Disclaimer: While I do attend school at American Public University System, I am in no way promoting their school, programs, or opportunities. I mention this because I have specific and current experience with online education as I have been an online student for over three years now while working full time and have become quite familiar with their specific style of online education and the systems they use. It is up to you to determine what the best course of action is in pursuing your education whether it is online or at a brick and mortar school. This article is to inform you of the opportunities and points out a few pitfalls some people might encounter while looking for a school. I hope this article helps you avoid them and make the most informed decision possible.
A college education is something that has become absolutely necessary in today’s world; and not everyone gets the chance to earn their degree right out of High School. Regardless of what happened in the past there is always today to begin, and like they say, “there’s no time like the present!”
There are a multitude of reasons why someone would decide to attend college after the typical transition from high school. Whether it is for a promotion at work that requires a bit more training, continuing education credits, or even just to get your degree after you were side tracked after high school and didn’t get the opportunity. The latter happened to me. Granted it was by choice to join the military and serve my country on active duty, which I do not regret for a second, but it did come at a cost, to my education.
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel for most of you who are looking for that leg up in the corporate world, for those who are trying to earn (or retain) a specific certification, or those who simply have an insatiable desire to learn.
Simply put, it is training, instruction, and/or education that is provided to the student through the World Wide Web, or some other electronic medium. What makes this option so appealing to the current online student is that they do not have to physically go to a brick and mortar school (B&M, industry lingo for the typical school). There they would have to take classes that are strictly scheduled and the student would have to conform to the school and have little to no flexibility in the schedule.
However with online schools, the schedule is very flexible and is based on the concept that students do not have the ability to attend school on a strict schedule.
With the exponential growth of the internet in the last decade came a major growth in online educational opportunities. There are hundreds of different institutions online today that offer various sorts of training or education in one field or another. The important thing to determine is what you are looking for in education and to make sure you choose one that is the best fit for you, your budget and your goals.
The main things to consider when choosing an online school are:
Like most things in this world today, not all online schools are created equal and many of them are not accredited in any way. Accreditation is a designation that is awarded to a university or college that has passed a rigorous set of tests proving that what they teach and how they teach it meets the standards of either the National Accreditation Agency or a Regional Agency. The US Department of Education publishes a list of all institutions within the United States that have received accreditation in one form or another. Unless you have literally no other option for your education, it is my personal recommendation no to attend a school that has not been accredited by one of these agencies. Simply put, why would you spend time, money and effort if your certification or degree will not be recognized?
How Does Online Education Work?
Getting an education online is very similar to getting one at a B&M school, but the difference is the format in which it is presented. When you attend school online, you likely will be in a forum-like setting that allows you to communicate with your instructor and the other students through forums, email, chat, or message boards. The instructor/professor might post a topic for you to discuss amongst yourselves, or have you write an essay or paper on a topic and post it in there for others to critique.
Above all, communication and participation are key! Without participation, you would never actually learn anything other than reading a book, which would in the end save you a lot of money but have nothing hard to show for it.
Common Online Schools and Courses of Study
Some of the most common online universities are the ones you see in television ads and website banners like University of Phoenix or DeVry University. As I stated in the disclaimer, I am not promoting one school above another, I just want to ensure you are informed of the options out there.
What most of these schools have in common are the degree and certification plans. These usually include some form of Business, Accounting, Finance, Health Care, and the occasional Humanities or Social Studies programs. The reason for this is because of the ease of presentation for the topics discussed. It is much easier to tell a class online to read a chapter out of a book, discuss the information among yourselves and come up with a solution to a problem in a Business Ethics course than it is to tell a class to get out your beakers and mix a solution of water and sodium and see what happens. Some things, like chemistry, are inherently hands-on and cannot be given through an electronic medium.
This is where your decision comes into play. You must ask yourself what it is that you want to accomplish with your education. What kind of degree or certification is required to get that promotion? The best thing to do is determine what you want to study and what kind of time you have to commit to your education. I’m not saying you need 20 hours a week, every week, for the next four years to sit down and study, but you do need to understand there will be times where you have deadlines for your assignments just like in your day to day jobs.
Once you determine what you want to learn or what certification you need, from there you begin looking at the schools that offer a plan in line with it and the classes they offer to get you there.
References: US Department of Education