Thomas Hollowell - Author, Athlete, Entrepreneur, World Traveler

MacBook Toting Guru

In times past, the difference between Fahrenheit and Celsius were the only degrees people were confused about. Nowadays, the degree debate evolves around brick-and-mortar institutions versus online campuses. Numerous questions arise and virtual establishments that meet modern students’ diverse needs are rapidly surfacing. In a world of competition, the Internet classroom is evening the odds for everyone to pursue their career or life interests.
Statistically, if you have been a student of higher education since 2004, you’ve already had some exposure to electronic education. Whether the course schedule was published on your university’s website, or you submitted your work to a professor’s database, you might already have had some experience in what has been dubbed “e-learning”. For those of us out of the modern educational loop, we’ve probably had some exposure to the Internet through e-mail, chat forums, or putting our photos online for family and friends. Some of us might have even started a blog. For the remainder, don’t resign yourself quite yet. Online institutions now offer tutorials to get even the most computer-illiterate to the point where they can attend a class.

While living in a cramped dorm, attending a class of 100, and having an assistant grade your prized final paper is appealing to some, others searching for an alternative type of education are finding it on the Internet. In fact, it is most popular with stay-at-home parents, professionals already established in their field, and those looking to change careers. One great aspect about e-learning is that you don’t have to work towards a doctorate in nuclear physics. You can opt to study for a specialty certificate applicable to your own interests or profession, which won’t take years to complete.

E-learning has been around for over fifteen years. As technology has advanced, so have the standard criteria of online classrooms. One leader in the field is the Sloan Consortium (
http://www.sloan-c.org) whose goal is to advance the state and status of online learning through affordable, yet high academic standards. Therefore, online institutions are held to the same standards as their real counterparts, and are continually monitored and updated. This means that earning a degree online requires as much work as attending a regular classroom. One argument even states that online studies are more difficult because the student must possess more motivation and discipline than a student in a university where peer pressure to succeed and study groups exist.

Because the online classroom is already established, a plethora of programs are available. If you’ve had a dream of working in the criminal justice system, heading the IT department, or giving back to youth through teaching, earning a degree online is a viable option. Currently, the most popular degrees are business, nursing, education, human services, and of course, computer science. While this is great news, the flexibility and access of e-learning to the masses means that these fields are brimming with go-getting professionals who want to quickly climb the proverbial ladder. For those of us who remain stagnant, it might cost us dearly. With the young degree holding, MacBook toting applying for jobs, the competition is only getting fiercer – the bar only being raised.

Advantages of Online Education:

While scare tactics might help to motivate, you don’t have to go back to college (or buy a new MacBook) to get a
new degree. Quality certificate programs are available in nearly every field of study. So, even if that doctorate in Apple iPod Technology (which might exist) remains a dream, you can always advance yourself. The rewards are: job security, possible promotions, and continued career satisfaction. Additionally, your employer might cover the cost of such courses.

Moreover, taking classes online will mean that you have a certain amount of flexibility in your schedule. Although classes generally follow a syllabus, you’ll be able to
go to class when you are ready and work on projects at your own pace. For students who also work, this might mean late nights at the computer when everyone else has retired for the day. It also means; however, that you save time from having to travel back and forth for classes, lectures, and group work. Online learning can be as demanding, albeit via a virtual platform of streaming video, chat rooms, e-mails, and workspaces.

E-learning programs might be cheaper than attending regular classes as well. Universities who do not have to house, feed, or provide an actual space for learning save costs. Books might also be electronic, but this doesn’t always mean that they will be cheaper. If there is a university or program that sparks your interest, check out the difference in price of attending regular versus online classes. Although earning a degree virtually might take as long as going to school, saving money along the way is an important factor for the majority of students.

Top universities will work hard to provide the best professors in your field. This means that a current working professional – someone willing to share the most up-to-date methods and real-world knowledge available – might teach you. The exponential demand for enrollment into online programs has already earned its tenured position in the future of education. So, grab that MacBook, log on, and climb the ladder in your profession (virtually) today!

Appears in: ComputorEdge V25N25