Has your professional career hit a plateau? Are you looking to progress and land a dream promotion? Or do you simply want to safeguard your current employment? Whatever the case might be, there are various reasons to study for a degree.
If you’re in full-time employment, however, you may question how it’s possible to fit in the time to attend classes and travel to college/university. This point is only exemplified if you also have family commitments.
Thanks to the rise in technology, online learning has become a viable option for those leading busy lives. Plus, an increasing number of colleges and universities are offering their programs over the internet, meaning there are more degree opportunities and courses available than ever before.
There’s just one question: Is it worth pursuing an online degree?
It is a big commitment to make, and there are many different elements that need to be considered. For a start, every online learner requires certain skills to successfully acquire a degree.
The skills an online student requires
Before you decide to enroll onto a course, it’s essential you step back and take an honest look at your ability. Do you have the right skills and temperament to study online? Without these vital skills, you will struggle to cope with going back into education, so if you find yourself without any of the following skills, it will benefit you, if you are truly interested in what an online degree can do for you, to first harness these skills.
So what are these necessary skills? Here’s a quick rundown:
- Basic computer skills
- Time management
- Collaboration and team building
- Independent study skills
- Dedication and patience
To successfully acquire an online degree, the ability to self-motivate is essential. In certain regards, you are out on your own when studying online. You will have instructors and peers to bounce off, of course, but it’s very much an independent approach to learning.
Due to this, it’s necessary to take steps to ensure you have the discipline and motivation to complete your course. You have to log in regularly to the course, keep track of deadlines, and finish coursework in a timely manner.
If you ever feel snowed under and your enthusiasm starts to drop, take a step back and remember why you enrolled on the course in the first place.
Linking in with the previous point, you also require the ability to delegate your time effectively. This needs to be done from the very start. If procrastination becomes an issue for just a few days, you could spend months trying to catch up on the work – particularly if you are juggling family commitments and/or a full-time job at the same time.
For a few time management tips, take into account the following list:
- Have a daily schedule: A daily schedule, where you set aside time each day to log in to your course and complete work, will help keep you in a routine and on the right path.
- Have a long-term schedule: Read the syllabus, record dates for all exams and assignments, and plot out a schedule to cover the entire course. It’s recommended to use a task calendar app to set reminders.
- Avoid distractions: Stop social media notifications, turn off the TV, and place all focus on your assignments.
- Break it down: Certain projects might be overwhelming at first, but they become much more manageable when broken down into smaller tasks.
- Get a good night’s sleep: Sleeping for seven to eight hours a day has many health benefits, including an increase in focus, memory, and mood.
Basic computer skills
In this day and age, most will see this as a given. Yet certain would-be students fail to possess the computer skills for earning a degree online.
As a starting point, you will need a desktop or laptop – one with a microphone and webcam – to get going. A fast internet connection will be required if the course incorporates live lecture streams. An email address is also mandatory for communication.
While the above is straightforward enough, it starts to get a little trickier when processes like the following are added to the equation:
- Communicating with chat and video conferencing platforms
- Joining forum discussions
- Uploading assignments
- Navigating the college/university website
- Installing and using software
- Converting files into PDF files
If you feel a refresher is necessary, there are thankfully many guides available to help with basic computer skills.
Collaboration and team building
The capability to work with others is another integral aspect when it comes to earning an online degree. You might think that, as you’re studying in isolation away from a traditional place of learning, it’s a solo effort. However, collaborating is a key component in the learning process.
For instance, certain courses will place you into a group to complete assignments and projects. Even if you don’t see it initially, there are various advantages of working alongside your fellow classmates. It allows you to build leadership skills and knowledge in a practical way, where you can view situations and difficulties from different perspectives. Although to grow in this manner, you have to be vocal and involved when collaborating.
Independent study skills
As established in the previous point, working in a team is important. Yet, there is also a clear requirement to possess strong independent study skills. Do you have the ability to learn on your own? Can you utilize all of the available resources to finish online assignments to a high standard? Can you go out of your way to source additional resources when needed?
Instructors will be around to extend a helping hand whenever you desire that extra bit of guidance, but online learning is a place where the independent study is paramount.
The ability to be judicious with preparation is integral when it comes to starting an online course. You cannot simply jump straight into this type of education without putting in any groundwork. This will only lead to issues further down the line.
