It’s Never too Late: Online Education and Non-Traditional Students

Posted by on Thu, Oct 30, 2014

non-traditional students

When the word “college” is brought to mind, it commonly rouses up images of young 20-somethings frantically cramming for exams or enjoying loud, boisterous parties with more school spirit than you can shake a stick at.  But the traditional college students in these images actually make up a very small portion of the true college demographic.

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In the latest study conducted by the Institute of Education and Sciences only 29% of all students enrolled in undergraduate programs are considered traditional students.  The rest fall into the category of “non-traditional” students which includes:

  • Part-time attendees
  • Students with full-time employment
  • Single parents
  • Students with delayed enrollment

Non-traditional students, especially those who have a significant number of years over their fresh-faced counterparts,  face unique challenges that traditional student don’t often think about. Non-traditional students may ask themselves:

  • What if I am unable to keep up with the pace of studying?
  • I have a lot more bills and obligations now, how will I afford it?
  • I’m just so much older than the rest the students, I’ll be completely isolated!
  • How will I manage to squeeze in time for my career, my family, and school?

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This last point is an especially valid concern among many non-traditional students who are considering enrolling in college for their undergraduate certifications, and online course options have exploded to accommodate them. The benefits of attending classes online through either traditional colleges or for-profit online universities are several. These include:

Convenience over Commute

Anyone who has ever had to commute to a college campus knows that it can be tricky ordeal. Many parking lots at major universities are located in less than convenient locations in and around the campus, so that hour and a half lecture on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday can skirt into the three hour mark as you accommodate total travel time.

Online courses eliminate this situation.  While an hour or more each day may not appear to be that much time at the outset, over the course of a month the hours you save can add up to a substantial amount of increased study time, or time spent doing other tasks that your busy schedule requires.

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Flexibility and Scheduling

Perhaps the most appealing aspect of online education is the ability it gives you to schedule your study and instruction time around the rest of your day, not vice versa.  Instead of being locked into that one required class that is only offered on Thursday evenings, the power to plan is now in your hands.  Course material and instruction is available 24/7 online, so finding the perfect balance between academic and day-to-day living is much simpler.

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Challenge Your Idea of Classroom Instruction

As more and more research is poured into the way our brain learns and absorbs data, further information is being brought to light that shows sitting in a hard-backed chair and listening to a professor lecture may not be the best way to learn new material and comprehend different ideas.

Online instruction integrates a variety of learning styles—auditory, visual and kinetic—into one. This gives a variety of learners the ability to succeed to the same degree asmore auditory-dominated individuals would.

[Going Back to School? New Traditions for Nontraditional Students]

The Price of Tuition

At the end of the day, making a decision to go back to college and pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree can often come down to just how much a semester’s tuition will set you back.  With college fees increasing each year, tuition can often be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

The price of online tuition is often cheaper than traditional tuition and fees.  When looking at Pepperdine University’s cost of attendance for the 2014-2015 calendar years, for instance, you can expect to shell out around $50,000 for a 12-18 unit course load.  Compare this to their online course tuition, which puts each credit at about $1,600, and you could be looking to save anywhere from $800-1,200 per credit.

What about you—what experiences have you had with online courses? Was it good? Was it bad? What would you change? Share your comments below.

non-traditional students

Brett Chesney graduated with a degree in English Literature and has taught the English language all over the world. In his free time you can find Brett talking entirely too much about Crossfit and playing questionable amounts of video games.  Connect with Brett on Twitter @DammitChesney.

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