Back To School Checklist for The Online College Student

If you are an online college student, you are far from alone. More than 18 million college students are taking at least one online course and approximately 96 percent of traditional universities offers some online courses. Distance learning has been around since 1728. That is when Caleb Phillipps offered to teach shorthand by mail to people living anywhere in the country. However, many educators and employers were slow to acknowledge and accept online degrees as credible.

A 2010 survey by Excelsior College and Zogby International found that 83 percent of CEOs, small business owners, and corporate executives now feel an online degree is just as credible as one from a traditional campus-based program. You have technology, employers that are on your side, and respected Universities that offer a variety of online degrees, certificate programs, and self-paced programs that make pursuing a degree convenient and affordable. Take a few steps to ensure you optimize your time and utilize all available resources.

Choosing your area of study

Staying motivated and vigilant about assignments is difficult enough when you have the external motivations associated with campus-based learning. It is easier to let things slide, become overwhelmed, and quit when studying online. By pursuing studies that you are passionate about, you increase your likelihood of success. The U.S. Department of Education has some helpful tips on choosing the best classes for you.

Finding the right school

For lifelong learners, there are open source education opportunities. Option like edX and MIT OpenCourseware are great for people who already have a degree or are just wishing to expand their knowledge. You can take classes at your leisure and the curriculum is freely available online.

Returning students who earned credits without completing their degree will need to research accredited schools. It is important to find a program with some flexibility on credit transfers. A lot of colleges do not accept a large number of credits, especially if they are from more than 10 years ago.

Despite savings in travel expenses and other cost associated with a traditional college education, obtaining your degree from and accredited university is expensive. There are some Federal Student Aid options for online education. Obtaining assistance is not a simple process and you must choose a reputable and properly accredited institution to qualify. You can also visit WhiteHouse.gov for information on the affordability of a wide range of colleges.

Establish your schedule

Online classes are convenient and flexible. They are not easy and something you should take lightly. Many people begin thinking it is something they can breeze through. Allocate an adequate amount of time in advance to accomplish your coursework. Add major due dates to your calendar with reminders. Discuss your schedule with family and friends. Updating your support group with progress and difficulties will help make up for the lack of face-to-face interactions you get from traditional classes.

Though you are interacting online, keep in mind that your teachers and peers are still people. Participating in message boards and communicating with instructors and your classmates by email can provide a sense of community. This keeps you enthusiastic and on track with your goals.

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