How online career colleges work

In the good old days before we moved around the country a lot, most young people went through local high school and then looked around the region for a college or university to carry on learning. Not that many people crossed the country to continue their studies. Online LearningYet, in a very real way today, that’s what the internet allows you to do. While sitting at home, you can be watching videos of lectures prepared on the other side of the country, while chatting with a professor in a different place, and other students from who knows where. That’s both the strength and weakness of the online experience. At one end of the scale there are Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in which top-named academics set out to teach some interesting ideas to as many people who want to enroll, through the generality of distance learning brought to the internet by the middle-ranking colleges and universities, to the more limited socratic model pioneered by Harvard and now due to launch its parallel teaching environment shortly (it’s not intended to disrupt the traditional campus modal of learning).

The advantages of online learning

Because the lectures are pre-recorded and the course materials are available as files for download, you have complete control over when you study. That’s a big plus if you’re already holding down a job or have to fit in study around other commitments, e.g. you’re a young mother looking after children.

You also control where you study. It can be in the comfort of your own home or from wherever you and your laptop happen to be sitting. This can make study practical even though your current situation requires you to travel.

It controls cost. If you have to leave home to attend courses at a traditional brick and mortar college or university, you not only have to pay the course fees, but also find enough money to pay living expenses in new accommodation. Since you can study from home, it even reduces travel costs and time commuting to a local college. Finally, you can fit the study round the time you earn enough to cover your current living costs and help pay the course fees. You are advancing your future career while not getting too heavily into debt.

The disadvantages of online learning

Although the extended school proposed by Harvard promises a high degree of interactivity between the lecturers and the students, the majority of the other colleges provide a more passive experience. Although there will be chances for individual and group discussions using Skype and comparable conferencing packages, it’s not the same as a face-to-face opportunity to discuss the course materials with the professors and other students. Many will miss the chance for both casual and structured meetings with the instructors.

The passivity of the learning opportunity puts all the burden of motivation on your shoulders. Without others around you to encourage and support, many drop by the wayside. In the case of a MOOC, this is not a loss because many are provided free. But when you have paid sometimes quite high fees for the chance to learn, you must be sure you will get good value for money by completing the course and getting the qualification.

Many say the experience of leaving home and joining in the social life of a college or university is the big advantage of further education.

What about online career colleges?

You are looking to get yourself ready for a great career and a future in which you earn enough to live on in a satisfactory work environment. Presumably you feel the courses run by your local colleges are not attractive or, because of your other commitments, it’s not possible to physically go through a course at a traditional college. If you feel going online is the best option, you must look for the best value for money courses.

Career colleges offer qualifications specifically tailored to individual careers, e.g. art and design, healthcare, IT, etc. Because they specialize, the curriculum evolves more quickly in response to changes in the working environment. Many colleges work directly with future employers to ensure the courses supply students with the skills future employers want. All the other students share your interests and, when you interact with them online, you’re creating a strong network of people to help and support you.

Put all this together and the expertise of the instructors and the shared drive to find you the right job should ensure you get ahead. However, before you commit to any online career college, check it has proper accreditation and that its qualifications have a good reputation among future employers. Always protect your interests and do some research.

Exploring Career Options

    Discover which jobs match your skills, interests, and experience.

    Using the latest labor market data explore which careers are growing in popularity.

    Find out what's required to get your dream job.

    Get the most job satisfaction at the best rates of pay.

    Understand what you have to do to be successful in your chosen career.