What to Expect from an Online Degree Program

Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to your college’s online degree program. Now what?

Knowing what to expect is important, as the learning experience differs from attending the on-campus classes you may have taken elsewhere.

Flexibility + Convenience ≠ Easy

Participating in class anywhere, anytime from any computer or mobile device is an attractive idea, but it requires you to practice self-discipline and time management. Just because something is easy to schedule doesn’t mean it’s easy to do, or that you won’t face some challenging deadlines.

Be prepared to schedule study times, electronically submit your assignments, participate in online discussion boards, collaborate virtually with students, communicate with professors and stay on top of degree requirements.

“You just have to be prepared to just get the work done on your own,” said New England College graduate Nancy Werner. “Because you don’t have someone there saying, ‘OK, you have class between 7 and 8 o’clock and you have to go.’ It doesn’t work that way.”

Success can come down to drive and determination.

“You have to make sure you’re committed. You’ll only be successful at distance learning if you’re committed to investing what it takes to do well,” said NEC graduate Cameron Grant.

Online but Never Alone

Some 5.8 million students have taken at least one distance learning course, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That means, even if you feel isolated at times, you have much in common with other students – including the ones in your classes. Connecting with classmates on social media, using discussion boards or forming online study groups to tackle assignments together can help you make the most of your program. So can reaching out to professors and support staff for help.

Grant found her advisor to be “in tune to my idiosyncrasies as a student. I am very much a type-A personality. I need to have control over my own life at all times, so she was very good about once a class started, getting me enrolled in my next class so I could plan.”

Mike Taberski, NEC’s Dean of Students, encourages students enrolled online or on campus to reach out.

“You may have a life issue happening, or an academic issue happening, and all you need to do is let us know that, and we can reach out to figure out what the best course of action is to get you on the right track and keep you on the right track,” he said.

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