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Is Online Education For You?

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Online Education is the most convenient way for adults with busy lives that include full time jobs and family responsibilities to obtain a quality education.

Adults are earning Bac helor's degrees, Maste r's degrees, and doctorates online in every field through accredited colleges and universities. Distance learning students are self-motivated and independent learners. They are willing and able to take responsibility for their learning and can accept a learning environment in which the instructor is a facilitator of knowledge application rather than a dispenser of information. Adult students take with them into each course vast and varied experiences and knowledge upon which further knowledge is built.

All that information and all those experiences are incorporated into applying knowledge to real life and work situations. Distance learning is not for everyone; but if taking control of your learning appeals to you, then you should consider an online course.

What to Expect

Distance learning (DL) students learn to focus on significant issues rather than readily available information. DL requires the ability to relate new ideas and previous knowledge. Relating and applying concepts to everyday life or work is a major element of DL. Another major element is the ability to relate and communicate online in a text-based medium. Students get to know each other and work together through the asynchronous threaded discussion forums of the course format, emails between/among collaborative group members, mailing lists, and synchronous (real time) interactive chat. Some universities have technology infrastructures that include teleconferencing, audio and video. While these latest are not yet the norm, as technology becomes more widely available, more courses will include these features as well.

Distance learning students must be able to recognize their strengths and limitations. Excellent time management skills are mandatory in an online course. The structure of a traditional class is not present in an online class and sometimes DL students fall behind in their work because there is no requirement to "go to class." DL instructors assist students in time management skills in a variety of ways, including posting due dates and participation requirements. If a student does not post assignments or respond to discussions, then the instructor will send a private email or call the student to find out if there is a problem with which the student needs assistance. The structure is in the organization of units or modules - usually one per week - just as in a traditional class in which the student is physically on campus once a week.

How Much Time Is Involved in an Online Class?

If you take a graduate course on campus, you will spend approximately three hours a week in class for a semester, which is approximately 16 weeks. Usually graduate students spend another 10-15 hours a week outside of class preparing assignments, reading, and completing projects/papers. So if you count sitting in class plus required outside work each week, then you are spending between 13 and 18 hours a week for the course. Travel time is also added to the number of hours spent each week. Some people may be fortunate enough to live close to a course site but there are plenty of people who have driven as far as two hours away to get to a campus that offers a class they need. As you can see, depending on how far you have to travel to get to the class, that could add up to a huge amount of your time each week plus whatever outside work you must do for assignments.

The general rule of thumb for study time in traditional undergraduate courses is approximately two hours of study for every one hour spent in class. Since most traditional classes meet for three hours a week, that is an average of six hours a week study time per class. This makes the time spent for undergraduate traditional courses an average of nine hours weekly plus travel time. Some weeks will be more if there are papers or projects due.

Distance learning courses require less time simply because you are not travelling to and sitting in class. You can do your work whenever you like. Whether you are a morning person or a night owl, your schedule will fit your lifestyle. You do your work when you can make the time and you do not have to give up one night a week of your family time to attend class for a semester.

Most distance learning graduate courses state that, on average, 10-15 hours a week should be spent on course work. Some weeks you might only spend 3-5 hours and some weeks (when a project or paper is due) you may spend more time. Undergraduate courses generally require an average of 6-9 hours of study each week.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Education

Online Education is surely not for everyone. However, those who state that they could never complete a course without the structured class attendance requirement every week are just making excuses. Anyone who has worked in a full time job has learned the time management skills and self-discipline that are necessary for online courses. DL might not be for you, but you owe it to yourself to discover whether or not there is a legitimate reason for not taking advantage of online courses rather than just assuming that you need the structure to complete assignments.

The advantages of Distance Learning include the flexibility to

* schedule classes/work. * participate in discussions at any hour and have the ability to catch up on previous discussions and contribute far more than in the restrictive time constraints of a traditional class. * study and read materials at a pace that suits your learning style. * focus more time and effort on new ideas and information and not have to sit in class and listen to lectures on content you already know. * communicate with classmates from around the world who all contribute new ideas and experiences to the course content.

There are also some disadvantages, which include

* a tendency toward procrastination. * difficulty staying on track if one is not self-motivated. * no direct face-to-face interaction with classmates and instructor. * occasional technical problems that can be quite frustrating at times.

Are You Considering an Onli ne Course?

Distance learning can give you the freedom to learn and study at your convenience, in your own time, and on your own schedule. Beyond those obvious advantages, you will also get to know your classmates far better than you could in a traditional class.

Throughout my distance learning graduate degree program and in my current graduate online teaching, I have met many wonderful people with whom I still maintain regular contact via email and the phone. We share professional and personal support and many have become "long distance" friends. Some I have met in person and some I may never meet, but this does not in any way diminish the friendships that we have developed.

The ability to meet people and forge professional networks and personal friendships around the world is one advantage that simply cannot be found in a traditional class. Time and distance aside, distance learning students soon discover that one of the most valuable benefits is found in trading the somewhat limited interpersonal relationships of a traditional face-to-face classroom for a world-wide network and support system that can be found only through online learning.

Get Started Now! Visit JustColleges' Onli ne Education Center and request for free information from colleges.

About the author:

Todd, an avid writer counsels students in his free time on how they can get into a college of their choice.

An interactive guide for individuals who wish to pursue their higher studies, JustColleges consists of a listing of over 10,000 colleges and universities worldwide, articles, essays, FAQs and tips on how to get into the right college.

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