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Sunday, October 11, 2015

10 tips to help you choose between online and traditional education

By Michelle Rubio

Online courses offer numerous benefits, such as lower fees compared to in-class courses and flexibility to take them before or after work and other responsibilities. However, while online learning can be very enticing given the many advantages it offers, this method of learning may not be suitable for everyone. Here are some tips you might want to consider if you are in the process of deciding between online and traditional education.

Set your education goals


Before you set your mind to pursuing a course online, you will need to determine why you wish to earn an online degree. For some, it might be because of the financial savings that online courses offer; while for others, it could be the convenience of being able to study without having to sacrifice certain obligations to their family or their job.

Check out accredited programs


There are a lot of courses available online, but not all of these are certified or accredited. While a lot of online programs deliver quality education despite not being accredited, degrees which do not have reputable accreditation may not appeal to graduate schools or employers.

Find out how tuition payment is processed


There is no standard method of payment for online courses. So when looking at different courses online, make sure to check how tuition payment will be made, if this is to be paid in lump sum or if you will be charged by the credit hour or year.

Look for scholarships


Similar to traditional education programs, some online courses also offer financial assistance. You may contact online providers directly or look for organizations that give scholarships for online education programs.

Try to test out certain subjects


Through Prior Learning Assessments or PLAs, students can gain further savings by earning credit in areas that they have already mastered without going through certain classes. This would greatly benefit adult students who have acquired extensive training to earn a lump sum of credits all at once. 

Do Your Research on the Educators


You will want to ensure that the time and money that you invest into online learning would lead to a productive course that you will learn a great deal from. Reach out to the educators in the online course and ask them how the programs are being administered. While there are a lot of educators who have taken the time and effort to create online courses themselves to provide a more personal approach to teaching, some educators might not offer the same quality of online education.

Check the technology requirements of the course


You may be enrolled in one of the best online programs being offered, but if you don’t have the technology to properly utilize the online resources and perform the necessary activities, you will not be able to fully benefit from the program. Check what the internet and computer requirements of the course are and make sure that your internet connection and computer specs will allow you to perform the required activities of the course.

Consider other tools you will need to purchase


Aside from internet and computer, there may be some additional resources you will need to purchase to fully function on the online course you wish to take, such as a printer, note-taking software, or webcam. Check for these, and if there are free options available for certain requirements.

Check your availability


Despite the flexibility provided by online courses, these do have set timeframes of completion. You will need to assess your capabilities and schedule, and see if you can allocate a few hours everyday so you can finish your course on time.

Try out free online courses


There are a lot of massive open online courses or MOOCs available for you to take for free. Try some of these free online programs such as Coursera, Udacity, and edX to see if this is something that you can complete on your own and if studying outside the classroom setting is something that you will enjoy. 


About the author: Michelle Rubio is an experienced SEO copywriter and blogger since 2010. She has been working with various businesses, big and small, in the United States, UK, Canada, and Australia. You can see more of her works and experiences in her LinkedIn profile.

Image: Sage Ross/Wikepedia; "Participants in higher education summit"; CC BY-SA 3.0