Finding the right education path can be overwhelming for many people. These days, there are options galore and a growing number of factors to consider, like cost, accessibility, and the types of degrees or certifications available.
And now, things are about to get even more (excitingly?) complicated.
The future came in rushing and now we’re living, working and of course, learning online in more intensive ways. We might have the option to go back to where we are not allowed yet, but in the mind of many, the question lingers: Would we want to go back? We still want to learn, better ourselves, choose the right institution for ourselves or our children. But after the comforts and other benefits we have ended up experiencing, quite serendipitously, as a collective we’ve bitten the apple of elearning truth. Amid what seemed to be overarching disenchantment, people of all stripes but who are now linked to online learning technologies for their foreseeable future start wondering things like: Is this the best elearning can do? The answer is a resounding no; How do I factor in technology and elearning in my educational choices; and, Do my favorite universities and school give enough thought to their EdTech?
Given the lifestyle changes we have made in recent months, the online realm of your education can no longer be seen like a spandrel of the institution you are considering, but rather an active factor that alludes to digital savvy, learner experience —as some might argue, critical to wellbeing— and operational thoroughness. So what are important online, virtual or digital factors to consider studying at a university? Here are some strong points to consider.
Apples on campus, oranges online
To get started, you would most likely make a list of the institutions that are offering the degree or field you’re interested in. At this time, it’s very likely that this university an online university will offer the same courses as a school with in-person instruction, although some focus on specific areas, such as business and technology. Robert Half notes degrees in these fields can yield lucrative jobs after graduation, and there are plenty of options to choose from, like mobile app development and database management. In fact, these more marketable careers have been prioritized in their online transition.
But while the offer might be similar in some fields, and catching up in the rest, the experiences may vary. Not necessarily for the worst. In general, careers with a highly IT component, from Software Engineering to Digital Design and Art, lend themselves for quality education online.
If you already have some college education, you can pursue a Master’s in IT and study programs like information technology management, cybersecurity, or data analytics—three valuable areas of study in today’s tech-heavy world.
Virtuality check: Be realistic about your commitment
Before applying to any university, it’s crucial to consider how much time you’ll be able to commit to your studies; this is especially true when it comes to online learning. While your professors will be there to guide you through the courses, it’s ultimately up to you to make sure your assignments are turned in on time and that you’re able to fully commit to the learning process on your own.
You’ll also need to think about which tools you need to be successful, including a computer and a strong internet connection. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses—such as with time management, which Indeed points out will be a crucial skill after graduation—and use them to create a path for your online education.
Technology changes so quickly, it can be hard to keep up with all the advancements. However, U.S.News explains there are certain skills you need in order to be successful in your academic pursuits. Typing, online etiquette and security awareness, the ability to do heavy research via the web, and software savviness all rank among the must-have capabilities for today’s college students—both online and on campus, although even more so if you’re studying remotely.
Networking with classmates, utilizing your university’s online resources, listening to podcasts, participating in webinars, and reading tech-based news sources will keep you updated on all you need to know.
Read up on the school’s resources
Get familiar with all the resources your school offers before you get started. This might include online tutoring, financial aid, technology assistance and support, a writing center and virtual library, a counseling center, and/or job boards to connect you with employment possibilities after graduation.
Once you have a firm idea of the tools at your disposal, you can focus on earning your degree without worry—you’ll know where to turn if any hiccups arise. It’s also a good idea to take a virtual tour of your school’s website so you can easily navigate it before you begin the program of your choice.
Starting an online learning program comes with a lot to consider, but preparing ahead of time will help you figure out the best path for your needs. Use the resources at your disposal and be realistic about your goals and abilities before you choose a degree; this is the best way to ensure success and prevent frustration as you move forward.