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Kate FrishmanGoing Back to College - Online

by Kate Frishman

I am the proud owner of a newly minted Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree from Bowling Green State University, and it only took me twenty-six years to get it.

I first started at BGSU in 1985 as a very young freshman. A year later I left school to marry and move to England. At the time, I was a French/Russian major. Although I would have loved to return to college at many points in my life, it wasn’t until my early thirties that I finally went back, but not to BGSU. I attended our local community college, completing an Associate’s Degree in Nursing.

It wasn't long before I realized that I wanted to pursue a writing career and wanted formal training. Four years later I was back at BGSU. It would have taken three and a half years to get my Bachelor of Arts in Writing, and I knew that would not fit my family situation. Instead, their BLS degree allowed me to incorporate the credits I already had and take classes in writing and editing. One calendar year later, I graduated.

The key to making college work both times was online classes. Online classes have a tarnished reputation, thanks to their shaky beginnings. Now, though, they are offered by major universities all over the country. I have taken a diverse group of classes online, including Statistics, Introduction to Art, Chemistry, Advanced Technical Writing, and even Ancient Greek. For nontraditional students, taking online classes can have many advantages. Since we frequently have full-time work and home responsibilities, taking classes that we can fit into our schedule makes more sense than trying to create a schedule around the classes. I was able to work full-time as a nurse, homeschool my five children, and carry a full class schedule thanks to the convenience of the online program.

Conversely, with online classes we can take more time to learn the material if necessary. If an instructor has posted a video lecture or a slideshow, we have the ability to view it as many times as needed to understand the material. Another advantage is that the online program at some universities is actually cheaper than the on- campus program. The distance learning BLS that I received allowed me to take one class per semester on campus. By staying within those guidelines, I saved several thousand dollars. Also, there are now online textbooks that are considerably cheaper than paper books. I saved seventy-five dollars on one text, and forty-eight dollars on another. Since we’re learning on the computer anyway, it makes sense to take advantage of the additional savings.

Although I am a huge proponent of online classes, you do need a particular set of strategies to succeed in them. Here are some tips to make your online experience a success.

-Take a single online class the first time out. For most people, learning over the Internet is a new experience requiring different learning strategies. Since returning to school is challenging enough, don’t jump into a full online schedule without trying a single class first.

-Make sure you have access to the right technology. You don’t have to have the latest and greatest, but you do need to check the system requirements for the online programs you will need to use. It’s especially important that you have a Web browser that matches the program’s specifications. When I started online classes, the browser I normally used did not display all of the content correctly. When I took my first online test, the answer buttons didn’t show up! Needless to say, I contacted the teacher and switched to the correct browser.

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