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These days, you don’t have to pull up stakes and move to a whole new city to go to college. Instead, you can take your college courses online from wherever you are. Lots of people are doing it, especially since the COVID pandemic, and employers have learned that online degrees are just as legitimate as those earned in-person.
But is online learning right for you? Sure, it’s more flexible, but do you actually need the structure of a traditional degree program? Are you good with technology and self-motivated? Or do you learn better with hands-on experience and want to study a field that requires face-to-face learning? Do you think you’ll be able to make friends with your online classmates and connect with your professors? These are all questions you should ask yourself when you’re deciding whether online college is for you.
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Many students are drawn to online learning for its flexibility. You can take your classes at whatever time of day works best for you, from whatever location you want. That’s great if you need flexibility because of work or family commitments.
But some students want the structure that a traditional college degree provides. If you think you’d do better with a set schedule to attend class every day, you should consider whether online school is the right choice for you.
You’ll obviously need to be comfortable with digital communications technology in order to succeed in an online program. You’re going to have to know how to use email, web browsers, and search engines. You’re going to need to know how to use video conferencing software and how to post on discussion boards. You should know how a group chat works and you should be comfortable navigating a learning management system.
For students who struggle with self-motivation, having a fixed class schedule where you have to show up and get to sit in a distraction-free environment for the duration of the class period can provide some sense of external motivation. As an online student, you can only succeed if you can find the motivation within yourself to review your course materials and complete your assignments without the in-person supervision of a professor or the peer pressure of classmates. If you’re a procrastinator, online college may not be right for you. You have to be able to manage your time and give yourself enough time to complete your assignments.
Online learning simply isn’t appropriate for all fields. There are still plenty of academic fields where you have to take at least some classes in person. For example, if you want to enter the medical field as a practitioner, you’re going to need to take some in-person classes. Other fields that require face-to-face learning include dentistry and dental hygiene, sports and athletics, and public speaking. You will have to take laboratory classes and do clinicals, among other things, in person. Of course, if you’re the kind of person who generally learns better from hands-on interaction and don’t think that you’ll be able to learn as well from watching videos and reading things, you may want to consider going to school in person.
When you enroll in an online program like the bachelor’s in business administration at UAGC, it can be easy to isolate yourself from your fellow students. But most online degree programs have cohorts of students who move through their studies together, just like in traditional programs. So you have the opportunity to make friends and expand your professional network.
Nonetheless, you have to put yourself out there to a greater degree than you might in a traditional program where everyone’s hanging out in the dorms together. You have to make a point to interact with your classmates, including offering to start a group chat or to host virtual get-togethers for your classmates. You can make great friends online that are just as real as any you make in meatspace.
Tuition payments for online college may not be much lower than for a traditional program, but you’ll save in other ways. You won’t have to pay to move to a new city and rent a new apartment. You won’t have to pay for the costs of commuting to campus such as gas and parking or public transit tickets. And you won’t have to pay for a dorm room or a meal plan. When you’re choosing between online or in-person school, consider whether you can cover all of those costs.
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Should you go to college online or in-person? The choice is a personal one. Think about what will work best for you, so you can focus on getting a quality education.
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