More than 6.1 million students took at least one online course during the fall 2010 term, an increase of 560,000 students over the previous year, according to a 2011 study by the Babson Survey Research Group. Great indicator of how more and more students are turning to online as a smart choice for college education, don’t you think? With this choice comes a plethora of advantages: flexibility, setting your own pace, convenience, cultural diversity and technology benefits, to name a few.

While the advantages of online degree programs put students in a position to learn a desired field and advance their career, the challenges that accompany distance learning can cause unwanted stress if not handled properly.

We don't want to let that happen. Here are four big challenges that students commonly face when attending school online, along with proposed solutions to solve those challenges:

Challenge No. 1: Lack of face-to-face peer interaction

Since online students don't meet in a physical location, they don't have opportunities to speak with classmates face-to-face about course material, or network in-person with other students about opportunities in their desired career.

Solution: This challenge is becoming less and less of an obstacle with the advancement of social media. LinkedIn, for example, provides students and professionals the opportunity to network in an online setting and develop potential business relationships. If you're looking for a job and are not on LinkedIn, you are seriously missing out.

If you're concerned about a lack of interaction with fellow students in an online setting, there are ways around it. Online discussion boards allow classmates to frequently interact and bring up questions or concerns. Finding a study buddy, particularly for students in the military, is also an effective way to establish camaraderie with a fellow classmate.

Finally, if you're concerned that you will leave online school with a lack of speaking skills, take a public speaking course that will satisfy a general education requirement (combined with this blog to overcome your public speaking fears!). Another possibility: Become acquainted with classmates on discussion boards, and then call them on the phone to talk about assignments.

Challenge No. 2: Juggling family, work, school

Many students who attend school online also care for a family and work a part- or full-time job. Without a carefully considered plan, this can be overwhelming.

Solution: Stay as organized as possible and plan ahead. Make sure everyone at home (spouse, kids) and at work (boss primarily, but entire department, if possible) understands your desire to pursue a degree.

At home, explain to your spouse and children that earning a degree takes hard work. Ask them to help out occasionally with house chores, making dinner, washing dishes, doing laundry ... whatever lessens the pressure from your plate.

At work, sit down with your boss and explain to him/her how important it is to you to pursue a degree. Supportive bosses will understand. Take advantage of small blocks of time during the work day when you can complete schoolwork, perhaps during your lunch hour or on a 15-minute break.

At home and at work, stay organized and plan ahead. Make to-do lists and/or calendars that explain tasks for a given day, and have back-up plans in case of unexpected events or emergencies.

Challenge No. 3: Distractions

Never having to ride the bus to class? Typing papers in your PJs? Not a bad deal. Just don't let it lead to procrastination and laziness. No one's going to stop you from playing World of Warcraft on your computer, but when your homework assignment for your online course is due in an hour, it's not the best use of your time or money invested in your education to be in full-out gamer mode.

Solution: If you find yourself becoming distracted at your house every five minutes - whether it's household chores, playing music or turning on the TV - find a quiet place that isn't prone to distractions. An example of such a location would be your nearest public library. Just make sure it has computers or complimentary Wi-Fi.

Challenge No. 4: Technology

Many non-traditional students who are a little older may fear the use of modern technology as the primary means to access their educational dashboard. The thought of chat rooms, social mediablogs and video conferences is unfamiliar to some of these students.

Solution: Accessing your courses in most online degree programs is simple, as long as you have an Internet connection. There are also computer courses for those who are extremely uncomfortable with operating a computer. Those wanting to save money could probably just talk to a friend. Accessing your courses for school is straightforward and simple.

Are there any major challenges of going to school online that we missed? Let us know in the comments section below.

 

Comments