Online Schools: An FAQ
If you are considering heading back to school to continue your education, you may be thinking about applying to an online school. Online schools are becoming extremely popular amongst students, especially those that have to work full or part time, or who have families to raise. But what exactly is an online school? How do you find one? And how much do they cost? Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about online schools.
I keep hearing about "online schools." But what exactly are they?
Online schools are educational institutions that operate over the Internet. If you are a student of an online school, you participate in classes, discussions, and lectures by logging on to the Internet with your computer. There is no physical classroom that you need to visit. Instead, your instructor teaches and assigns schoolwork by using the Internet.
How popular are online schools?
Online schooling is becoming very popular, especially as the pace of everyday life seems to be picking up. Few students now have time to commit to traditional classroom studies, and, as a result, are looking more and more to online schools to satisfy their needs. There are literally thousands of different online schools accepting students from North America and all over the world. Many traditional universities, colleges, and even secondary schools now offer online programs or degrees.
Why would I attend an online school instead of a traditional school?
There are many reasons why you might choose to attend an online school instead of signing up for traditional classes. The benefits of online learning are numerous, and include:
- the ability to learn at your own pace
- the opportunity to work, study, and raise a family at the same time
- the ability to learn and use new computer technologies
- the chance to study a number of different courses or programs
Many online universities and colleges also offer you the chance to earn an online degree, including:
- Associate’s degrees
- Bachelor’s degrees
- Master’s degrees
- Doctorate degrees
I am new to the world of online schooling, and I don’t really know what’s involved. What happens at an online school?
Online schooling is just like traditional schooling, only it takes place on the Internet instead of in a classroom. When you attend an online class, you simply logon to the course’s website, and begin to learn. At the course’s website you will find:
- all of your school lectures
- recommended and required reading materials
- tests and exams
You will likely be expected to participate in an online forum, in which you and other students discuss materials related to the class. You can ask and answer questions, contribute opinions, or just chat with other students. There will also be functions that will allow you to check your grades and student record, and contact your class instructor.
I am considering getting my degree online, but I am worried that my employer won’t accept this type of degree. Are online schools reputable?
When you sign up for an online degree, it is important to make sure that your online school of choice is a reputable one. Most reputable online learning schools will be accredited by an independent agency. The accreditation process involves a number of in-depth evaluations, which assess the quality of learning provided by an institution. Before signing up for any classes, be sure to ask your school’s representatives whether or not they are accredited and what agency has provided the accreditation. Most employers will accept any degree that is earned from an accredited school. Most courses completed at accredited online schools can also be transferred to other universities and colleges.
Can anyone sign up for a course or program offered by an online school?
Anyone who meets the qualifications of their online school of choice can sign up to complete a course or program. However, not everyone is cut out for online learning. Online learning requires a lot of patience and determination, and is very different from traditional learning. Before signing up for an online class, consider these factors:
- Are you capable of self-motivated learning? Because there is no physical classroom space or live instructor, it is often up to you to push yourself to maximize your learning.
- Do you have trouble with organization, time management, or procrastination? If so, you might want to rethink online schooling, or work to overcome these issues before beginning classes.
- Do you enjoy being in a classroom with other students? If so, you may find that online learning isn’t all that enjoyable for you, because you will likely never see your fellow classmates.
How do you apply to an online school, and are the fees any different from traditional schools?
The application process for online schools is very similar to that of traditional colleges and universities. You will need to:
- complete an application form
- provide notarized transcriptions from your secondary school
- provide references
- provide test results from admissions exams (like the LSAT, MCAT, or GRE)
Many online schools will also ask you to submit an admissions essay, and may conduct a phone interview to get an idea of your qualifications and interests.
Much like traditional schools, fees vary greatly between online schools. Depending upon the program or degree you sign up for, fees could cost as much as $15,000 or more per year. However, many online schools offer affordable alternatives for students.