Interested in earning a college degree, but don’t have the time or budget to support an on-campus experience?
Online study is becoming an increasingly popular way to continue your education. Chris Foley, assistant vice president and director of online education at Indiana University, says many of the students enrolled in IU’s online graduate program work and have children. “They generally are between 25 and 35—prime, career-building family time.”
Online study can be an attractive choice for those who want to “gain skills that would help them move up in their current career,” shift to a new career field or just increase their knowledge about a certain subject, Foley said.
Blended programs, in which part of your study time is online, and part on campus, also are an option. Foley says that for some, blended programs combine “the best of both worlds,” providing a traditional connection to faculty and students, along with the opportunity to integrate field research or field trips.
An effective search for an online program should be conducted as thoroughly as one for an on-campus program.
First, Foley says, determine your end goal: For example, do you want to find another job or earn a promotion? Then, talk to those who have already completed such a program to see if it delivered. Once you’ve tackled those steps, it’s time to begin your search.
- Look for programs that have earned regional accreditation and that “have a reputation for developing strong graduates in your particular area of study.”
- Researching costs and fees is also critical. Some institutions charge a flat rate to earn as many credits as you want, but many students complete online programs on a part-time basis, so paying by the credit hour makes more sense for them. “Make sure you’re not going to get charged for courses you’re not going to take,” Foley says. Also, learn whether courses are offered on a semester or quarterly basis.
- Carefully read the requirements and ensure that they fit your budget, schedule and lifestyle. Some institutions require students to spend part of their time on campus. Is the course schedule flexible? Can you do the coursework on your own time, or are you required to be online on certain days and at specific times?
- If you’re looking at an online program from a local college or university, Foley also recommends making an on-site visit to get a feel for the campus. He suggests meeting with faculty members and visiting the Student Services office. Try to make a stop at the Career Services Office and take time to talk with students or advisors, if possible.
Whether you’re taking your education online or in the classroom, taking the time to complete your “due diligence” will ensure that you’re on the path to a successful career.
The Building Futures Initiative in Fort Wayne offers three weeks of pre-apprentice training in construction trades. Available now in Allen County, the Northeast Indiana Works (NIW) program may expand to other areas in the northeastern part of the state. NIW estimates that 5,000 additional building trades workers will be needed in that region in the next decade. For more info, visit www.neibt.org.
Education Matters Southern Indiana helps adults in five Southern Indiana counties find their way to higher education opportunities. The organization, which serves adults in Clark, Floyd, Harrison, Scott and Washington counties, provides information and resources on financial aid, scholarships, counseling, remedial classes and partner colleges. Visit www.educationmatterssi.org for details.
“An online degree program can be a great option for adults returning to college. Many prospective students are employed full time and have family or other obligations that make it challenging to attend a traditional university. Having the flexibility to take classes whenever and wherever they want to can be a real advantage. Online degree programs can help busy adults fit higher education into their already busy lifestyle. Competency-based programs can be valuable, too, because they enable students to advance at their own pace.”
— Allison Barber
Chancellor, WGU Indiana