Is online education right for you? Here are 5 things you should ask yourself before enrolling
Online learning is now part of many educational institutions’ program offerings, and students are increasingly turning to online as a viable alternative to on-campus learning. From certificate courses to master’s degrees or PhDs, educational pursuits have been made more accessible and convenient with an online option. There is, in fact, a growing number of undergraduate students turning to online. A report shows that the percentage of undergraduate students taking fully online degree programs increased from 3.8% in 2008 to 10.8% in 2016 (Snyder, Brey & Billow, 2018).
Right now, you may be considering a fully online degree. A fully online program surely offers a number of benefits. You can now attend some of the best universities that offer your preferred online program without having to consider location or distance. For adult leaners who are facing the challenge of balancing education, work, family, and other commitments, pursuing a fully online degree can be a good solution. Learning ubiquity (anytime, aywhere learning), time flexibility, and convenience are just some of the benefits you can have with a fully online program.
An online program, however, is still a commitment. You will still put in the same level of work as you would with its on-campus counterpart. Before you make that decision, here are five questions you should ask yourself before enrolling in an online program.
1. What are your goals?
Studying takes a lot of dedication, and it is important to have a clear motivation. With everyday concerns and distractions that are inevitable in your learning environment, knowing what drives you will help keep you going.
Your goals for getting online education are no different from those for a traditional education. It may be to get a great college education that will land you a good-paying and highly fulfilling job in the future, or achieving that dream college diploma that you have had to put off. It may also be to acquire extra advantage for your professional career. It may be to develop your other talents or to pursue a new passion. All of these are good goals to set.
In answering this question, it is best that you list down your goals. The more personal they are, the better. Your list can be your physical reminder of why you invest in your education and why despite the challenges, you must overcome, improve, and meet the demands of your online studies.
2. Is the online education you are getting recognized?
Learning the reputation of the school that is offering the online program should be number one on your checklist. After all, this is where you will earn your degree, and this is the institution that will be stamped on your resume. A diploma from a reputable institution is an added edge later on when you apply for your desired profession.
With a number of schools already offering online degree programs, you should not simply settle for the more affordable and accessible one. Check the credentials of the institution and compare the quality of the discipline across higher education entities. In the Philippines, one way to be really sure of the quality of an online program is the recognition and approval it has received from the Commission on Higher Education.
You may also study the capability of the institution in offering online programs. Effective online learning delivery will require powerful and up-to-date learning management systems and applications supported by robust online learning resources, which are marks of a digital-ready college or university.
3. Do you have access to the right technology?
One demand of online education, and probably the most important one, is that you must have the right set of technology ready. Determine the learning delivery modes and the demand for online access of your preferred program. Will delivery be either in synchronous (live online classes) or asynchronous (self-paced learning using pre-recorded lectures, readings, and learning materials that are accessible anytime) sessions or both? Your answer will have implications on the technology you will have to secure for your online education.
To support academic freedom, online programs are normally self-paced and delivered in an asynchronous mode. Your instructors will require you to log into an e-learning environment, access presentations and readings, download documents, and participate in discussion boards throughout the week. With this, you must invest in a reliable internet connection and a trustworthy device (laptop or tablet) you can conveniently use in attending to your course work. You will also need to install video conferencing tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. You may also need a webcam, a microphone, and audio-video recording software. Bottomline is you must make sure that your technology and equipment can keep up with the demands of your online program.
4. How do you learn best?
Online and traditional education have different modes of delivering lessons to students. Fully online learning is delivered asynchronously, has limited facilitation, and is largely self-paced. That is why before enrolling in an online academic program, you must ask yourself if this type of learning environment suits you.
Online programs will demand hours of independent study and screentime. But the upside of online education is that you determine your pace and study routine. You can plot your study time to be in-sync with your other responsibilities apart from your education – be it personal tasks, work commitments, or home and leisure activities. With your coursewares already assisgned to you by your university, it is easier for you to plan and schedule how you will accomplish your learning modules and course deliverables ahead. You can also pick your learning environment depending on where you will be most productive. Just make sure to secure a location that is conducive to learning – well lit, quiet, and distraction free.
5. How much time can you invest in learning online?
To emphasize: succeeding in online education takes commitment. You must be honest with yourself about how much time you can allocate to your studies. This is one cardinal rule before you sign up for the program to attain your desired result – the completion of your online degree.
Be creative in setting your time for studying. Apart from making time every day to review, use your free time to do a quick run through of your readings. Your morning and evening commute can be a good time to watch your recorded lecture videos or scan through your course materials. While doing chores, you can put your e-textbooks in read-aloud mode on speaker so you will be learning while being productive in other personal activities. You just have to apply the right mindset and the extra discipline of balancing your day to day.
Learn about Mapúa University’s fully online master’s and bachelor’s degree program offerings at https://www.mapua.edu.ph/uox/.