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Old 11-04-2009, 09:37 AM
Location: Earth
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I've long since graduated from high school and due to lack of money and also because I'm not what you'd consider to be "college material", I did not go to college.

Instead I signed up for the U.S. military which I am still proudly serving. As part of being in the military, I've attended classes that are mainly for on the job training. As a result, every class I have attended has counted 1 point against getting closer to achieving an associates degree.

I am now 15 points shy of that degree, and even though I'm still not what you'd consider "college material" (I am more about hands-on learning as opposed to books - I lean MUCH better that way) I have decided I am going to try to duke it out thru the dryness of school and push to get that degree.

We have a small local community college by National American University. But also I am a family man with a wife and a little one.

Which leads me to wonder, if it's better to stay at home and take an on line course or if I'd be better off to spend 2 hours away every day at the local school?

Is there anything better about one versus the other?

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Old 11-04-2009, 10:55 AM
Location: On the Chesapeake
43,513 posts, read 57,838,264 times
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Explore on-line but it takes a lot of discipline to do it. Not everyone is suitable. I am a certified on-line instructor and mentor so those are my bona fides for the above statement. Some of my training was on-line and had I not been ordered to become qualified I would have dropped it.
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Old 11-04-2009, 11:35 AM
Location: Earth
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Thanks. By discipline, do you mean that getting yourself motivated/in gear to get online or get it done?
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Old 11-04-2009, 02:00 PM
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Also check at the base education office to see about on base classes. Sometimes they are during the day, or even if they are in the evening, its one less place to have to spend time driving to.

Also: See about CLEP and DSST (Dantes) exams for credit. My husband got one of his core requirements out of the way doing that. He had most everything from attending college for some time before the AF, but I think he specifically needed a speech class. The Ed office will have a list of classes they do CLEP and DSST testing for.
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Old 11-04-2009, 04:06 PM
Location: On the Chesapeake
43,513 posts, read 57,838,264 times
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Originally Posted by Deez Nuttz View Post
Thanks. By discipline, do you mean that getting yourself motivated/in gear to get online or get it done?

Pretty much to get online and do the work, communicate with your cohort and the instructor and all the stuff that goes with being in an online course. A lot of the course work as far as projects and papers is similar to a bricks and mortar school but it's the internal communication in the class that I found to be a pain.
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Old 11-05-2009, 02:22 PM
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Deez nutz, you sound like me. I am not exactly college material. Im basically a goof ball when it comes to academics. I tried the online school thing. Not for me. Id usually be stoned by the time i logged on. Its much harder to get help as well. I finally finished off my associates in a community college and am going further with my education at the same school.
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Old 11-07-2009, 11:59 PM
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It depends on what you're studying. I will say, having spent 3 years earning a degree online, that it takes a lot more self-discipline and motivation. And with the degree that I pursued, I found that there was also a lot more reading required than I had with my first degree at a brick-and-mortar school.
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Old 11-08-2009, 12:18 AM
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I found that there are a lot of little assignments in online classes. I took one that required a weekly blog, weekly discussion with our classmates, and weekly reading. There were some projects that were given 3+ weeks to complete.

The good thing about it is there is obviously no meeting place or time for the class. It does require a lot of discipline and at least some basic computer/internet knowledge. Technology can bite you in the butt sometimes on important days (down internet, corrupt files, etc.).

I don't know if I could take a math/science course online since I prefer to ask questions during lectures about concepts and theory.
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Old 11-08-2009, 09:52 AM
Location: Maryland's 6th District.
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I took one online class over this last summer, and I hope to never take one again. I couldn't imagine doing an entire degree online.

The course that I took had a requirement that you were to log on twice a week at your discretion. The day or time didn't matter. The syllubus didn't mention anything about being logged for X amount of time, either. It was to simply log on twice to be counted as 'attending'.

Our assignments and quizzes were also due every Sunday by 11:59 pm.

At first I was all over it. I was logged in all the time, doing the work, emailing the teacher, etc. Then, after about three weeks, I started to slack off. Not that I lost motivation, but in a sense that I forgot that I was going to school. Since I could realistically attend class anywhere that me and laptop where (and a wireless connection, too), and not have to physically be at Location L at Time T, it became easy to become lazy with it. There were weeks were it was Friday or Saturday before I even realized that I had not logged in for the week yet, and a few times where it was 10 pm on a Sunday night before I realized that I had homework to turn in before midnight.

Another thing was that I had to physically go to campus to take the exams. I ended up with a B+, which is good. I would have gotten an A if I had went to brick and mortar since it would have been easier for me to manage time and assignments.
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Old 11-08-2009, 03:34 PM
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I don't think there is an answer that applies to all community colleges and online programs. There are good online programs and bad ones, and good community colleges and bad ones.

I am currently applying to graduate schools. Two of them are online, one is a physically based program in my area. The two online are much better programs--one is ranked the highest program in the country, even compared to physical campus programs. And there are colleges in my area that are officially 'community colleges' that are highly regarded and offer Associates, Bachelor's and even a few Master's degrees; and there are community colleges in my area that have been shut down by the Department of Labor for lacking even the most basic standards. So you can't judge the value of the education merely by the type of institution they are. The quality and format of the program are more important.

