The Truth About Online School
As a current online college student, I have to admit, I hear so many misconceptions about online schooling. Throughout my years of online school, I've been told that my education isn't equivalent to the "normal" university education. I have been told that I am missing out on the normal university experience. Countless times, I've been told that I won't be able to stay organized, I won't be able to stay motivated and I won't be able to find a job with an online degree on my résumé. So here's the truth about online college.
You must be self disciplined.
I can't say that online school is the best route for all students, because honestly, it isn't. Online schooling works best for students who show a great deal of self discipline and self motivation. With online school, the main complication is using your time wisely. It's easy to sit on the sofa, break open a bag of chips, and turn on the latest episode of The Mindy Project, leaving your school work in the dust. When it comes to online school, it's really up to you what you'll gain from the experience. You can either work hard, stay on task and earn good grades, or you can turn in mediocre work, and rightfully, get poor grades.
The workload is equivalent to regular university classes.
Frequently, I here people say that online classes are less work than your average university class. That is simply not true.
Online classes are almost always made up of the exact coursework that the professor would be distributing if you were sitting in the classroom. Sometimes, an online class will actually require MORE reading assignments because you don't have the option of having in-class discussion about the homework or previous readings. Online schools use extra reading assignments as a precautionary measure to make sure every student is able to grasp the information being thrown their way. Overall, I wholeheartedly believe that the workload for online classwork and university classwork is equivalent to one another.
Some days you will need to leave your home.
Often times I've found that leaving the house to do my work is the better option. If I'm feeling distracted or I catch myself trying to take my third study break of the hour, I'll pack up my bag and head to a local coffee spot or library. At home, you have a food supply, your bed, other family members or roommates, and TV. All of these things tend to cause distractions from our work. Whether it's your roommate playing music, the leftover pizza staring at you in the refrigerator or your bed calling you back to take a nap, there's plenty to be distracted from. While coffee shops and library's tend to have some distractions, they definitely don't have as many as your comfortable little abode.
If you find yourself feeling lazy and unproductive, pack up your school work and head to the closest coffee spot. Spend a few hours working on your classes, and then when you feel like you've really done a sufficient amount of work, then its time to head home.
You still graduate on the stage with typical university students.
For me, this wasn't the deciding factor, but I know it was for some of my peers. As an online student, you still have the opportunity to walk across the graduation stage and collect your diploma at the actual university with the students who take classes at the campus. If this is something that is of great importance to you, then no worries, you'll still get to walk at graduation!
Online schooling is cheaper.
In most cases, online school is cheaper then taking classes at the university. For starters, you don't have to pay room and board fees, this alone saves you a minimum of $9,000 per year at an in-state university. Though each university has different pricing, almost always, you save thousands of dollars by being an online student rather than a typical university student. If you're looking to see each schools individual pricing, take a look at this list on The Best Colleges or try searching College Board to see which university is your best fit.
You are able to access coursework at anytime.
The wonderful thing about online school is that as long as you're connected to wifi, you can access your courses. I go to a university that does not have a summer break. This means that each year when I go on my family vacation, I'm either missing out on work, or I can fit in some work in my downtime. Having access to my coursework from anywhere in the country at any given time has saved me from falling behind on my schoolwork on countless occasions. It also allows me to be present in the time that I have with my family and not worry about the work that I'm missing.
Teachers and advisers work really hard to ensure you're on track.
At least once a week I receive a message from my adviser or my teacher asking if I have any questions on the course, encouraging me, and consistently urging me to reach out with any problems I may be experiencing. I've found that the teachers and advisers work extra hard to make online students feel connected and supported because they cannot have that face to face interaction. There has not been a bump in the road in my education that my advisers and teachers were not able to help me smooth over and make right again.
Teachers go out of their way to make sure you understand the coursework.
In my experience, teachers go above and beyond to make sure online students have a normal learning opportunity.
Frequently my teachers have posted videos of their in university lectures, along with some of the discussion that was had after the lecture. Having the opportunity to audibly hear the information as well as hearing other students bouncing ideas off one another has helped keep online courses interesting and makes you feel more connected with the average university students.
Now, not all teachers I've had will post their lectures. Instead, some teachers may post informative videos that were as if you were sitting in a classroom and watching them write down examples on the board. Even through this media, I found I was more engaged in the topic and was able to grasp more information then I had been previously when I was just reading through the textbook and taking down notes.
You don't get the university experience.
This is something that I know makes or breaks many individuals' experiences with online school. Often times I've been told online school isn't worth it because you don't get that college experience and to be honest, they aren't wrong.
Going to online school can be lonely at times. You can't rush for a sorority or bar hop at the dive-y college bars every Friday night.
That being said, you can make your own version of a college experience. I try my best to make plans to visit my friends at their universities, this way I'm able to attend college parties, mingle with new people, and get a taste of that university experience.
Here's my advice:
Set aside a block of time every weekday to work on school work. Each university, and each teacher has their own unique approach for assigning homework. Depending on the type of school you're attending, classwork may be self-paced with no specific deadlines, or it may be paced like a traditional university class.
I am enrolled in a self-paced college and it's been a great experience. Being in a self-paced program allows me to work as quickly, or as slowly as needed in the class I'm taking. When a class is easier for me to work through, I am able to complete my coursework quickly, take my final, and begin my next class immediately. Universities work through a pre-set work pace are the equivalent to a typical university deadlines. You'll have set due dates for homework, papers, and finals, as well as a specific start and finish date for your course.
Along with the class syllabus, some teachers will send a pacing guide for their classwork. These teachers are literally THE BEST when it comes to online classes. There is no one who knows the course better than your teacher themselves. They know exactly how many hours should be spent working through their course work (on average), and I seriously recommend following their guidelines.
If there's one thing I want you to know about online school, it's that you NEED to stay organized. If you can not stay organized, you simply wont be able to keep up with the course work.
For all of my organization advice, read my recent Spire & Co article: How To Remain Organized Amid Chaos.
And finally, some must have school supplies for the online student:
- Spiral notebooks
- 1 folder per class
- Pens (varying colors)
- Planner (4 Best Planners Under $40)
- Laptop/desktop computer with webcam