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Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Benefits and Drawbacks of an Online College

The proliferation of the internet is truly remarkable, especially in the realm of education. Twenty years ago, the only way to take college and graduate-level classes was through the traditional path (i.e. either commute to school or reside there until you complete your degree). Now, classes come to you and are available at your convenience. You can even obtain a legitimate degree entirely online. So is an online college the best choice for you? That's a difficult question to answer since it's totally dependent on your schedule and lifestyle.

Here are the primary factors that usually determine whether or not someone chooses an online college:

1.)Busy schedule

The rigors of daily life are stressful enough without having to commute to school. This is especially true if you're working full-time and/or have children. Re-arranging your busy schedule in order to take a morning or afternoon course really isn't attractive either. That's why online colleges are so appealing. A majority of these institutions provide the course material in downloadable links or in a discussion board format. This allows you to incorporate the coursework into your schedule when you have the time (as opposed to the other way around).

2.)Feel like you're "too old" to go back to school

There are many people who would love to go back to school in order to obtain an advanced degree, or simply just learn something new. Unfortunately, they fear being ostracized and embarrassed by taking a class with a bunch of teenagers. This makes the idea of an online college very appealing since you never have to set foot in an actual classroom.

3.)Not close to any traditional college

Even if you'd love to attend a traditional college, that option may not be available if you live a good hour or more away from the university. Choosing an online college eliminates the need to commute or worry about going to any physical location (with the exception of the room where your computer resides).

Here is some basic information you should know about online colleges:

1.)Graduate degrees are much more prevalent online

If you do a search of the degrees that can be completed entirely online, you'll hve a much easier time with advanced degrees. This is especially true for business and technology degrees. That's not to say an undergraduate degree is impossible to complete exclusively online. Obtaining your associate's degree (about 60 credits woth of work) is very attainable online. The options are just more limited. This is primarily due to the popularity of online colleges with people in the work force trying to get a graduate degree in order to achieve an advancement at their job.

2.)You have to go to a testing center for exams or acquire a proctor

Most online colleges require you to go to a testing center for mid-term and final exams. If this is not logistically possible for you, then you're responsible for finding a qualified proctor. Essentially, a proctor is someone who acts as a temporary professor watching over you while you take an exam. They cannot be family members and the completion of a proctor application is usually required. Of course, this varies institution to institution.

3.)Online colleges are not easier than traditional colleges

If you think an online college will be easier than attending a traditional college, you're mistaken. It can actually be more challenging, in certain respects. For example, people who attend traditional colleges have the guidance of an experienced professor. Some provide helpful hints before tests and can even be lenient when it comes to grading, if you make a good impression. This is not so with online courses. Yes, you have access to a professor, but it's usually through e-mails. Obviously, this decreases the chance of you developing any sort of relationship with the professor so grading is usually by the book. The online coursework is comparable to the coursework you'd be forced to complete at a traditional college, so you'll still need to study. And yes, the tests can be just as difficult.

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