Guides and Tips

Your Guide to Online Schooling & Education (Pros/Cons, Tips, etc.)

October 6, 2014

As we’re entering 2015, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that nearly everything is digital – the way we communicate, the way we share, and even the way to learn and attend school.

During my prime years of high school, we were offered online courses for people who weren’t attending a school or for those taking additional courses. I signed up for online courses because my school didn’t offered them. That was the first time I’ve been exposed to online learning. From that moment on, I was in favour of online education, to the point where I’m currently completing my undergraduate degree online.

A lot of people are skeptical about online learning, but if you take a look at all your big name universities in your country, you’ll realize that nearly all of them offers digital courses and even an entire degree online.

The idea of online learning, or distance learning, is to cater for those who can’t reach an education whether it be working full time, living in rural areas, or even financially too. Also, for those attending schools at a later age, online might be a better option in fear of embarrassment of being the oldest one in class.

Distance Learning has its pros and cons, and sometimes, it might not even be suited for some of us. For me, growing up with computers and gadgets, everything I do is literally online. So, why not take my studies online?

Pros:

  • Cheaper. Distance Learning is cheaper because you don’t need to pay for additional school service fees. And, because everything is taught online, the cost of a course and its materials are cheaper than an on-site professor teaching students. Also, let’s factor in other cost such as meal plans or just snacks when you’re on campus, or dorm fees.
  • Study at your own pace. Online education allows the students to study on their own pace and around their own schedule. If you’re a keener, you can finish a course within a month, or so. If you prefer to take a big longer, you can apply for course extensions. Essentially, you can finish a four year degree earlier!
  • Convenient. You can study around your schedule and around your daily life. You can study at home, at the office, even on a vacation! Because everything is based on your schedule and online, you’re no longer tied to a strict course schedule provided by the school. You can go on vacations, work full time, spend time with family/friends.
  • Self improvement. Because everything is online and you’re not really forced to leave the comfort of your home, online learning can be a way of self improvement. It’ll teach you to stay committed to something that may be mundane, it’ll teach you time management, confidence in your work, self motivation, will power, etc. etc. Honestly, for me, these things are taught via online studies than in class. I can now confidently claim that I’m a self disciplined person and have my degree to prove it.
  • Worldwide. Believe it or not, I can easily attend a school out in New Zealand without traveling there! Granted, I would still pay international fees but it’d still be much cheaper than flying out there and attending school!

Cons:

  • Distractions. Obviously, being at the comfort of your own home can be distracting. For example, you’re surrounded by things you’re familiar with – TV, the kitchen, and when it comes down to studying, we all know everything else seems more interesting. Also, the fact that it’s online just tempts us to open social media tabs while reading the chapter!
  • Lack of physical help. Distant learning means you won’t have the luxury of bothering a professor after class is over. Depending on your learning habits, some of you guys might find the lack of talking to your professors is uncomfortable. If you have any questions about your work, you’ll need to e-mail your professor(s) and/or your peer tutor which might or might not take a few days… even weeks with some people.
  • Lack of relationships. You’ll miss out on the experience of meeting new people and making new friends during your post-secondary years. You might even miss out on finding “the one” during university life!
  • Lack of a “real” university experience. No frats, no parties, no late nights spent in the campus library.
  • Constant need of the internet/computer. You’d be glued on to your computer (if you’re not already). That being said, for those who live in rural areas or without a good constant internet will find online learning to be annoying and difficult. You’ll lose hours, even days, of studying if there’s any problems with your internet/power.

Myths:

  • It’s easier to cheat. This is a false assumption. Many universities will code their online quizzes/tests to open in a full-screen window without the functions to minimize or exit until you’re done the test. They also time you, or have a time limit. Course finals are written in person at your local registered testing offices under supervision.
  • It’s easier than on-campus courses. Again, not true. The course material you learn online is the same as in class materials. The books are the same, the syllabus is the same, etc.
  • Degrees aren’t recognized. The only time a degree won’t be recognized, is if it comes from a brand new school. Regardless of how you get your degree (employers wouldn’t care), as long as you have a Bachelor’s or Master’s/PHd, that’s all the employer cares about. They will recognize the degree without questioning how you got it. You’d be amazed by how many successful people out there finished their education online and how many people are pursuing Masters and PhDs online.
  • You’ll never meet anyone new. This is true to an extent. Yes, you won’t be able to meet people in a traditional lecture room setting, and that’s the easiest way to meet someone. However, you can take breaks from you studying and attend social networking events, or join a meet up group on MeetUp.com to meet new people. Making new friends doesn’t always have to be in class.

