12 Big Mistakes To Avoid When Pursuing An Online College Education

A lot of people seriously consider pursuing an online college education as opposed to enrolling in a traditional university or college. There are a number of valid reasons for this.

Compared to a few years ago, online colleges are now well-respected and more popular than ever. Respected and reputable universities and colleges across the U.S. are now offering a wide array of online degrees in hopes of reaching and educating more people.

A traditional college education can now cost $30,000 to $70,000 a year. It’s just outrageous.

For most families, this is great news. Why?

Like the price of housing, the cost of going to a traditional university or college has skyrocketed to unbelievable levels. A traditional college education can now cost $30,000 to $70,000 a year. It’s just outrageous.

According to Arizona State University (ASU), online college degrees can reduce  educational cost by as much as 50%. That’s a lot of serious money savings indeed.

According to Arizona State University (ASU), online college degrees can reduce educational costs by as much as 50%. That’s a lot of serious money savings indeed. (1)

Aside from the significant cost-savings, online college education programs also give students the flexibility to learn from anywhere, study anytime, and even take classes whenever it’s convenient for them.

To make the most of an online college education, make sure to avoid these 12 big mistakes:

12. Not reviewing the curriculum. Make sure to review the details of an online program’s curriculum to determine if the coursework does include the necessary skills that students want to learn. For example, the curriculum for an online bachelor’s degree in computer science should include actual technical work with operating systems and programming language and not simply just reading and learning about it. (2)

11. Ignoring a student’s learning style. Although online college education programs are more flexible, they are not any easier as most people think. It requires a lot of discipline since students will be pretty much on their own and left to their own devices. If they are disorganized and prone to procrastination, then parents might like to think twice before having them enroll in one. (3)

10. Overlooking computer and internet requirements. Slow internet connection and a really old laptop or desktop won’t cut it for many online courses. Some online course may even require video streaming and require kids to participate in video conferences. Hence, make sure to check the online college’s website for the recommended software and hardware in order to make the most of the courses. (4)

9. Not reaching out to make friends or asking for help. Online courses can be isolating if a student doesn’t take the time to make meaningful connections with their instructor and classmates. Also, have the student ask the professor right away if help is needed or the student is struggling with a concept. The faster that issues are resolved, the smoother the progress will be. (5)

8. Plagiarism and cheating. Online students are not exempt from academic integrity standards and online colleges are ramping up their efforts to curb cheating. (6) Plagiarism is viewed as academic dishonesty and could result in an “F” on  transcripts and a dismissal from the program. Remember, if a student finds it on the Internet, the instructor can find it, too. (7)

7. Not researching the instructor. Great teaching skills do not always translate online and instructors may need to get a few online courses under their belt to overcome the e-teaching curve. (8) Students should do some research on the school’s website to verify a professor’s online teaching credentials, experience, and feedback.

6. Taking on too much too soon. Ted Smith, a California geologist who has taught courses at traditional colleges and at three online colleges, suggests anyone making the switch to online schooling start with just one easy course — ideally, an online course on “how to succeed in an online course.” “I have seen too many students sign up for a full load the first time and quickly become overwhelmed by the workload, technology challenges, or both,” Smith says. (9)

5. Not being aware of the real costs. In addition to tuition, students will likely need to purchase books and other materials for the class. (10) Most especially for the so-called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) courses, expect to have additional expenses for books and other course materials.

4. Failing to have a solid degree plan. For an online degree, a student needs to make a plan of which courses to take and when. The student should ask if the program has academic advisors to help to make sure that he or she is taking all of the required courses and will graduate on time. (11)

3. Underestimating the time commitment needed. Online college education courses are not easy, and while there is often significant flexibility in scheduling, kids should expect to spend 15 hours per week for a three-credit course. (12)

2. Not checking the school’s accreditation. This step is easy, and it’s probably the most important thing a person can do regarding the online degree program. Colleges and universities in the US are accredited on a regional basis, and a degree program from an unaccredited university can make it difficult to find employment in their field after they graduate (13). Check with the online college to find out which region accredits them and then double-check on the accrediting agency’s website. (14)

1. Not selecting the program that’s right for you. Just because an online degree program exists in your chosen field doesn’t mean that it’s right for you. There are aspects of every degree program that make it more desirable and other aspects that make the program less attractive. Make sure to spend the same amount of time researching online college programs as you would a traditional college program. (15)

There are definitely great online resources that provide information about online college education programs that can be used to help make better decisions.

The list above is adapted and modified from the respective sources cited.

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