The advantage of online programs, of course, are that they are completely adaptable to your schedule and location. You don't have to move to get a degree from a well-regarded program, and you don't have to give up your job. A disadvantage, as someone else alluded to, is that you don't have a prescribed schedule or classroom, so you have be self-disciplined. With no set schedule for lectures, it can be easy to let them slip and get behind. It can be easy to let distractions dilute your focus. I have taken a few non-credit online classes and it can take me 90 minutes to get through a one-hour lecture, because little things can distract me (tv, the cat, things that need to be put away, people-watching at cafes) and I have to set the video back and listen again.

These latter disadvantages though, are probably more of an issue for someone who is accustomed to a physical-campus program. Someone who attended undergraduate school on a campus, for example. Since you have no prior college experience, these disadvantages may be diminished.

Some things to consider about online learning:

--does the program have all of the accreditations necessary for the field? States regulate various occupations and those regulations may require a certain number of credits and a degree from an accredited institution. Some universities have accreditation for their campus programs but not their online programs, so be sure to inquire about the distinction.

--what support resources does the program offer to online students? Are there chat forums? About what topics (general student issues? general program issues? or are the forums restricted on a by-lecture basis? some programs are very strict and won't allow forum posts to stray at all beyond a particular lecture's content, and close forum discussions after the lecture has passed. this can be pretty frustrating if you want to revisit a topic you previously thought you understood or just need general support as a student)? Are there live chats (particularly for professors and academic advisors; it can be vexing to try to resolve issues with a professor or your overall program via email only)? What hours are live chats available (if only during the daytime, will this service be an option for you if you are at work)?

--how are on-campus resources offered to online students? Is the full library catalog online, and will they mail texts to you? What about campus bookstore orders? Do they offer help getting in touch with other online students living in your area (sometimes just an occasional coffee break with other students, even if they aren't studying the same subject, can help in the way of moral support and motivation)? How will you be able to access career counselors, academic advisors, or financial advisors?

--what is the actual class experience like? I would go so far as to say, if the university doesn't let you attend a sample online class, you should pass on their program. Are the lectures delivered in text or video format? Text format can be very hard to follow. Video lectures are much more engaging. What is the student forum/chat interface like? What are the assignments like? How much time is allowed for completing lectures, assignments, and tests? Is a syllabus published? How are grades published? How is registration completed? Is it easy to navigate to exactly the thing you need, such as the most recent class, or do you have to progress through a series of screens to get there? How many students are in an online class and what support does the professor have to handle that load (I took an online course once where the 'professor' was basically the person who'd written the lectures; she never logged into the forums or responded to assignments. There were two teaching assistants, one of which only handled technical/equipment/software problems, leaving the other teaching assistant to review all assignments and answer every question--for nearly 200 students. Obviously with that kind of arrangement, her answers were short and not very illuminating, and she never took the time to answer follow-up questions)? Are lectures only available while connected to the internet, or can you download them and take them with you (portability is a GREAT feature; you can watch your lectures on a plane during a business trip, on the subway, waiting for your kid's soccer practice to finish, etc.)? Are you able to save PDFs of written materials for referral later in the semester or after the class is finished, or does the material expire?

--what special requirements will you need as an online student that you wouldn't need as an on-campus student? What are the computer hardware requirements and how much will it cost to purchase them? Are all courses offered in both PC and Mac format and is the online campus website fully accessible using any web browser (I once took a course that crashed all the time using Firefox; their web format was optimized only for Internet Explorer)? If some courses are offered in only PC format or only Mac-format, will you be able to complete all the necessary coursework for the degree? Will you be limited to electives that don't interest you? What kind of software will you have to purchase and how much will that cost? What kind of textbooks are required and how much extra will they cost (with Amazon selling textbooks now, this isn't as much of a problem, but shipping heavy textbooks can be pricy and really add to your expenses)? What other supplies will you need and is there a local supply store that you can shop at (for things like graphing calculators, graph paper, etc)? Will you need a scanner or digital camera to submit assignments? If you are required to mail in your assignments, how much, approximately, will it cost to mail them in on a regular basis using a trackable shipping method? If you felt the need to visit the physical campus (resolve a dispute about a grade, complete registration, attend a job fair, etc), could you do it (one of the online programs I'm considering is about 5 hours away by car--not easy but I could do it occasionally; the other is on the opposite coast--much more expensive and time-consuming).

--like every program, online or otherwise, what flexibility does the program offer if you change your mind or want to continue your studies? One of the programs I am currently considering offers both an MA and an MFA. The MA is 9 core courses; the MFA is those same 9 courses plus an additional 6. I can complete the first 9 and have a degree, and then apply them towards the MFA later if I choose. I can pursue that MFA right away or wait as much as 8 years to complete the second degree. By contrast, the other online program I am considering offers an MA and an MFA that are completely different programs, with no overlapping coursework. If I choose one and change my mind, I'll have to start completely over. Also, is the program semester or quarter-based? Quarter-based are more fast-paced, but they also are easier to take year-round, so you can keep up the pace of your studies. Semester based programs typically offer very few courses during the summer and winter terms, which can slow down your progress in completing the program. Also, a quarter-based program is 'part-time' with only one class, so you can immerse yourself in that one subject, whereas a semester-based program, part time is usually two or three classes.

Just my 2¢. Good luck to you.

Last edited by kodaka; 11-08-2009 at 03:50 PM..
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