Mom in Training: Concerned Parenting: Online Classes for College Credit-Yay or Nay?

December 19, 2012

Concerned Parenting: Online Classes for College Credit-Yay or Nay?

High school students who are about to graduate and enter into college have a lot on their plates. Many of their friends might be moving away to different states for school, and your children are likely overwhelmed by all of the different options. One of the paths on which they may choose to travel is that of an online course. What are some of the benefits, disadvantages and considerations to keep in mind?

"The College Experience"
For years, probably even decades, people have been talking about "the college experience." This phrase can refer to living away from home in a dorm for the first time, or it can refer to the experience of commuting and still being immersed in activities and forming new friendships. However the term is defined, your child will miss out on these experiences from taking online courses.

Ability to Work
College, whether experienced online or at a physical campus, is expensive. Scholarships and loans are often available, but that doesn't mean everyone qualifies for them or that everyone wants to be paying back huge sums at the end of their undergraduate days. When students enroll in online classes, they will likely have much more flexibility with their schedule than someone who attends the actual campus. As a result, they will be able to work more hours at their jobs and hopefully fund some of their college education by themselves. If they are lucky enough to land a desk job somewhere,  they might even be able to tackle their schoolwork while being paid to provide reception. However, jobs like this are very common at Universities  via programs such as work study, so this is definitely something to keep in mind.

Self-Discipline
Whether your teenager is capable of self-discipline is a major determining factor in this situation. Students who are unable to focus or wind up clicking through Facebook every time they sit down at a computer are usually not good candidates for online school. If you notice that online research projects tend to be a struggle for your budding scholars, then online college classes are not the best idea. Students might wind up not completing any of their assignments, or they could find themselves receiving failing marks on everything because they did not put in enough effort. That said, if they are willing to work with you in setting up a schedule and meeting certain benchmarks, you shouldn't discount this very flexible notion.

Attitude 
You should listen to the way your child talks to his or her friends about online college. For example, he or she might boast that online college classes are going to allow for a lot of slacking off and that working hard is not part of the requirement. If your teenager clearly does not understand online college, then remove it from the table of college option offers. On the other hand, if you overhear him or her expressing an interest about these programs to friends or actively seeking exciting classes in which to enroll, then it's likely that this course of action is a strong fit.

Goals
Often, the bottom line in determining the best plan of action is determining the goals of your student. If your child wants to attend graduate school someday, especially law school or med school, then online programs are probably not going to benefit them. Graduate schools emphasize the importance of working one on one with faculty to conduct independent, original research - if you are working from home, it's almost impossible to strike up these relationships. Furthermore, students need recommendations from faculty to get into these programs in the first place. However, if you know that your student only wants to get through college as a means to an end (especially if they only plan to earn an associate's degree) - AKA they really like to work, rather than immerse themselves in academia, then an online school might be exactly what they need to be most successful and get a jump on their career!

So many factors must be considered when students are entering into the college domain. Will they live there or commute? How much tuition can the family afford? How will we pay for books, meal plans and other necessary supplies? All of these questions, as well as the one regarding online college or traditional campus college, must be answered, but don't rush into anything. There's nothing wrong with taking a year off, but it's better to start considering these queries early on - well before their senior year of high school.


Jaimie Kruger writes about parenting, education & more. She particularly likes to write about her kids' journey finding the top colleges online.

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