The opportunity to attend class "anytime, anywhere" is enticing, especially if you're working long hours and don't live near the campus of the school you want to attend. But TechRepublic members warn that online learning is just as intensive, if not more so, than attending classes at a brick-and-mortar institution.
TechRepublic recently published “Boosting skills while working requires flexibility,” a Bob Weinstein article about Web-based college degree programs and integrating education into an IT professional's work schedule.
According to a discussion that followed, TechRepublic members agreed with Weinstein that online classes can be a struggle and can require more commitment than attending traditional classes.
In this article, TechRepublic members describe their personal experiences with continuing education and share some advice for those considering signing up for an online course.
Online class is a unique environment
Members say virtual classes are actually more challenging than traditional in-classroom courses because online lectures don't provide any real, direct connection with instructors, or even with fellow students. “Remember that in a class[room] environment, the instructor can quickly assess visually whether the class is ‘getting it’ or not. Online, the only way to tell is by the product of your efforts,” related TechRepublic member John McGinnis.
Other members explained that the nature of online instruction mandates a high level of student discipline and commitment. It can be difficult to find the extra time needed to make a stronger commitment while working, said Kimberly Denz, a member working toward a bachelors of science in IT at the University of Phoenix Online. "It is tough, but very rewarding,” she added.
TechRepublic member Steven Edgecomb also attends classes online through the University of Phoenix. He said his reading requirements average anywhere from 100 pages to 250 pages a week. “The online experience allows me to attend whenever I can," he said. "It demands a great amount of discipline and time. Each course is crammed into five weeks.”
More information on online courses
The following schools offer online courses in technology: University of Phoenix Capella University University of Massachusetts The University Alliance
Flexibility comes with a more intense workload
Members pointed out that online classes do offer greater flexibility than traditional courses, as online lectures can be played at a student’s convenience, and tests can be taken when the student is ready.
“The online experience, for me, is the only way to go. With my hectic work schedule, I can’t always count on being able to attend a scheduled class,” said Edgecomb.
Yet that flexibility doesn't mean less study time. TechRepublic members report that the time commitment required to succeed with virtual education is the same, or even greater, than that of traditional programs.
“The curriculum and homework assignments are exactly the same as the UoP (University of Phoenix) ground campus, but many students exposed to both feel the workload is more intense and more difficult online,” said Denz.
Member J. Harrison agreed. “The online experience is more flexible, but it is not really less time-consuming. Each three-credit class lasts for four weeks, so you can imagine the amount of reading and classwork that is involved,” said Harrison, another University of Phoenix Online student.
Online degrees are respected
Despite some disadvantages, like the lack of face time with instructors and little interaction with fellow students, online course study is getting the same respect as traditional education programs.
In his column, Weinstein reported that "most employers see no difference between job candidates with a virtual degree vs. a traditional one.” And according to TechRepublic member Claude Watson, some employers may respect online degrees a bit more, due to the strong discipline and student commitment required to earn that type of degree.
“In my opinion, the online courses are more dependent on your being self-motivated than most classroom situations. I have found that employers do agree with that theory as well. It never hurts [for the candidate] to point that out during the interview process,” said Watson.
What would you like to study?
If you were to return to school, either online or at a traditional educational institution, what courses or type of degree would you pursue? Send us an e-mail and let us know.