Is Online Education Right for Me?
Online education is growing. According to a 2009 study conducted by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, online education has been growing "substantially faster than other higher-education enrollments."
But is online education right for you? Before you jump into the world of online education, ask yourself the following questions.
Question #1 - Are you comfortable with technology?
By its very nature, online education makes extensive use of computers. Simply knowing how to send an e-mail is not enough. Online education might also use chat rooms, message boards, streaming video, PowerPoint presentations, and numerous kinds of software and files that must be downloaded, uploaded, posted, converted, and/or encrypted. If you're already lost, it might be a good idea to brush up on your computer skills before signing up for an online education program.
Question #2 - How self-motivated are you?
Online classes can potentially be just as challenging as campus-based classes. But with online education, there's no one standing at the front of the class taking attendance. Then there's the possibility of distractions at home. Knowing why you're going to school and having a goal in mind can help keep up the motivation and self-discipline.
Question #3 - Will online education fit into your schedule?
Doing your work online might mean you can ditch the commute, but it could still require a strong time commitment. It could be easier to procrastinate when there isn't a classroom full of live people to face the next week. Can you plan to potentially dedicate just as much time to an online class as you would to a traditional one?
Question #4 - Are you interested in extracurricular activities?
If you've always imagined joining clubs or a fraternity/sorority as part of your college experience, you probably won't have that opportunity as an online student. Campus activities could also be an important part of your education that you are not likely to find online. If you're planning to study journalism, for example, working for the campus newspaper could potentially be a positive experience that could enrich your overall education.
Question #5 - What are you studying?
While almost anything can be studied online, some subjects may work better with the online format. Fields that involve a lot of reading, such as business or literature, for example, may be good choices for online education. But if you think your degree will involve clinical work or hands-on lab time, make sure your online program can help students arrange these experiences.
Question #6 - How's your attitude?
Sometimes, the best learning happens when students disagree with each other and engage in educational debate. Without the benefit of in-person visual cues and body language, it can be easy to misinterpret things said online. Approaching online education with the same open mindedness and willingness to learn from instructors and other students could help make for a successful online educational experience.