As your junior year ends and you approach senior status, you’re probably anxious about attending the prom, the senior class trip and walking across stage during graduation. But the one thing you’re probably looking forward to most is finishing up high school and getting started with college. Why wait? With online courses, you can get started on your college education now!
The what and why of college online courses
Distance learning comes in many forms: CD-ROM, video, mail courses and more. But nowadays, college online is where it’s at. Just as the name implies, an online course is a course you do via computer and Internet.
There are definite perks to taking an online course. Thomas Nixon, a distance learning expert and coauthor of Bears’ Guide to Earning Degrees by Distance Learning, says, “One good reason for taking online courses while still in high school is to begin accumulating units that you can then transfer to your school of choice.” It’s a great method to get ahead. He suggests you ask yourself whether you’d prefer being stuck in freshman English the first year of college, or be working on one of your major courses.
Another advantage of using college online courses is the convenience. You can complete your coursework whenever you have the time—in the comfort of your own home, at a library, on a bus. And you don’t have to worry about dragging yourself out of bed early in the morning to go to class. With online courses, you can continue with your high school work and after-school activities with little to no interruptions. “Since high school students are already carrying a full schedule, this can be invaluable,” Nixon says.
What does it cost?
How much can you expect to cough up to take an online course? Prices vary depending on the school and the type of course you take. Nixon recommends looking into online courses offered through your state university system to find affordable choices.
One thing Nixon says students should keep in mind when it comes to selecting a school is, for transfer credits, there is no prestige. “Whether you earn your units at Harvard University or Podunk State, it will amount to the same thing,” he says. So your best bet is to find the cheapest accredited courses and use those.
Is online learning worth it?
Before you shell out the dough, make sure what you’re getting will be worth it. Here are some questions to help you determine that.
• What is my goal in taking the course? Nixon says there are two main reasons for taking online courses while in high school: to get your general education courses done so you can focus on your major when you get to college, or to start your major courses now. Getting your general requirements out of the way is a good idea, as it will free up time for your major classes when you get to university.
• Is the school accredited? According to Nixon, “the growth of the Internet has brought a growth in the number of degree mills—unaccredited schools that offer degrees for varying amounts of work, but of very limited value in transfer.” So it’s important you do your research on the school offering the course to make sure it’s regionally accredited. Most universities include their accreditation information on their Web sites.
• Are you motivated enough? If you’re the type of student who prefers to have a teacher standing over you to guide and assure you along the way, an online course may not be right for you. “Few programs will have teachers chasing after you to finish a course,” Nixon says. “So you must ask yourself whether you are a self-starter and whether you have the motivation to complete tasks without being reminded.”