Distance Learning what you need to know

Distant learning is the process of earning a degree or certificate through virtual means, via the internet. The virtual world with its advanced technology has provided an alternative to the traditional brick and mortar education. That is, an individual can receive an education online through a number of accredited institutions, such as colleges or universities. However, from personal experience, the decision to pursue an education through distant learning should not be taken lightly. On the contrary, it is a decision that requires serious research and planning. The summary below offers a few tips of what you need to know when considering distance learning.

*Accreditation

Education is very expensive and takes many hours to complete. Pouring money, time, and effort into education would be for not, if the institution is not accredited.  Most well known colleges and universities are accredited, however, it is important to confirm the desired college or university accreditation before making a decision.  The United States Department of Education offers an easy to use website to conduct your research. To review the results of the desired institution, simply type the proper spelling of the institution’s name and select the search button. If the institution has an accreditation, be sure to read all the information provided, because the accreditation may be specific to an accrediting agency for a particular state. For example, Kaplan University is accredited through the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission, which means the North Central states, such as Arkansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and so forth fall within the accreditation. The crux of this research is to locate and confirm the institutions accreditation within your home state.  

*Cost

The cost of tuition will vary for each institution. Again, going back to the research phase of your quest to distant learning, research the institution’s website most often they provide a Q & A section that provides information about the cost of tuition, or contact the institution and ask questions.  Moreover, having found an accredited institution, you may qualify for grants or a federal student loan. For more information about grants and federal student loans, visit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or (FAFSA). In addition to researching the FAFSA website, consult the accredited institutions financial aid office. The important thing to remember is, as with any higher education program, once you make a commitment to accept a student loan you are bound by an agreement to re-pay the loan.

*Technology

If you have ever bought software you know, there is specific hardware and software requirements before the software can operate. The same is true with distance learning. As mentioned early the distance learning is virtual, naturally you must have an up-to-date computer and internet connection. However, the institution you choose may have specific requirements in the type of computer and internet connection. In addition to the hardware and internet connection and depending on the field of study, you may be required to have specific software, such as excel or Microsoft word. Typically, most online institution provides a list of the technology requirements on their websites. To be spared some aggravation, ask questions about the required technology or software needed for distance learning.  

*Choosing a Major: Field of study

While some may not find choosing a major or field of study important, think again. Some states have specific requirements. For example, some states require those seeking a paralegal degree to attend an ABA approved institutions, whereas, some states do not. This does not mean online classes are out of the question; on the contrary, required ABA classes may be completed at a local ABA brick and mortar college in your area. The same can be said for other specialized classes, such as nursing or teaching degrees. Before you make a commitment to an online institution is important to inquire about the states specific requirements related to your choice of study.  

*Time management

While being a distant learner adds convenience it also requirement time management. Distance learning can be challenging especially when the student has a host of responsibility, such as a family, home, and a job. The best approach to tackling this challenge, speaking from experience is to prioritize your weekly or monthly responsibilities in a calendar. Outline your schedule for classes, assignments, doctor appointments, etc. Delegate household chores whenever possible to your family; you may find it easier to study early in the morning while the family is sleeping or late at night. Initiating a time management schedule is critical in meeting the responsibilities as an online student, as well as those responsibilities we often have within our jobs and with our families.      

*Self-discipline and Motivation

Being a distant learner requires self-discipline and motivation in order to complete every assignment timely without the direct supervision often received in a traditional brick and mortar institution. There are some helpful techniques to enable self-discipline and motivation, for instance; some distant learners find it helpful to join an online study group, while some distant learners work from a calendar schedule as checklist. Other useful tips would be turning off the television while studying or doing homework. It may be helpful to set up an area where you are less likely to be distracted, choose a well-lit area that is comfortable, which allows for complete concentration toward your studies. The practice of being self-disciplined and motivate may require some adjustments until you find what works best for you.  

While this is a brief summary of what you need to know about distance learning, it provides a helpful checklist when considering distance learning. The key element in what you need to know is to begin researching the institutions. Always confirm the institution’s accreditation, check the required technology, and the cost, etc., all of which will prove to be beneficial when making a decision about distance learning. Finally, be prepared to make some modification within your schedule to enable time for homework and class time, in conjunction with your other responsibilities. Equally important, is to be self-disciplined and motivated to complete the objective, successfully achieving a degree in distance learning.