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What can/can't an online school teach you?

Since the dawn of the Internet, the prospect of online learning has been looming on the horizon. As cyberspace became mainstream and people began using email and online tools more frequently, the possibility of online learning became more and more likely. In fact, many people would say that it was inevitable. Still, there are some who remain skeptical of online colleges and their validity. However, the fact remains that online learning is here to stay, and it's likely to only increase in usage and acceptance. As transportation and tuition costs continue to rise and students seek more flexibility, more schools may offer online courses to accommodate them.

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While some degrees and specialties are easily delivered online, it's important to consider that there are some fields of study that simply cannot be mastered through online course work alone. Nursing, dental hygiene, and most medical professions cannot be taught by online schools without the addition of on-the-job training and lab work. Welding, plumbing, and many other technical trades simply cannot be learned online and must be taught in a physical classroom where hands-on training is implemented. However, most degrees that lead to jobs in an office setting can be earned at an online school. Business and marketing degrees may be easier to achieve online as well as degrees in information technology, accounting, and computer programming.

There are both pros and cons to consider when deciding whether to pursue online education. One of the positive aspects of online college is that course work can generally be completed at any location. Students who learn online may not have to take transportation issues into consideration and generally only need course materials, a computer, and home Internet access in order to become a student. Online students who are parents may also be able to complete their studies while keeping their children in their care. This can result in an increase in convenience and decrease in costs associated with earning their degree.

The negative aspects of being an online student may vary by school and course work selected. Not having the opportunity to meet other students or a professor in person may impact a student negatively. Being unable to ask questions or get immediate answers could make online learning more difficult, and students who need one-on-one tutoring may be left to figure things out on their own.

However, online learning is much like anything else -- you get out what you put in. Students who are organized and self-motivated may thrive in an online learning environment, despite the fact that they don't have access to a classroom or their peers. Individuals who would like to pursue online learning need to be prepared to motivate themselves to do their course work. Online students will also need to be responsible for completing all assignments and requirements without having to be accountable to anyone.

An online degree can be a meaningful addition to a resume and may help someone find an entry into the job market. For dedicated students willing to work hard, an online school may provide the education and skills needed to secure a stable career in a variety of growing professions. Online schools aren't for everyone, but they may be a convenient alternative for students who need flexibility and have the capability to work on their own.

Sources:

"The Trouble with Online Education," The Opinion Pages, The New York Times, Mark Edmundson, July 19, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/20/opinion/the-trouble-with-online-education.html?_r=0
"How to Succeed as an Online Student," Distance Learning, About.com, Stephen Gatlin, 2013, http://distancelearn.about.com/od/distancelearning101/a/studentsuccess.htm

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