Online Degree Programs: One Student’s Experience
The number of colleges offering fully offering fully online degree programs has doubled in the last decade,* but what are online programs really like? In the following Q&A, Maggie Layden, a recent graduate of an online degree program, shares her experience and gives tips for students considering an online program.
Question: What online program did you participate in?
The University of Wisconsin-Extension’s sustainable management online undergraduate degree program.
Question: How did you access class information?
In my program, everything was made available for a range of time. Sometimes a full course would be available for the semester, other times a professor would open a lesson or unit for a smaller range of time.
The students were expected to keep those date ranges in mind and complete the work before the lesson or unit closed.
Question: How did you view class lectures and do assignments?
I watched/listened to lectures nearly every day. Typically, a chapter would be assigned to read and a lecture would be available that coincided with that chapter.
Then, if there is an assignment, it is posted along with the lecture and there is a dropbox where an assignment can be dropped.
The dropbox closes when the assignment is due, so if you miss the deadline, you can’t turn it in unless the professor opens it up for you.
Question: How do you interact with the professor and other students?
A major portion of the online learning environment is the discussion board. Most courses require the use of the discussion boards on a regular basis.
This is the primary means of communication with classmates. The professor will post a question and require the students to answer it and then to respond to two or three of your classmates’ posts. Sometimes professors are active in these discussion boards and sometimes they stay out of it completely.
Question: What was the benefit of participating in an online degree program?
I worked a relatively “normal” schedule of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. while attending school online, but some of my classmates worked nights or evenings.
We could still have lively discussion, though, in the discussion boards. While I was in school I was careful to set aside personal time every day, so I got up early and did my coursework before work each day, so that I could have personal time in the evening. It allows you to fit school in where you can.
Question: What advice do you have for other students considering an online degree program?
Stay organized! The best part of online learning was that aside from all that I learned through the courses, I also learned about time management and staying organized.
These are skills I use every day on the job. Also, when you’re looking for a program, make sure you are comfortable with the accreditations of the institution, not just the format of the courses.
Source: Babson Survey Research Group report