Before Joining an Online Course

Today, sail boats and airplanes let us cross oceans in a matter of hours – and there are refreshments and hot meals to keep us company. However, you wouldn’t want to fly 18 hours to attend a 30-minute business lunch. For nearly the same reason, you wouldn’t want to spend 3 -4 years earning a degree at an expensive school on the other side of the country if your goal was just to get a promotion at work.

Because you aren’t in a classroom seeing your professor and your fellow students, you need to stay focused in an online class. If you are good at keeping yourself on task, an online degree program that allows you to work at your own pace could be a great choice. If this isn’t your strength, consider group-learning online programs with virtual classmates to help keep you on track, blended on-campus/online programs or even a fully campus-based program if being there is what keeps you going.

It’s just as difficult to stay disciplined as it is to stay motivated. Online classes aren’t easier than traditional classes — just more convenient. If you need a live professor to give you mean looks when you miss assignments, you may opt for a traditional program. If you work better alone (or you work better with others in an online setting), you may find that going to school online is exactly what you’ve been waiting for.

The real deal-breaker when it comes to online education is the technology. You simply can’t get your education online without Internet access. Fortunately, computers are less expensive than ever before and free Wi-Fi is popping up all over the place. Be sure you can get online before you even think about enrolling, and when you do enroll, check each college’s tech requirements. If you don’t meet them, don’t give up; ask about technology scholarships.

You won’t need a degree in computer science to take full advantage of online schooling, but you will need to be able to use word processors, web browsers, video players and many other programs with some speed. You should, for example, be able to type quickly enough to keep up with class discussions. If you can’t type that quickly yet, consider starting with a typing class. If you don’t want to learn how to type, consider inventing a time machine — even campus-based universities will require you to type up your work.

In online classes, it’s much easier to remain silent than it is when the professor is looking right at you. Ask yourself if you’re really willing to ask questions when you don’t understand, answer them when you do and speak up when the time’s right. Many people who have issues with this kind of thing face-to-face find that the online environment makes them much more comfortable when it’s time to participate.

Colleges can have a special feel to them. Everyone there is there to learn. It can be inspirational in a way that no coffee shop, home office or bedroom ever will be. It can also be more stifling, more expensive and a lot further away than any of those places. If you are willing to trade the social interaction and college feel of being on campus for the freedom to make your classroom anywhere, distance learning may be for you. You can always interact with other students outside of the virtual classroom, too.

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