Online Education – Do You Want To Return To School?

In our rapidly changing global world, millions of students are currently taking college-level online (distance learning) courses. Private and public universities in the United States and abroad offer certificate, baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral programs to adult learners over the Internet. From the Ivy League to community colleges, more and more students are able to log into their classes from home, work, or while commuting by bus and train. Adult learners often juggle a variety of responsibilities, including raising children, careers, and caring for elderly parents. In the past, a university of interest might have been geographically inaccessible. Currently, an employee in the United States can enroll in courses taught on the other side of the world. Non-traditional venues outside of the more traditional classroom offer viable opportunities to continue one’s education.

Adult learners make up the largest population of postsecondary institutions in the United States. For this group of students, the benefits of online academic programs are:

o To update current skills

o To learn new skills

o To earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree

o Fulfilling academic requirements necessary for a current position or promotion

o career change

o Fulfillment of certification or accreditation requirements

o Personal and spiritual growth and development

Not for the faint of heart, success in academic distance learning programs requires a high level of perseverance, discipline and motivation. A good candidate must be computer literate, be able to read large volumes of material in a short amount of time, have good writing and communication skills, have high expectations for good grades, enjoy critical thinking, and commit at least 15 hours per week per course (be prepared to allocate more if needed).
The Internet and World Wide Web provide the critical technology platform for distance learning. The university’s technological and operational infrastructures (including hardware, software and transmission) form the additional cornerstones of the technology platform required to deliver distance learning programs. Academic content can be delivered in multiple formats. The more traditional venues are correspondence courses, videos, audiocassettes, CD-ROMs, and television and radio broadcasts. Modern formats include synchronous and/or asynchronous distribution channels for educational content. Synchronous Delivery refers to the real-time interaction between instructor and student, ie two-way video conferencing, whiteboards, chat rooms, telephony software (e.g. Skype) and mobile technology devices. Asynchronous interaction does not involve real-time communication. Instead, teacher-student interaction is achieved through the use of email, DVDs, and the traditional formats of educational delivery.

As a student, you will need a desktop or laptop computer, an Internet service provider, a cell phone, software (e.g. word processor, financial spreadsheet, calendar and power point), a backup hard drive (nothing can make your heart beat faster than losing it hard work), a headset with microphone for virtual team meetings and the classic school material. Optional technologies may include memory upgrades, scanners, digital scanners, and fax machines.

Ten tips for the successful online student:

o Have a credit or debit card ready to download e-books and other required course materials.

o Maintain a list of more than one bookstore in case a required textbook is out of stock. It’s always a good idea to get a list of the textbooks you need mid-semester and pre-order them for the following semester.

o Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. I cannot stress enough the importance of communicating openly with your professor or lecturer about course material that you may not understand. Online academic programs tend to move quickly and course content you don’t understand will most likely cause problems later, leading to frustration and possibly lower grades.

o Find a tutor. If there are areas that you know need strengthening, have a tutor on call before the class begins. The telephone number of a computer specialist should also be included in your Rolodex.

o Time management will be crucial. Keep a planner. Read your syllabus as it becomes available and plan accordingly.

o Take your responsibility as a virtual team member. Your contributions directly affect the team grade.

oh exercise. Long hours at the computer can put a strain on your neck, shoulders, arms, and back muscles, not to mention your hands. Remember to stretch and tone regularly.

o Eat a healthy diet. Keep good healthy recipes handy. Hydrate. Avoid high-calorie snacks and eat lots of fruit and vegetables instead. Avoid white flour and choose high-fiber grains.

o Consult your doctor. A healthy body feeds a healthy mind.

o Keep in touch with your Academic Advisor to ensure you meet the requirements needed to complete your degree.

In the fall semester of 2006, 3.5 million students, or 20% of all US college students, took at least one online course (2007. The Sloan Consortium). It is predicted that distance learning will continue to gain popularity at home and abroad. The most commonly offered online academic programs are Business, Computer Science and Engineering, Education, Engineering, Library Science, Nursing, and Public Health. Whether you choose to attend a community college, public institution, private institution, or Ivy League university, enjoy the learning experience.

© 2007-2008 Jeanna Foy-Stanley

Thanks to Jeanna Foy-Stanley

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