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Doing a Degree Via Distance Learning

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Distance learning could arguably be one of the best educational innovations. Previously, opportunities for flexible/individualized studies involved the rare "independent study," in which students met with professors one-on-one to complete courses. It was difficult to find professors who would agree to this additional obligation, students were still expected to be on campus, and it barely opened the possibility for additional courses not on the class schedule. While the 1980s/1990s experienced workplace e-training, it was not until the 21st century that degree distance learning became widespread.

Distance learning exploded, but many programs were not accredited and often not held to high enough standards. Today's distance learning programs are more often accredited, and therefore are held to the same high standards as classroom-based classes. In fact, a September 2010 U.S. Department of Education publication reveals that students who completed online courses performed better than those who studied in classrooms. But this does not mean students can not fail in distance learning. Below are three important tips for any student earning a degree via distance learning.

Distance Learning Tips

Tip #1: Don't Procrastinate

Treat your distance learning class like a classroom one. Remember: 3-credit classes should generally equate to 3 hours of class time, plus time for homework. If your schedule allows, "attend" each of your classes at the same time every week. If it helps, keep a schedule posted near the computer. If your schedule is unpredictable (i.e., you work a shift job), make it a priority on your time off to get your school work done first. Watch t.v., talk to friends, clean the house, after.

Tip #2: Be Organized

While there can be no guarantees when it comes to whether or not you can excel at, say, Chemistry, you will be more successful if you're organized. When you earn a degree via distance learning, you have the additional task of not only being computer literate, but also computer organized. You'll need folders, sub-folders, sub-sub-folders... For instance:

  • On your C drive, create a folder entitled "Online Classes."
  • In this folder, create a folder with the name of the term, for example, "Fall 2010."
  • In this folder, create a separate folder for each class you're taking, for example, "Composition 101."
  • In these folders, create separate folders for all activities you'll engage in for each class, for example, "Journal Entries," "Graded Essays," etc.

It might seem like overkill, but it will make your online education experience more successful and less stressful.

Tip #3: Don't Get in Over Your Head

Taking classes online will save you time from traveling, parking, etc, but you'll still need time. It's not wise to take more credits than you would on campus (generally, a maximum of 15-18 credits/semester). Getting in over your head can lead to failure, which is costly beyond lost tuition money. As the U.S. Department of Labor's "Education Pays" document points out, students who earn higher degrees, including through distance learning, earn more money. Consider these median weekly salaries by degree:

  • High school diploma: $626
  • Associate's degree: $761
  • Bachelor's degree: $1,025
  • Master's degree: $1,257
  • If you're considering earning a degree, you're fortunate to have abundant distance learning opportunities. Keeping these tips in mind can help you take full advantage of them.

    Candice Mancini


    Natalie Aranda • A Brief History of Online Education • http://ezinearticles.com • http://ezinearticles.com/?A-Brief-History-of-Online-Education&id=248882 • Ezine articles

    Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning • Sep 10, 2010 • http://www2.ed.gov • http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/tech/evidence-based-practices/finalreport.pdf • U.S. Department of Education

    Education Pays • May 27, 2010 • http://www.bls.gov • http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm • BLS

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