Online Education: is It for You? – an Interview With Author Susan Deane

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Some people argue online education is less rigorous than traditional campus education. What do you think about this?
Susan Deane: Well, that is certainly a myth – and unfortunately some students take online courses thinking that can get “easy A’s”. You need to remember that colleges that are accredited are bound by specific educational standards – so whether the course is offered “on campus” or online; the course needs to meet those standards. Online courses go through academic reviews just like any other college course to see if they meet the criterion. So the “contents” of online education are no different than traditional campus education – what’s different is the way you go to school
Online courses are cheaper than campus courses. Is this always true?
Susan Deane: Costs for online courses fall into a wide range. For the most part, online courses cost approximately the same as if you were to take courses at the traditional campus. Sometimes there are additional “technology” fees applied – but usually, these are minimal fees. Now, in some cases online courses can be much more expensive than campus courses – some specialty online programs may charge much more per course than traditional educational institutions.

So one really does need to do some searching; to find the best program and price for them. Remember though, the same financial assistance is available for online courses/programs that are there for traditional programs – so always ask to speak with a financial counselor at the school you are interested in and they can assist you in the process.
Is it necessary to be technically trained to pursue online education?
Susan Deane: Absolutely not! And that’s one of the things I hear the most from people who would like to pursue online courses but say “Oh, I am not that good with the computer”. The truth of the matter is that you “don’t need to be that good”. You do however need some basic computer skills; such as you need to be able to create a word document, know how to email, know how to email with an attachment, download documents to your computer, and surf the net to find information.

Pretty simple – and even if you don’t know how to do some of these – go ahead and ask! Ask friends, your children, other family members to show you how – and in no time you will be a pro! Also to remember – every school that offers online courses provides a Technical Support Helpline that is available to students 24/7 via the computer or phone – and they are wonderful at helping students with computer issues that are encountered – and it’s free!
Some tips to ensure success in online education
Susan Deane: My Top 5 Tips for Success:

1. Know the expectations of the course. Every course has a “Course Syllabus” – but in an online course, this is going to be very lengthy. It contains everything you need to know about that course – the assignments for the course, how they are graded, due dates, participation requirements, group projects. This is your blueprint for the course – print it out and keep it by your computer so that you can periodically review it to keep on track.
2. Familiarize yourself with “Netiquette”. This defines the appropriate conduct that is expected of a student in an online environment. Check the appropriateness of your writings – read and re-read them before sending them. Remember, in an online course – you are in still in a college setting. So when “discussing” subjects with your fellow classmates – your writings should reflect correct spelling and grammar, capitalization, sentence structure. Remember, you are not emailing or “talking” to your buddies, friends, or family – and you should be aware of the style of your writings.
3. Use your “voice”. In a traditional classroom, discussions take place during class; but in the online environment — discussions take place through your writings. So if you were one who didn’t like to “speak” in front of others, now is your chance to share your ideas, thoughts, opinions, and experiences regarding the subject matter that you are learning. And don’t be afraid to ask questions – you are not alone during an online course – you have classmates and a professor – and your professor is only “an email away”!
4. Allocate your time wisely. Some of the greatest advantages of online education are certainly convenience and flexibility. Convenient because you don’t need to “go” to school – you can actually go to school in your pajamas! And you do have the flexibility of complete readings and written assignments during the time that is best for you.

However, remember, there are still “due dates” for when assignments need to be submitted. So set up a calendar, jot the days that assignments are due – and then schedule your “study time” as well. As we know – life happens – but if you have a tentative schedule; you can make adjustments and still be successful.
5. Computer/Technical issues. Always, always have a backup plan! Anyone who works with a computer at any given time knows that when they are working great – they are great. But the minute you have a problem, virus, etc – they are a nightmare! Computers do crash – and they will always crash at the worst possible moment. So, make sure you have an alternative computer that you have access to in case that happens – and this is also a good reason not to procrastinate in completing assignments and projects

Are there any shortcomings of online education?
Susan Deane: Maybe one of the shortcomings of online education is the lack of “face-to-face” interactions that you experience in the classroom. But online education is extremely interactive through writings and podcasts – and in some cases, I think the interactions in the online classroom can be much more involved because everyone gets a chance to “speak” and you don’t need to be shy.
Online education will and should never take the place of traditional campus education – however, it is an exciting alternative to learning that is accessible to so many. Completing course and degrees are not always easy – but they are always in reach through online education.

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