By Carolyn Siccama, Ed.D.
Are you a working professional looking to advance your career or change careers? If so, have you considered taking an online course to help you meet your professional goals?
There are numerous benefits of taking online courses for working professionals who are trying to balance the demands of work, home and school:
- Flexibility: You get to work on your course when the time is right for you and your family. Got kids? So do we! That’s why we design our online courses to be flexible enough for you to learn while still focusing on your family.
- Convenience: All you need is a computer. No commuting, no worrying. You can even do your coursework in your pajamas.
- Academic Rigor: We are committed to providing the same level of rigor online as you would expect in an on-campus course. We just do it in a way that makes it easier for you to succeed without having to come to campus.
So is online learning right for you? Recent research reports points to four indicators you should consider as you make that decision:
- Time management skills
- Communication skills
- Computer access
Time management skills are critical to success in an online course. Instructors expect regular – almost daily – participation and contribution to the class. For a three-credit course, you can expect to spend at least 5-20 hours a week on course related readings, assignments, and discussions, depending on the length of your course. A syllabus is always provided at the beginning of a course to help you design a weekly study schedule that works best for the expectations laid out for the course. It’s important that you feel comfortable setting and maintaining your own schedule that keeps you moving forward so that you don’t fall behind, since it can be difficult to get caught up if you do.
Recent research has reported that students tend to be successful in online courses when they have the emotional support of their family, friends, co-workers, and online classmates. Whether you take one course or enroll in a fully-online certificate or program, it’s a big commitment of your time and energy. Having strong support can make your life less stressful as you manage your coursework.
As you might imagine, most of the communication in an online course is in written format. Online communication may take place via email, discussion boards, blogs, wikis, journals, or written papers, depending on the course. Before embarking on an online class, you want to be sure you feel comfortable interacting online, rather than in-person, but be assured that our instructors will be very clear about their communication guidelines and expectations right from the start in order to set you up for success.
Taking an online course requires regular access to a computer with internet access. Online courses are rigorous and can take anywhere from 5-20 hours per week. Having regular access to a computer while you take an online course will help you achieve success.
Carolyn Siccama, Ed.D., is an instructional designer for UVM Continuing and Distance Education.