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Christine TaylorBrick and Mortar, or Cyber School

by Christine Taylor

I wanted to go back to school, but my son was in elementary grade and I was the PTA president. Being the spokesperson for parents at school board meetings, scheduling events for parents and children while tending to my son's school and extra curricular activities, kept me beyond busy. Unfortunately, my husband's schedule was unpredictable so I couldn't rely on him to babysit. I couldn't afford a babysitter in addition to tuition, books and any additional expenses.

Then one day while discussing my dilemma with my brother, he mentioned that some universities offer fully accredited degree programs online. It was like the gods of higher learning heard and answered my prayers. Attending school online was a perfect fit for me but that's not to say it would be a sound solution for everyone who plans to go back to school. There are huge differences (and similarities) between a brick and mortar setting and attending a cyber university.

Getting to Know Your Classmates

There is a quote from notable french writer, Michel de Montaigne who stated,"The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself." When I told my friends about my new venture they were somewhat disapproving. I was warned that was much more difficult and several of their friends tried online classes with no success. Furthermore, it would be a very lonely quest. I would have no interaction with teachers or classmates. Well, they were half right, it was a laborious pursuit. Even the professors admitted that the workload far exceeded work they gave in a brick and mortar class.

On the other hand, I felt far from being isolated. In fact, the professors encouraged online interactions. Unlike a brick and mortar class, we had to post a brief description about ourselves. Why we decided to take that particular course and what we looked forward to getting from the class were required postings. In some classes we were encouraged to post discreet photos of ourselves. It was very interesting reading about other people. The majority of students had similar challenges as I had. One of the added bonuses were the opportunities to meet people from all over the world. Yes, you can meet people from other countries in a regular classroom setting but the chances are greater online.

High Tech for Higher Education

Nowadays, just about everyone has a notebook, tablet or some type of device to connect to the worldwide Web. Having access to a computer with a high speed Internet connection is an absolute must for cyber classes. In contrast, a notebook and pen will suffice in a brick and mortar type setting. But if you're going to take classes via your computer, you must be comfortable installing and troubleshooting software. No, you don't have to understand the entire technical process but not being afraid of a computer will be a benefit.

Furthermore, cyber schools will offer technical support and will walk you through the process if you have problems. Some cyber universities try to resemble a brick and mortar classroom. For example, lectures may be pre-recorded so you can actually see your professor. They may also use something similar to Skype, where you can see your professor and he or she can see you in real time. This would require you to have a Web cam, (short for Web camera) speakers and a microphone - maybe some additional software as well. Just like in a brick and mortar class, you will need to be seated in front of your computer during thespecified class time.

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