Whether a student wants to pursue a degree, develop work related skills, or simply learn a new skill, online courses are increasingly presenting options that were not possible only a few years ago. Several options are available.
Many well known universities offer “minimal residence” degrees that allow students to remain in place, working their usual job, and take most of the course work online. Then they take 2 or 3 weeks of intense study on campus each semester. This allows them to experience instruction that would not be practical over the internet and provides for a well thought out and executed course of study.
Some college courses are offered online without any requirements for meeting on campus. Assignments and tests are submitted via email. The student may never meet the professor face to face. Either part or all of a degree may be earned this way.
Employee education that will help the individual advance in her career can be offered through online courses .
Finally, some students want to develop a specific skill, such as learning a new language that is not available in their particular place of residence. An online course, with conversations conducted via the internet and assignments made and completed by the student can be useful for this.
It can save money
Taking online courses can be more economical than traditional campus life, especially if the student would have to move to a different area or commute.
Lectures can be viewed more than once
For a student whose attention wanders or who has to miss a class due to illness or work pressures, the lecture is still available for viewing. It can be reviewed as often as needed so the student is able to better grasp the subject matter.
Diverse student body
Online students can come from any area of the world to participate in the class. Meeting students from different cultural backgrounds and experience will broaden the knowledge and skills acquired in the online course.
Go to class as you are
Unless you use a camera to visibly attend classes, you can study in your pajamas on Saturday morning or after work. No need to dress for success.
Increases available options
If a course cannot be provided at the student’s location, it may be offered online from another place. This will greatly increase the options available to students.
For a nontraditional student juggling class, work and family responsibilities, this may be the best way to pursue studies.
Some students have difficulty with face to face class discussions and prefer the less intense online style of class participation.
No matter where the student happens to be; at home on the other side of the continent or even traveling on a business trip, she can download and complete assignments, check email to keep up with class, take tests, and conduct research.
Requires organization and persistence
An online student is fully responsible for time management. This can either work well or become a disaster. The student has to have self discipline and be able to work out a schedule that will allow enough time to absorb the material and complete assignments as required.
You need a good computer. You need to know how to use it.
Not everyone is technologically savvy or has the money to invest in a good computer. If the student’s computer is more than 5 years old, it will be completely inadequate for the required work. The computer will need to have a way to back up the student’s work so assignments are not lost in the event of a crash. It will need at least 2 GB of memory and a high speed internet connection.
No face to face contact with the instructor
Some shy students may prefer this less intimate arrangement, while others thrive more on personal interaction in a classroom setting. Those who are more outgoing and like to engage this way may feel isolated in online courses.
Not all online courses are created equal
It is the student’s responsibility to carefully research the courses being offered online. Quality varies widely, and once you have paid for a course it will be nearly impossible to get your money back. If you have used grant money for the course, you cannot then use the same grant money to pay for something more suitable.
Carefully check if you will want to transfer the course. Make sure the school is accredited, and the school you want to transfer to will accept the credits.
Also use common sense. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. An online course that promises to prepare students for a career that requires a great deal of hands-on training is usually not a good bet.
It may cost more
Some online courses are more expensive than the same type of class taken locally. In addition, the student has to invest in the computer equipment and internet connection needed for the class. Figure in the cost of tuition, books and supplies, software upgrades, electricity, babysitting, loss of overtime pay, and travel to attend any required practicum.
Financial aid issues
Carefully consider what, if any, financial aid to use for an online course. Once you use it, it’s gone. If it’s a loan, you will have to pay it back with interest. Check with school counselors (ones not employed by the online school); hiring personnel; the Better Business Bureau; and other sources to be sure the school maintains a good reputation and will lead where you think it does. If no job is available at the end of the course, it isn’t a very good investment.
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