Is Online Learning Right for You? A QUICK REFERENCE GUIDE

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1 Is Online Learning Right for You? A QUICK REFERENCE GUIDE

2 Going back to school can feel like an unattainable goal for people who feel the pressure of obligations and the sense of being pulled in many directions at the same time. But there are many benefits to online learning, the top of which is its flexibility. So how can you know if an online degree is right for you? This guide explores the realities of going to school online, who online classes can benefit most and how you can determine if going to college online is the right choice for you. WHO SHOULD CONSIDER AN ONLINE DEGREE? Pursuing a degree is a big commitment whether you go to school online or in a traditional classroom. That said, going to school online certainly has its benefits, especially if you fall into one of these groups: Working parents Arguably the biggest benefit to pursuing your education online is the flexibility it allows, as it enables parents the chance to further their education and strike that oh-so-important balance in life. Since lectures, study groups and discussions take place virtually, family time can remain intact. You also don t need to waste time commuting and searching for parking spots and can study when it suits you, be it morning, noon or night. Stay-at-home parents The flexibility and efficiency of online education also make it an appealing choice for stay-at-home moms and dads. An added benefit is that pursuing a degree can help maintain a connection to the professional world and allow you to continue developing the skills needed to re-enter the workplace when the time is right. Career changers An online degree can let you keep your day job and actively work toward entering a new, more inspiring field. After all, it s a world away from taking traditional, exhaustion-inducing night classes. Professionals looking to move up These same reasons noted above make online education ideal for those who enjoy and want to move forward in their existing careers, as it allows them to do so without using up vacation days or requesting a new work schedule ONLINE LEARNING GUIDE American InterContinental University 2

3 BENEFITS OF ONLINE LEARNING YOU DIDN T KNOW ABOUT Many busy students choose online degree programs for their flexibility. But going to school online has additional benefits that go beyond studying around the clock or attending a lecture on your lunch hour: Develop real-world skills Understanding technology, being skilled at online communication and being comfortable with Web research are important in almost every workplace today. As an online student, you can learn those skills as you work toward your degree. Learn from a diverse group of instructors and students Gaining perspective from industry specialists and other students in your field of study from all over the world (and from different roles, professions and backgrounds) rather than just from your hometown can give you valuable insight, resources and experiences you might otherwise miss. Experience lessons the way you learn best In a traditional college classroom students are limited to learning the way a professor instructs. But people learn in different ways. Some online schools offer course content in different formats so that students can learn in the way they are most comfortable with, whether that is reading, watching, listening or interacting. Get more choices With online learning, students can choose to pursue their degree at accredited, high-quality institutions anywhere in the world. That makes it easier to find a degree program that fits your goals and your life. Find support when you need it Not attending class in person doesn t mean you can t build relationships with classmates, faculty and others who can support you along your journey. Online professors can still provide oneon-one assistance as needed, and a good online university will offer 24/7 technical support by phone, or live chat. 4 THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN AN ONLINE UNIVERSITY Online universities offer several obvious advantages, but as with brick-and-mortar institutions, the amount of options out there can make choosing the right one seem overwhelming. The first thing to do is make sure you choose a regionally accredited online university. Next, consider these five factors. 1. Look for Resources Available to Students Before choosing an online school, do your research and make sure the school offers the right resources to help you be successful in your studies. Resources to look for include accessible online technology, student tutorials, student advisors, career counseling and a technical help ONLINE LEARNING GUIDE American InterContinental University 3

4 line in case you encounter software or hardware problems. Since many students attend school late at night or early in the morning, find out what hours resources and help lines are available. 2. Listen to What Students Have to Say When you visit a school s social media sites, see what conversations are happening there. Are students praising their time there? Are alumni encouraging students to attend their alma mater? Feel free to post questions and be an active participant on their pages to find answers to the questions you can only get from graduates and students. 3. Learn About the Faculty In addition to credentials, accessibility from both instructors and administration plays a central role. Find out if faculty is available outside of class for mentoring, brainstorming and academic nurturing. 4. Find What Motivates You Of course, the most important factor is the one within your control: your own commitment. You want to find a program that encourages you to stay engaged and motivated. Look for online schools that use a variety of strategies including live interactive discussion, visual media, information delivery that goes beyond lecture, frequent feedback on assignments and instructors with reasonable availability. THE CREDIBILITY OF ONLINE DEGREES These days, more and more students are choosing to take their studies online, and more and more colleges are offering online courses. In fact, over 7.1 million students 33 percent of higher education students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2012 term. 1 In addition to getting a quality education, real-world skills and the credentials you want, your online degree can also make you look good to employers. Here s why: Discipline Online classes can be just as challenging as traditional classes. In fact, taking a course online requires students to be proactive and communicate over chats, discussion boards, text or in order to complete group assignments and participate in discussions. What s more, employers may recognize that candidates who have successfully earned a degree online possess drive, motivation, self-direction and a strong work ethic qualities that can also make a top-notch employee. Experience Because so many working professionals attend them, online programs are often designed to provide career-focused learning centered on current business scenarios. This can include group projects or exercises that develop critical thinking skills needed in the workplace. Having a reputation for providing real-world knowledge may make your online credentials shine. ONLINE LEARNING GUIDE American InterContinental University 4

5 Tech Savvy As the number of online students increases, employers may perceive graduates of online schools as more tech-savvy than their traditionalschool counterparts, seeing them as having the potential to help companies be successful and stay connected in an increasingly online marketplace. Whatever your reason for pursuing a degree online, it s important to go in with clearly defined goals and have the dedication to see it through. You need to stay organized and set a study schedule that works so you don t fall behind when the rigors of life set in. An online education, while different than traditional, in-classroom instruction, can be every bit as beneficial and communal. You just have to be driven, make full use of the tools at hand and stay contact with your professor and fellow classmates so you stay on top of make that ahead of the game. Learn more about pursuing an online degree at AIU. This guide is presented by American InterContinental University (AIU). 1 Allen, I. Elaine, and Jeff Seaman Survey of Online Learning. Babson Survey Research Group, 15 Jan Web. 14 Nov AIU cannot guarantee employment or salary. Find employment rates, financial obligations and other disclosures at /14 5 ONLINE LEARNING GUIDE

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