Are Online College Courses a Good Choice for You?

by Ron Kness on December 11, 2012

One of the valuable attributes of online courses and degree programs is the flexibility specifically designed into them, so they might fit into your lifestyle better than traditional on-campus courses. Most schools offering online degree-producing programs have degrees that range from associate’s to master’s degrees. Many programs require as little as one to two hours per day, three days a week of online time.

The Online Education Option

Most online students follow a traditional college course layout meaning they have a professor, use textbooks, have homework, take exams, etc. However, one of the real advantages of the online venue is its flexibility and higher degree of student networking. To facilitate networking, most online courses use a combination of message boards, videos, forums, e-mail, chat rooms, and textbooks – either in digital or hard copy format.

In a typical online course, the professor posts weekly reading assignments, study questions and schedules chat room time for students to interact and discuss that week’s material. Students are usually required to post study question answers and participate in the chat room. Typically with online courses, you still have weekly deadlines, just as with classroom classes, but instead, you control how you set up your daily/weekly study schedule. Once you are approaching the end of the course, you will have to take an end of course test or write an essay summarizing the course content depending on the level of course you are taking – something online course have in common with traditional classroom courses.

Ensuring Success                        

As with any course online or in a traditional classroom setting, your success will depend on your willingness to apply yourself to your coursework. On average, online students spend about the same amount of time studying as traditional students, so taking courses online is not “easier” from that aspect. It should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway), it is also essential that you have a strong desire to learn and that you can remain focused on the goal – earning a degree, certification or license that will open career doors for you that would be otherwise be out of reach.

Choosing an Online School

With all the for-profit school notoriety in the news lately, many veterans have a concern about the validity of online schools. While many of the major fully-accredited traditional schools also offer online programs, in addition to their on-campus classes, many of the smaller name schools’ online courses may actually fit better into your budget or lifestyle. Remember as with all post-secondary education, you are buying into what you can learn and not the school’s image. So if the school you are considering meets the criteria below, it may be a good choice for you:

– Will your GI Bill cover the costs of the courses?
– Does your school grant and accept credit for military schools and experience?
– Does the online media methods used fill your needs and are within your computer abilities and network connection speed?
– Does the school have a degree, certification or licensing program that would fulfill your education goals?
– Does your school have a veteran support program where veteran students can interact with each other?

If you have determined that online is the best learning venue for you and you answered most of the criteria questions with a “Yes”, then consider the next step of requesting by mail or downloading a no-obligation, free information packet from your school. Make sure you know tuition, fees and book costs upfront, along with any other education-related costs before signing up with a school.

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