Are Online College Degree Programs Right for Me?



What You Need to Know About Online College

If you are considering an online degree or distance learning program for your college learning experience, there are a number of things to consider before jumping into any program.  In this article, we will cover a number of things to consider from program qualification to course work to school accreditation to benefits of online coursework.

Any student considering college as a viable option needs to take the time to understand the shift that has taken place in the last generation.  If you were to ask virtually any incoming college student if their parents would ever consider working towards a college degree online, the answer would be a resounding ‘no way’.  Today, however, there are thousands of accredited, viable college degrees available remotely to help a student learn valuable material and work towards a substantive vocational goal.

Where do I start when thinking about earning an online degree?  The genesis of this solution starts with you.  It is important for you to decide what you would like to do with your career and how to best invest your talents in the workforce.  As a helpful resource, we have put together a comprehensive resource to spark valuable questions about your future and get you on the path to move forward with your college career.  Once you understand what you would like to do for a living, you have the tools at your fingertips to research the best college resources with MatchCollege to help determine the best fit for your goals.

What do I need to take an online college course?  Once you have been accepted by a college or university and registered for your classes, you will need a few items before starting your first college class.  From a hardware standpoint, you will need a desktop computer or laptop computer with internet connectivity.  Depending on your specific school, you may need to purchase books to augment your coursework or simply download a book onto your computer device.

Will material be the same class to class?  The short answer is, not likely.  Depending on the school, the program, and the professor you may experience a wide array of academic requirements to start a college course.  In fact, within the same online degree program, you may be required to purchase extra textbooks or journals in addition to attending a mandatory lab in order to successfully complete the course.  Make sure to ask very specific questions about the requirements and coursework prior to enrolling in a class to ensure it does not conflict with other obligations you may have.

Am I a good fit for an online college program?  Great question!  There are general traits that tend to work best for online or distance learning programs in a college or university setting.  Students that tend to do best in an online college setting are self-motivated, comfortable with remote learning functionality, computer literate, understand the remote-nature of the work, can learn by reading & hearing new information followed by independent activities, prefer to customize by learning experience, and have performed sufficient research to know the online degree will be a viable tool in their field of study upon graduation.

What is the best distance learning college class to take?  This is basically akin to asking the best move in chess.  The answer to both questions is: it depends.  The optimal class to take or degree to pursue depends on a number of different factors that you need to decipher in relation to your overarching career goals.  The best online course for a student working towards a Nursing degree will look substantially different than a student working towards a Criminal Justice degree.

Are all distance learning programs the same?  No.  Not all distance learning programs are the same from a tactical or practical standpoint.  Some classes will require some time online and some time in class, while other online classes will require group work or video conferences or live chats.  In fact, there are online college classes that require participation in a virtual classroom versus a passive learning approach that is self-directed and digested on your terms.  It is crucial to understand the requirements of each program and align that with your personal goals well before enrolling in the coursework.

Can I mix classroom learning with distance learning?  Absolutely.  Many accredited colleges and universities offer a combination of online and classroom-based learning.  This hybrid program may be ideal for a student that is highly self-motivated yet appreciates the human touch and social interactions that are irreplaceable in a classroom environment.

If I enroll in an online college program, will I get the support I need?  The answer to the question resides within your ability to communicate coupled with the resources available from the college.  In other words, if you let the college or university know about a bona fide need or concern in advance, they will be able to dialogue with you about how to work through the situation ahead of time instead of de facto.  Typical virtual resources available to enrolled students in online courses include: student advising, tutoring services, writing centers, career counseling, online libraries, virtual bookstores, technical support, and access to alumni networks.

Is the college or university an accredited institution?  Knowing if your college or university is an accredited school may have a substantive impact on your future.  Make sure to ask about accreditation and the accreditation body as both factors have the possibility of making a real impact on how employers view your degree.  Earning a college degree from a nationally accredited institution will likely have a positive impact upon graduation.

What are the benefits of earning a college degree online?  While the benefits will vary from student to student, you can expect several common denominators when taking an online college program.  You will have the independence to set your own hours in most cases so long as your work is completed on time.  There will be a high degree of flexibility when taking an online college course as you can learn at your own pace and self-direct many piece-parts of the program within the allotted time provided.  When taking an online course, you are not bound by geography and will be free to complete the coursework wherever you have a computer and internet connection.

 

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