online educationGoing back to school as an adult can be stressful, however online education is a new option for most adults. While the quality of an online education is a common concern, a Pew Research survey showed that 39 percent of the adults who took an online class said it was as good as any traditional classroom course they had taken. Whether you’re completing a degree of just adding to your skills, online education may fit into your schedule as well as your budget. The following tips will help your understand the world of online education and if it’s a right fit for you.

About Online Education

Online education, also known as distance learning, means that some or all of your coursework will be done on a computer, usually from your home. In some colleges and universities, online lectures supplement their classroom activities. This is called a hybrid class where part of your time will be on campus with other students. Other online courses are part of a program where all of the material is delivered online.

One benefit of an online education is the flexibility it offers to work around your schedule, which is important to the adult student, says Global Post. You can begin your path by searching online from home for the right school and program.

Types of Online Classes

Some online classes are non-credit, meaning that they don’t count toward a degree and they don’t show up on your college transcript, which is the official record of your courses and grades. Other classes give you a variety of credits toward your degree. Colleges have some control on how they grade students so you may get a letter grade, a number grade or simply a Pass/Fail indication.

A non-credit course may be beneficial to you if you need to brush up on a particular topic for your degree before you take a for-credit class. For example, you might browse to find a math class to take before you register for a statistics course required for a physics degree.

There is a type of online course called a MOOC, or massive open online course. This is a new kind of online education meant to bring courses to people around the world at no cost. They do not offer college credit and the content is usually more focused than traditional classes.

Applying to an Online Program

Once you have selected the schools you are interested in, you’ll complete an application online. You’ll be asked for contact information and whether or not you’re working. You will be asked for your goals and why you have chosen online education as the route to take to reach them. You may be asked to write a short essay. This is a chance to tell the school about yourself, what motivates you and what you hope to achieve with your education.

Technology for Your Online Education

One concern that adult students of online courses have is that they don’t understand technology well enough, says Rutgers University. If you can do searches on the Internet and can manage email, then you’ll do well in an online course. You’ll be given detailed instructions on how to run any special software used for the course. For example, some instructors may use a digital whiteboard which is a tool that allows them to write on a whiteboard and have it appear on your computer screen.

Your most important tool will be your computer. Any desktop or laptop computer made in the past three years will be powerful enough to support any of your course work. You may find it helpful to have a larger monitor, such as a 19 inch or 21 inch, to decrease your eye strain.

You will also want a high-speed Internet connection in your home. Dial-up is not fast enough. A cable, satellite, DSL or fiber optic provider will have options that give you the speed you need to watch the videos and live-streaming lectures used in online classes.

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By Tiffany Ericsson
Tiffany develops educational apps for elementary-age children. She’s also a crock pot cooking whiz.

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