Students today face a work and social environment that is a far cry from the world their parents grew up in.
Only twenty years ago a B minus average was enough to gain admission to a decent university and tuition payments were low enough that students could often work part time on the weekends and still have enough capital left over for a couple of nights out a week. Today however, the reality is quite different. Expectations are higher and the pressures that young students face today are increasingly becoming less and less manageable.
As the bar for student expectations becomes higher each year, more and more students are taking to working full time jobs just to make ends meet and taking a full course load as well. It isn’t an easy existence and the toll it takes on young undergraduates is exhausting. “I work 40 plus hours a week, often at nights, because I have rent to pay, groceries to buy, and tuition to pay. In the mornings I go to university where I take four full time courses,” says Diego Anticona, a Peruvian-born Communications student. “I do it because I don’t have a choice. Tuition is expensive but I need to go to school because, without an education, my future isn’t going to be very sunny.”
An increasingly popular option for students wishing to pursue a university education while still making ends meet is Online, or Distance Education, essentially accredited online courses with highly flexible schedules that allow students to work full time if they need to and still pursue the degree or certificate that they’re after.
“Online courses are becoming more and more popular every year,” says Perry Gross, Admissions Officer at Ashton College. “I can’t imagine the pressures that students face with juggling work and studying but I think it’s great that they have the option of taking courses online. It’s a huge benefit to them.”
Let’s look at a few of these benefits in more detail:
One of the most important aspects of Distance Education is the flexibility that it affords students. Working full time while concurrently being enrolled in undergraduate courses or a diploma program at a college is an exhausting dance when one considers the time commitments required to sit through a classroom lecture. But online courses are usually more flexible and many are built in a modular style, giving students the freedom to select which modules they wish to complete at an order of their choosing. So this ‘self-paced learning’ allows Distance Education students to fit their studies around their work schedule.
Access to Interaction
Just because a student is enrolled in Distance Education courses doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy many of the benefits that an in-class education can provide. “Learning from home doesn’t mean you can’t see instructors during office hours or take part in collaborative activities,” says Gross. “Ashton routinely holds webinars for online courses that students can plug into from anywhere in the world. They can sit in from a coffee shop if they want to or at home with their kids. All that’s required is a webcam and microphone for them to enjoy all the benefits of an in-class course.”
Full Autonomy of Learning
If you’re considering enrolling in a Distance Education course or program, chances are you’re an autonomous person. After all, if you’re already juggling working full time then your time management skills are probably quite good. By virtue of its format and more open scheduling, Distance Education is geared towards mature students who are fully capable of autonomous learning. The reason for this is because the format of online learning does not lend itself well to individuals with difficulty following things through. If you procrastinate you may be better off with a more traditional in-person class format.
“The way online courses are set up, the responsibility is almost entirely on the shoulders of the student,” says Gross. “It takes a certain mindset to complete an online course, you have to be disciplined.” Those that aren’t tend not to complete online courses and from a monetary standpoint, why waste hard earned money?
Become Familiar with new Technology
Everyone knows at least one professor who still teaches like it’s 1992. This usually means a creaky overhead projector and dusty transparent sheets with ancient Dry Erase marker ink. But an added benefit of Distance Education is that students will quickly become familiar with the latest in webinar technology and educational message board programs. Need to upload a paper before an 11.59pm deadline? No problem. A click of a mouse button and it’s off. Need to plug in and watch a webinar while you’re in transit to work? Easy, turn on your webcam for the train journey and you’re basically in class.
Distance Education really epitomizes how people can become educated in a fast-paced, increasingly digital world. If you’ve been putting off finishing that degree or getting certified for that career change you’ve always wanted, go see a program adviser today.
About the Authors
Adam Bajan is a writer and PR Specialist. He holds a Master’s degree in communication and a Public Relations certificate from Simon Fraser University.