Consider online classes. Online college courses are convenient. You don’t have to be “in” class at a set time. While most classes do have deadlines to meet, the coursework itself is self-paced. You can work on your class at 3 a.m. if that’s when you function the best. You can take one course at a time, or a full load.
Online courses can also save you money. You won’t have to drive to campus or pay for campus parking. You won’t have the temptation of grabbing a quick bite while to/from class. You can avoid the campus bookstore and find other resources for your textbooks.
As a former academic advisor and instructor at a community college, and as someone who is married to a community college instructor who teaches half of his classes online, I’d like to share some advice for those of you considering online courses.
1) Just because the class is online, doesn’t mean it is independent study. You must keep up with daily reading and assignments. You have some flexibility as to what time of day you work on your class, but you do need to be checking in at least once a day.
2) Just like face-to-face classes, participation counts. The more you participate in the class discussions, the more engaged you will be, and you will get more from the class.
3) Don’t think you can cheat in the class, because chances are that the instructor will be able to tell. Besides that, you’ll only be cheating yourself. Don’t think instructors will buy excuses, either. Remember, they have kids, jobs, responsibilities, too.
4) You need to buy the required textbook. Some students think that if the course is online, they don’t need a book. If the instructor says you need a book, you need a book.
5) Only take college courses from accredited colleges and universities. If you have to transfer for some reason, you want to make sure that the credits you earned will apply to your next school.
6) Don’t be afraid to ask for help. E-mail your instructor, contact the college’s academic/tutoring center, or ask a friend or classmate to help you study. The students who are most at risk for failing are those unwilling to seek help. Seek help early and often. Take responsibility for your education.
7) Don’t try to take on too much. If you have a hectic family life, a job, and other personal demands thrust on you, don’t take on a full load of college courses. I would rather see a student take their time and do well than overload themselves and destroy their transcript with less than stellar grades.
8) You must have reliable internet access. This seems like kind of a no-brainer, but many people think they’ll be able to just use the library or a friend’s computer. Sometimes your schedule doesn’t mesh with others, so you will need to be able to get online on your own terms. Of course, freak computer crashes happen, so you will also need a back-up plan for how you will complete your homework if your computer or internet fails.
9) Realize that an online class is the same as a face-to-face class, it is simply presented in a different format. Instead of listening to an instructor lecture, you’ll be reading most of what he/she has to say. You will still have to put in some time to get a good grade. Remember that this won’t be easy. If college were easy, everyone would have a degree!
10) Begin with the end in mind. Set goals for yourself. What type of degree are you seeking? What do you want to learn? How will this course help you reach those goals? When will you work on your classes? What things have you put in place to ensure you’ll have adequate uninterrupted study time? The more thought you put into your educational goals, the more you will get out of them.
Note: This is the fourth post in Northern Cheapskate’s Back to School Savings series. Please join me this week as I share more tips for saving money as you head back to school.