You want a new career, or you want to go further in the one you’ve got now. Enrolling in a distance learning university is a good start. Deciding on a degree track, getting your financial aid in line, collecting the credit hours that you are entitled to for life and work experience, are all steps in the right direction. Participating in class meetings, doing your homework, and performing well on tests, are helpful. But none of them is enough.
Somewhere along the way between signing up for that first online class and accepting that diploma, too many students find the going too tough. The rate of graduation for distance learning is less than that of traditional classes. It’s too early to say whether that’s due to the nature of distance learning, or that the demands of working and studying at the same time prove to be too much, or for some other reason. The important thing for you is to make sure that you end up on the right side of the statistics.
Adding a layer of technology between the student and the teacher does add a difficulty factor to the learning process. This added burden is not insurmountable, but don’t kid yourself. Earning a degree online is hard work, and you need to be prepared.
In fact, you should start preparing before you ever sign up for your first class. From day one, you are going to have to know how to communicate effectively with your teacher and your fellow students without ever seeing them face-to-face. When all of your interaction is through technology, you need to be familiar with that technology—all of it. You need to know how to use the programs associated with the classes you are taking as well as email, word processing programs, and social networking applications. When there is no face-to-face interaction, you also need to be able to get your point across in writing. And when you are balancing classwork with earning a living, you must allot enough time for all of your activities. When there is no one to remind you to get your homework done, you have to be able to keep yourself on track.
If you are less than proficient in any of these areas, consider taking a free online class before you ever decide on what degree you want to earn. That class will give you the opportunity to see what distance learning is like, and what it requires, without your having committed the time, money, and effort in enrolling in a university. Try brushing up on your writing skills, or learn all the ins and outs of Word, if you haven’t used it much before.
Once you’ve determined your strengths and weaknesses, you can expand the skill sets that need work. Spending the time learning how to do well in school will more than pay for itself when you do sign up for your degree track.
Do the prep work that is needed, and you can be one of those people who make it all the way to the finish line.