that are working and going to school at the same time, special care will need to be taken with those that are closest to you, your family. They need to understand that your school assignments are important to you and that you need time set aside just for you studies.
To put it into perspective, a typist that can produce 60 words per minute can effectually write 600 words in ten minutes. However, if someone performing the same work types at a rate of 25 words per minute, the same essay can take that person, 24 minutes to complete the same assignment and that is just the typing portion of the work. More than, double the time. You can see that technical skill such as typing, the use of a computer and its software, and time for research can affect your ability and timeliness of learning.
If you do not have these skills, before you begin your journey into the world of higher education, you need to get them because the professor is not going to wait for you to catch up. Having these skills, and honing them as you go, will serve you well in the online college environment.
College course work is not only shared with the professor, you will have work that is shared with your classmates. You will require skills that enable you to convey your thoughts in an understandable manner. You may already have these skills, but if you don’t, spending weeks on end writing three and four essays and discussion ideas per week, will hone your skills.
This is where word processing applications are such a big help. You still need to know how to construct a sentence but the advent of word processors that can check you spelling and grammar are a great tool that will enable you to become a proficient writer over time, if you are not already.
If you require the drive to get your education, then you are motivated to work in the virtual environment of an online college. Mix it with self-motivation, discipline, time management and technical skills will make you a winner.
All colleges have a culture that has developed on their campuses over time. The culture at a commuter schools is different from that of a campus where students board. They each have their own individual identity, making them unique. Online colleges do not provide the student experience, the entertainment and extracurricular activities that are provided on a bricks and mortar campus but they have come a long way over the years of developing areas of the school website where students can gather virtually and build relationships and networks. It is not that online colleges do not provide a culture; it is that they provide a different culture that what has been considered mainstream.
Not All Online Colleges are Created Equal
Just as community, public and private colleges have different methods of instruction, so too do online colleges. The number of weeks that classes are held, the required number of hours for course requirements, and the method of teaching the class, vary from school to school. Some offer online classes several times a week, while others have no direct interaction with the professor, other than e-mail. Your level of personal motivation and involvement is a big factor in your failure or success in an online college setting.
Research your Choice and Find Your Fit
If you already know the degree that you want to pursue, the first order of business would be to find the school that has the best program in that area of study. Then research the school and decide if it is the right fit for you. A search schools with reviews from former students can be found quickly online and is a good place to start when making a decision on the college that will best suit you and your interests.
Every year, U.S. News & World Report publishes a list of the top online colleges. Here you can find the lists of the best online colleges and lists of the disciplines that they teach. Programs for Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Masters and Doctoral programs are available, and many who already have Bachelor’s degrees, find that earning their Master’s degree online is the most effective way to realize their educational dreams.
Online College is not for Everyone
Going to college on a campus opens your world to a network of people that you relate with daily. The culture of the campus that you are on, and they all have different cultures, is intertwined with the education that you receive. Many college recruiters will tell you that part of the education is living in the college culture. While that may be so, just as online college is not for everyone, going to college at a bricks and mortar campus is not for everyone, either.
A personal level of discipline will be required in any higher educational environment; however, students on a campus, who live there on a daily basis, will have access to a support network that already in place, and does not need to be curried. Online college virtual campuses do have support systems in place, and have a virtual campus environment where students come together for discussions. Those who are not technologically well informed, or those who have not spent time with online chat, may have a hard time in a virtual environment
Take your time and research any online college in which you are interested, and then find out what you can about them from the ones who know the best, the students, who can be found on review sites about online colleges.