Distance Learning Q&A

Question: How do I register for online classes?
Answer: Most school websites will have a link where you can register online. Or, look for the Contact Us link for phone and email information. A couple of the larger online institutions even offer a live chat option with an admissions advisor.

Question: What kind of technology will I need to get an online college degree?
Answer: First and foremost, you need a computer with a fast processor and internet access (preferably DSL or Cable).

As for programs, you would benefit most from having Windows 2000 or XP (or the MAC equivalent), Microsoft Office (featuring Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), an email account, a CD/DVD drive, and virus protection software (for your own peace of mind). If there are other programs you need (such as BlackBoard), you should be able to download the software from the school’s website, or they will send you the CD software. For institutions requiring distance learning assignments to be sent via snail mail, access to a laser or inkjet printer is required.

Question: Who can attend online classes?
Answer: Any student dedicated to learning may apply to a distance learning institution. Many online schools do not require standardized test scores (with the exception of certain specialized degrees such as Medicine and Law). However, prospective students do need to prove a minimum grade point average from their previous learning institution (including high school). Additionally, some schools require 1-5 years of professional work experience prior to admission.

Question: How does testing work through distance learning programs?
Answer: Tests are administered in a variety of ways. Some classes do not have them at all, choosing to grade students through their coursework and class participation instead. Some require essay tests sent via attachment or embedded in the body of an email. Others set up a multiple choice/fill-in-the-blank test via the class website that may either be timed or untimed. And a few schools require their students to visit a local campus where a proctor will administer the exam (just like during the SATs).

Question: What if I have questions on the course material?
Answer: The beauty of distance learning allows students to have easier access to their professors and instructors. Whereas at a regular college or university, you can only speak with them briefly after class or during their limited office hours, but in an online learning environment, emails and posts on the message boards to the faculty are usually answered within a 24-hour period of time.

Question: What if I don’t turn my assignments in on time or have not participated in the online boards?
Answer: When you register for your class, your instructor will give you their guidelines and expectations. Should you not meet them, it is recommended to contact your professor immediately and explain the reason why you have not turned in assignments or participated on the message boards. Granted, since you knew about these requirements beforehand, it is unlikely your teacher will have any choice other than fail you or give you an incomplete for the course.

Question: How do I get research materials for my online degree classes?
Answer: Many schools offer online virtual libraries that all students can access free of charge. Should your school not offer this service, check with local libraries or nearby universities for their policies on utilizing their facilities.

Question: What if I don’t have a major yet?
Answer: Most online educational institutions require you to declare a major prior to beginning matriculation as that choice will affect which courses you need to take. Once registered, you will be able to change your major at any time. Keep in mind, though, that you may not be able to transfer some credits from major to major. For example, a Health and Wellness class will have no bearing on a Business Management degree.

Question: Will traditional universities accept course credits from online universities?
Answer: Most traditional learning environments will accept online course credits within reason, such as core classes like Math, English, and History. However, you need to first ensure that your distance learning institution is accredited (i.e., a legitimate school and not a degree mill). Without having proper accreditation behind your credit hours, no other school (traditional or online) will accept your credit transfer request.

Question: Does distance learning cost less than traditional colleges and universities?
Answer: On average, distance learning institutions can cost as much, if not a bit more, than a traditional school tuition. However, with student aid and/or scholarships, they become much more affordable. Plus, online learning negates outside costs such as gas, tolls, and dormitory room and board. Plus, you can still work at your regular job while still working towards you degree on a schedule that works for you.

Question: How fast can I complete my degree through an online institution?
Answer: Online learning is neither fast nor easy. On average, full-time distance learning students take approximately 15 to 20 credit hours per semester. Depending upon the major, that equates to 2.5-4 years to earn your degree, which is still a shorter period of time than at most traditional learning institutions.

Question: How is it possible to finish a online degree program so quickly?
Answer: At a traditional university, someone who has to work full or part time, or has family obligations, can usually only take 9 credit hours per semester. Additionally, most schools limit the number of credit hours a student can take per semester to 18. Distance learning institutions are not bound by such restrictions. In an online learning environment, a student can devote time to their studies when it is convenient for them, and multitask while working on their degree. Even taking only one class at a time, it is possible to complete up to 27 credit hours in a single year.

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