Note from Katie: This is the third in a three-part guest post series on Online Degrees. Check out the other two: "How to Choose a Worthwhile Online Master's Degree" and "The Myths of Online Masters Degrees." As I've written before, I'm still on the fence about online degrees, but I do think they can be a good fit for some students in certain situations. James has written several guest posts previously, and when he pitched this article it made perfect sense why an online degree would be a great fit for some students. He wrote, "I was in the Army back in the day, and between deployments, training, and transfers between bases obtaining an education was a significant ordeal. Now, however, online education really gives soldiers no excuse not to obtain an education for when they eventually get out." I hope you enjoy his descriptions of mobile degree options for students as much as I did!
Online Degrees for Mobile Students by James Hinton
We live in a highly mobile society. In 2012 one in fifty people made interstate moves in the U.S. One in thirty moved across county lines. We are a society on the move, with things to do and places to go.
What is true for the population at large is also true for the college aged members of the population. While one in three millennials between the ages of 18-22 has elected to remain at home with their parents, two-thirds of all traditional college age students are on the move. For some it’s a one-time move, from home to college. For other, however, multiple moves occur.
There are plenty of reasons to have a highly mobile life right after leaving home. For a significant number of younger Americans a tour of duty in the military is in the offing. 60% of the U.S. Air Force is under the age of 30, while the Marine Corp can brag being the youngest branch, with 83% of Marines being below that same mark. While the military is the largest known bunch of young people living less than sedentary lives, other groups full of highly mobile youth include organizations such as the Peace Corp or the Latter Day Saints, as well as millennials and young people choosing to live or work abroad on gap years.
For some of these people college can seem like an out of reach dream. Frequent moves or distance away from American institutions can appear to be an insurmountable barrier to attending while on the move. Many people put off continuing their education until after they have ended their time travelling.
An Optimistic Future for Online Education for Mobile Students
This delay doesn’t have to happen, however. Modern communication technology has made it possible to take your education with you, whether you are moving across town, or across oceans. All it takes is an Internet connection, a little will power, and a bit of cautious optimism.
The call for caution is, unfortunately, necessary. A previous article I wrote for My College Advice mentioned some of the bumps in the road that can be encountered by someone looking into an online education. Many of the early adopters of the online education model proved to be little better than scams and paper mills, saddling students with deep debts and degrees that couldn’t be respected.
Fortunately, this is becoming less of a problem as an increasing number of highly respected schools are moving forward with programmes intended for students who cannot attend a traditional brick-and-mortar system. Examples of properly accredited and respectable schools available for mobile students include Ohio University, the University of Texas at El Paso, and Rutgers University.
Is Online Learning a Good Fit?
Of course, online education is not a viable option for everyone. The fact that an individual is living a mobile lifestyle doesn’t necessarily mean that engaging in a program of study via the Internet is a realistic possibility. There are things that must be evaluated before undertaking such an endeavour.
One of the largest questions is one of discipline. Online study requires a greater amount of discipline than a traditional programme. Having a specific time and location a student needs to be present, surrounded by a few dozen peers provides a pressure to perform that is largely absent in many online situations. The “remote” nature of interaction via forums or chat programs can reduce the sense of urgency. Not all potential students will have the self-will to be able to consistently hit deadlines under such circumstances.
Even if a student does have the drive, there is still a question of access. If a prospective student is preparing for extensive travel abroad, advanced planning may be needed specifically to accommodate an education. Will the location or locations visited be able to provide sufficient online access to continue to study? The fact that the University may be online does not guarantee that the student herself will be.
One additional consideration is that of time. For a student who is enjoying a leisurely tour through Europe over the course of a year, the ability to make time during the week to attend to required tasks is a fairly simple matter. A soldier deployed to a combat zone, however, may find precious little time is available to engage in coursework. Before engaging in an online programme, a student must always be certain to determine how easy it may be to schedule in time for studies.
The college dream is not something that must be delayed by a traveling life. Owing to the increasing number of respectable schools offering classes or even entire degrees online, travel and education can coincide comfortably. Whether a student is serving in the military, traveling for enjoyment, or engaged in service as part of an organized effort, the classroom can go anywhere a mobile device can connect. It’s just a matter of discipline, access, and time.
For further tips on whether an online degree programme is right for you, I recommend the following resource: Is Online Learning Right for You?
Thanks for reading, and please leave your comments, questions, feedback, and experiences below!