Are Online Colleges A Waste Of Time?

by Dr. Thomas Slater

If you’re an older adult who’s always wanted to continue your education and you just haven’t had time to, or if you want to go back to college for that advanced education but a full-time job keeps you from signing up for classes, you’re in luck. Today, online colleges afford nontraditional students, parents, those with full-time jobs, and others not able to go back to class full time in a traditional university setting the chance to continue their educations on their own schedules.

It used to be that if you wanted to go back to college, you had to go to school part-time, at night, or otherwise arrange your schedule inconveniently, so that you could be at classes on campus. Alternatively, of course, you could quit your job if you had the means to do so and go back to school full time. However, today, you can keep your full-time career and your regular schedule intact and still get that degree you want. Got kids you need to be home for? No problem. An online college lets you attend classes on your own schedule, be home for your kids and anything else you need to be there for — and oftentimes, you won’t have to step foot outside your house to do so until the latter part of your training, at least. It’s likely that you’ll need some hands-on fieldwork study eventually outside your home, but you can get the early parts of your bachelors degree done completely at home and on your own schedule.

One of the first things you need to do is to look for a community college that is fully accredited. For this, check the school and make sure it has accreditation from the Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education; the Distance Education and Training Council is the accrediting organization for these types of schools, also called “distance learning” institutions. You can also ask the college itself for references and find other students who have attended a particular distance-learning program, to make sure that it provides the quality education you want. Of course, you’ll also want to check your career plans and find a distance-learning institution that specializes in that.

Another consideration for many students is financial assistance. Previously, students attending distance-learning classes were not offered financial aid unless at least 50% of their training was completed on a physical campus. This is no longer true, which is perhaps as a result of both the improvement of distance learning education training and the recognition that this type of schooling is, some say, the next big trend. Today, it is often considered a luxury to be able to go to school full time as a student, and these types of training recognize that no longer can many people simply drop their lives and go to school full time. Many students these days are nontraditional students with other responsibilities beyond their own lives, so that they do not have the indulgence to devote three or four years’ time exclusively to an education.

Perhaps the choice place to help you determine your potential school’s accreditation is to look at the regional accreditation board in your school’s area. If your school is accredited by this board, it will be fully accepted by employers and other professional organizations as a authentic school. This, in turn, makes it much easier to get a postition and recognition. In fact, many organizations and employers will not recognize a associates degree unless it is from an accredited degree program. However, if you take the time to make sure your graduate school is accredited, your online education is every bit as valid as one you would obtain on campus.

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