Is Online Learning Right for You?
1/14/13 9:24 AM
By Alicia Jacobs, Excelsior Life News Staff
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 38 percent of students who enrolled in higher education are over 25 years of age. Many must balance school with working full-time and raising a family. Life is different for these adult students.
But is online learning for everyone? And how does a student determine if it is a good fit for them?
“There are three key benefits to distance learning: flexibility, convenience, and accessibility,” says Excelsior College academic advisor Chris Normile. “Students can utilize learning tools and participate in class discussions while focusing on their studies when their schedules permit.”
Jacqueline McPhillips, a former Excelsior academic advisor who now works for enrollment management, offered caution. “With this flexibility comes responsibility,” says McPhillips. “It is important for online learners to set aside time for themselves to read, respond to discussions, and complete their assignments. Online learning requires a much more self-disciplined approach than the traditional classroom setting.”
Excelsior Life sat down with Normile, McPhillips and admissions counselor, Bill Nettleton, to discuss the differences between online and traditional campus-based learning, the characteristics of successful online students and the importance of managing expectations.
Excelsior Life: What are characteristics of a successful online/distance learning student?
McPhillips: Self-motivation, an enthusiasm for learning, and determination
Nettleton: Being a self starter, managing time well, and enjoying self study.
Normile: Students should be more self-reliant. While online instructors tend to do a good job providing feedback to students, collaborating with one's peers can be challenging due to scheduling conflicts.
Excelsior Life: What should students consider before enrolling in distance learning?
Nettleton: Students should consider exactly why they are pursuing a degree and what they hope to get out of it. After determining they are enrolling for the right reasons, the next question becomes how much time they have to commit to their studies each week and how they will be paying for their education.
Normile: Prior to enrolling in a distance learning program students should ask: Am I comfortable using computers and navigating the internet? Am I an independent learner that will be self-motivated to follow instructions, utilize resources available to me, and manage my time effectively?
McPhillips: Most of our students balance family, work and their education, and it is often just a matter of having a plan at the outset. Decisions should be made with their families while also
thinking about job responsibilities.
Excelsior Life: What are the most frequently asked questions about distance learning in a higher education environment?
McPhillips: Students often ask what they can expect. They seem to worry about being completely on their own.
Nettleton: The top questions… How many of my previous credits will transfer? How long will it take? How much will it cost?
Normile: The questions often include does my program require a lot of group work? How quickly can I complete my program?
Excelsior Life: Can a student "test the waters" before enrolling?
Nettleton: Absolutely. Excelsior offers two ways of earning credit, online courses or credit by examination. Students can take either of these as non-matriculated student. So if a student wants to take an online course or study and test out of a subject through an examination, they can do that before they are enrolled to get a sense if distance learning is the right option for them.
McPhillips: I usually suggest beginning slowly if students are coming back to school after a long hiatus, starting with one course to re-adapt to an academic setting. Additionally, this allows the student to gauge how much time they would need to dedicate to a course. Students often find that they can move through their studies more quickly, or some find that one-8-week course at a time is enough for them.
Normile: Students should consider taking one course as a non-matriculated student to familiarize themselves with the online learning environment and course experience.
Excelsior Life: What resources does Excelsior College offer to individuals thinking about becoming a student?
Nettleton: We have a very comprehensive and informative website that outlines all of the programs we offer as well as a listing of all the courses and exams available through Excelsior. All prospective students can also speak with an Admissions Counselor to discuss their degree options and to answer any questions they have before applying or enrolling.
McPhillips: When students apply to Excelsior College, they benefit from an unofficial review of their credit to get a clear picture of how much coursework they would need to complete to achieve their goal. Community college students coming from partner institutions have transfer advisors. They are also given a key contact at Excelsior College to assist with the transferring process.
Normile: Prospective students can speak with an Admissions Counselor for a free consultation and Financial Aid Representative. Once enrolled into a degree program, a student is assigned an Academic Advisor for support related to the student's degree program.