As an example, you need to establish a space that is conducive for effective study. This space should be one where you have all materials readily available to use, where you can avoid distractions and be productive. Furthermore, it’s imperative to take the time to prepare a schedule that won’t be detrimental to your professional and personal life.
The benefits of learning online for you and your career
Now you have an accurate picture about the type of skills required, you will know if you are the right fit for online learning. Considering you have reached this point of the article, it’s likely you feel suited to this form of education.
With that established, it’s time to explore the benefits you can enjoy when learning online for a degree.
It’s a respected way to earn a degree
Forget about viewing an online degree as one that is inferior to those earned from a standard brick-and-mortar institution. In fact, employers will view an online degree with the same level of respect as a traditional one.
One reason for this is due to the amount of established, reputed colleges and universities which are now offering their courses online. After all, learning via this route is becoming more accepted in society. Employers understand that more and more people are receiving training and education via internet-based means.
Expanding on that, don’t be surprised if a hiring manager deems an online degree to be greater than the traditional type. This is because you are demonstrating a resourceful, initiative-driven approach to learning. Despite sticking with your job, you have gone out of the way to improve professionally.
There’s no need to pause your career
For those in full-time employment, there is one significant reason for going the online degree route: there’s no need to quit your job.
Back in the day when you wanted to pursue further education while in employment, it was essentially mandatory to either give up your profession or scale back on the number of work hours you could do. For obvious reasons, this wasn’t a viable option for many.
Now, however, both full-time employment and a degree-level education can flow together harmoniously. Keeping your job is advantageous in two significant ways. First of all, you can continue earning a paycheck and avoid the need to rely on some form of financial support. Secondly, you won’t leave a notable gap on your resume – something that could be viewed negatively by future employers.
Speaking of future career opportunities, your ability to work while studying for a degree will be viewed favorably by employers. They will recognize you are proficient with regards to time management.
“Online learning can be a lifeline to those who have obstacles, such as geographical distances or physical disabilities.”
– Paul Levinson, author of “The Soft Edge”
The level of flexibility is another aspect regarded as one of the major advantages of online learning. As mentioned on a number of occasions already in this article, there’s no need to sacrifice your work or personal commitments. You don’t even have to leave your home.
The sheer amount of courses and degrees available also has to be highlighted. If you want to expand your business analytics knowledge, for instance, there are MSBA programs available where you can gain an AACSB-accredited degree. Plus, due to the fact that there’s no need to commute to class, you have greater scope for selecting an educational establishment anywhere in the country – or even world.
Moreover, you can decide on the amount of time to spend on your online course. While a full degree will require a certain amount of dedication, various courses can be done on a self-paced basis. This means you can decide to take your time while earning your qualifications, or you can sprint through the course. You may even elect to handle a couple of courses at the same time.
It is more affordable
Not only do you save time, but an online degree tends to be much more affordable than those supplied by traditional brick-and-mortar establishments.
As a starting point, you will find a number of different courses and programs, ones offered by top-rated colleges and universities, which are at a fraction of their standard cost. These can be offered at a cheaper rate by these establishments due to the expenses they inevitably save due to lessons being conducted over the internet.
Due to not going to a brick-and-mortar school, there are several other ways in which you can save money. There’s no need to spend money commuting to classes, and this will also save your vehicle – assuming you drive – from any additional wear and tear. In addition, you avoid having to splash the cash on rent for a dorm room or accommodation near the college/university.
If you’re fortunate enough, your current employer might even offer financial support for your education. They could do this to reduce the possibility of turnover, and also to promote within the company.
You can still network
Inevitably, there are some disadvantages to studying online compared to the more traditional route. Yet while you might believe this also includes the ability to network, that’s actually not the case.
Due to the number of communication options available with online learning, you can easily connect with students and instructors. In actuality, a number of online courses are specifically designed to ensure you get to know your peers.
As a result, you will become part of a global network when you begin your online studying journey. You will build connections with other professionals, and this could lead to future career opportunities.
So, is it worth it?
When you factor all of the above, and you possess all of the necessary skills to succeed, there is only one logical answer to the question. Yes, it’s certainly worth gaining an online degree. Not only is it a flexible and resourceful way to learn, but it also presents the chance to progress your career in double-quick time.
With the diverse selection of online courses offered by many accredited establishments, there’s no better time to begin studying for your degree.