The reason why I chose to pursue my studies online is not because I can’t get into my local universities or that I’m in a financial situation. I began my undergraduate degree online because I realized, I can save money compared to going on campus, and more importantly, I can finish my degree faster than my peers will ever be able to do. That’s what intrigued me about online studying. The fact that you can knock off a year or so if you buckled down and plow through your courses.

I do miss the daily interaction of meeting other students and professors. However, I take my studies outdoors to a local library where I sometimes strike up conversations with people. I study with my friends where I’m introduced to other people too. Despite the fact that I probably would never meet anyone that attends my university until I attend my convocation is a bit upsetting, but at the same time, I get to talk to my peers via a Facebook group dedicated to my university. It’s amazing how we’re all attending the same university from around the world.

So, what do you need to know about pursuing a degree online? Consider a few of these factors:

  • Why are you choosing online instead of a traditional in class setting?
  • Compare the pros/cons based on your life to whether you should study online or not.
  • Factor any possible dislikes or discomfort you can think of when studying online. Online learning isn’t made for everyone.
  • Consider graduation. Can you make it to the university for your convocation? Would you be interested in a campus tour? Airline tickets to visit a university can add up if you’re planning to visit it a few times or if you have a big family.
  • Your school. Choose an already established school that offers online programs. Nothing is wonderful about choosing an university that isn’t recognized because it’s too new or, even worse, choosing an online university that ends up to be a fraud business.

If you’re planning to do a degree online, here are a few tips to help you on your adventures:

  • Treat it as if you’re attending a “real” school. Make a set schedule of your courses. Have a class that “starts at 10am”, a lunch break, and then the final two courses of the day. Stick to your schedule in order be successful in your courses.
  • Never underestimate online education. Study, study, study! Sure, it’s a work on your own pace sort of thing, but never underestimate time. Without proper scheduling, you’ll easily fall behind on your work and studies. Just because your quiz is online doesn’t mean you can easily cheat on it and not study.
  • Download browser plug ins that allows you to block certain sites and boost your productivity. A popular Firefox plugin is LeechBlock which blocks whatever sites you add for set times throughout the day (eg. 8AM to 5PM, every Mon, Wed, and Fri) or block for all day.
  • Or, create a whole new user on your computer and dedicate it to school. With an empty user account, you won’t be tempted to launch any programs or be distracted by your vacation photos.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help! It’s easier than ever to ask for help, since you’re not seeing your professor or peer tutor. Fire them an e-mail!
  • Take breaks. There’s nothing worse than feeling overwhelmed by school work. Take a break, head out for some coffee, and then come back.
  • Find online communities for your school. I’m lucky enough to have a friendly and active Facebook group dedicated to my university where I can ask any questions related to the university and which courses to take.
  • Silent your phone, put it away or turn it on airplane mode for the hours of studying. Even though you blocked off all your favourite websites, a smartphone proves just as distracting!

Distance learning is such an interesting experience and outlook on traditional schooling methods. If you’re unsure about online education, check out the programs or courses the school offers and take a “sample trial” to see if you like online learning or not. Take a certificate program if you don’t want to commit to an entire undergraduate or graduate degree.

Let me know if you have any comments or questions regarding online education! I’d be happy to help you! Or, let me know if you ever took this new method of learning instead of opting for classrooms!


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  1. I found this really interesting. I've never really considered studying online as an option, but I think you've given some really great advice when it comes to deciding whether or not it's for you. I know that I'm really bad at motivating myself, and at the moment I'm really enjoying my university experience, but maybe an option if I decide to do a masters once my BA's over…

  2. I tried to do an online course but quickly lost interested, it was stupid of me because I paid quite a bit of money for it. I didn't think it through and applied for it on a whim, doom!

    These are great tips, I wish I had read something similar when I failed badly and dramatically at my online course.

    Corinne x
    http://www.skinnedcartree.com

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