It’s time to go to school! Today, more than ever before, you need a college education to thrive, or even just to survive. It’s getting harder and harder to build a career, and succeed in it, without at least an undergraduate degree to your name.
Luckily, the field is wide open; you have endless choices of where you can go to achieve your educational goals. That’s because, in addition to the traditional brick-and-mortar campuses out there, online classes are becoming more and more of a mainstream deal. For the longest time, going to college from behind your computer was seen as a gimmick and a waste of time. Online degrees were a joke, a false achievement that didn’t actually count. Today though, people have so much of their lives interwoven with the Internet, that it’s become next-to-impossible to dismiss anything completed that way. This includes a college education.
But is it for you? Going to class in person, and doing it from the safety of your bedroom, are two completely different things. One approach might spell utter disaster for you, while the other might bring out your inner Valedictorian. Check out the pros and cons of each approach, and then decide for yourself which is best for you.
Due to the job market being as picky and demanding as it is, many people are finding the need to go back to school and obtain a whole new set of skills. Of course, a lot of these people still have full-time jobs that they can’t just quit in favor of school. Quite a few of the may also have young children. So the flexibility that online schooling offers is perfect for much of today’s working populace. The ability to study and test around your own schedule fits their life far better than having to drive to a campus and be in a classroom at a set time, each and every day.
Also, since the economy is such an issue, online schooling is an appetizing possibility, due to the sheer amount of money one can save. While tuition is just as pricey online as it is off, you can save on just about every other aspect of college life. You don’t pay room and board, you don’t pay for a meal plan, you don’t have to pay random lab and TA fees, and e-textbooks are typically far cheaper than their hardcover brethren.
Finally, having online classes would cut out almost any possible reason to miss school. The weather, which is usually the reason to cancel a campus class, has no hindrance on an online lecture. Neither would the professor traveling or being ill one day. Since online lectures are typically pre-recorded, you can access it anytime of day, anywhere you are.
Being on a traditional college campus is perfect for the traditional student: the young kid just out of high school. They likely have no children, no full-time job that they’re tied to, and can more easily uproot themselves and ship off to school for a few years. This is actually a good thing for them. For quite a few kids, this is the first time they’ve been away from home, and their first real opportunity to experience life away from the nest. Living and going to class on campus introduces them to new people and experiences that they couldn’t possibly get if they simply stayed at home, and went to school from behind their laptop.
Also, don’t discount the benefits of meeting with your professor or study group, face-to-face. This is both an effective and immediate way to learn; for some, that personal interaction, and physically walking through a lesson with somebody, is the only way they are truly able to grasp the material.
Finally, being on campus FORCES you to attend class. Let’s face it; your home is filled with distractions, whether it be TV, or the Internet, or video games, or simply having your family around. If you are not well-versed in self-discipline, learning from behind a computer can cause more harm than good. On a campus, however, you’ll to be in a classroom, without random distractions everywhere, and the professor right there, making sure the work gets done.
However, online schooling has its drawbacks, particularly since your’e behind a computer, away from people who could help you in a jam. You no longer have the ability to arrange a face-to-face interaction with your professor, particularly when extra help is needed, because there’s a good chance you’ve never even met the professor. While you could feasibly e-mail them with any questions, it’s not the same as staying after class, or meeting them in their office and hashing out a problem you have with understanding the material.
Also, there are many hands-on professions, particularly in the medical field, that simply do not translate well online. You can’t really learn how to draw blood or operate on a patient, for example, without physically practicing the lesson, with an experienced professor watching over you. The same can be said for more skill-based professions, such as auto mechanics or plumbing. If you need to physically practice with something, instead of merely reading about it, online classes will likely not work for you at all.
And, of course, there’s always the risk of isolation. Yes, you’re at home, but you’re probably alone much of the day, with everyone else at work or elsewhere. No students are around you, as they would be in a traditional classroom, and thus no true bonds or friendships are formed, as they would on a campus.
Anyone who has gone to college before will tell you how incredibly expensive it is, and it’s not getting any cheaper. Traditional campus classrooms demand you pay for everything: classes, room & board, meals, fees, books, etc. Expect to pay anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 a year, depending on where you go.
In addition, large universities and classes can cause many students to become lost in the shuffle. The stereotypical oversized classroom, where several hundred students are seated in an auditorium, listening to a professor aimlessly lecture, is still a reality. Even smaller classrooms, with 30-40 students, find it difficult to properly devote the personal time and energy needed to help each student grow.
Finally, classes are rigid. You must be in class at a certain time, all the time. Any jobs you hope to get, to help pay for school, must revolve around class times, or else you’ll fall behind and possibly flunk out. If finding such a job is impossible, then you might not be able to work and study at the same time, which is the only way many families can hope to afford to pay those exorbitant tuition bills.
Today’s world is extremely demanding, so it’s great that online colleges have become legitimate and accepted. For those with jobs and children, being able to obtain a degree from your laptop, on your own time, is beyond convenient and liberating. Still, there’s something to be said for physically going to school, meeting your professors, interacting with fellow students, expanding your social horizons, and generally living the life of a college student.
Either approach could work, so which one works best for you? Take a vote and let us know what you think!