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The New Faces of Adult Education

© Amanda Stevens

Jason is married and the father of three small children. He works third shift and devotes his evenings to his wife, two daughters, and son. His days are spent sleeping. He is a full-time college student. His wife, who stays at home with their children, is also a full-time student.

Shannon is a single mother. She works full-time during the day while her daughter is at school. Once work is finished, until 8:30 PM, Shannon's attention is focused on maintaining her home, making dinner, helping her daughter with homework, and spending quality time together. She is also a full-time college student.

Brett is a bachelor who works on oil rigs. His work days can sometimes be as long as 18 hours. He is away for three weeks working, and then home one. During his week off, he works at a local gym. Brett is a full-time college student

Desiree is a nurse. A typical schedule for her is working twelve hours a day, three days a week. Her child has special education needs and she did not want to leave her family to chase a career. She is a full-time student.

These individuals represent the new face of adult education - online students. Colleges and universities have offered print-based, self-paced distance education courses for some time, so the deftness the internet made online courses a natural progression in our ever increasing technological world. Unlike the print-based courses, online courses offer students to experience much more of the 'college experience'. Online courses provide education in real-time, mirroring the traditional classroom with lectures, peer and instructor interaction, and assignment deadlines.

There are many positive aspects that make online courses and degrees appealing and beneficial. Online courses offer freedom. Individuals have the chance to take courses without having to trudge to class three times a week. It also allows adults the opportunity to work towards their degree and maintain their outside obligations and responsibilities. It used to be that the only way for a working adult to attend school was to go to night school. With the technology provided by with online courses, that is a trend of the past. The flexibility of online courses allows adults to live their lives without disruptions and work towards a degree at the same time.

Online courses also offer students the opportunities to excel as students. Since the lecture materials appear online in text form and is accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, students can review more easily concepts and principles needed for class success. Students are also given time to think critically of answers to questions in the discussion area, instead of being pressured and pushed to rapidly answer a professor's question in class. Online courses especially help students that are timid or shy and fear speaking in front of a class. "Going to school as an adult can be hard. It was even harder for me because I am so shy. Online courses allowed me to be in courses with other adults who I could relate to and gave me a chance to learn, instead of hiding and trying not to be noticed during a lecture in a classroom," Shannon Smith states.

To attract a wide variety of students, many state and university systems offer online courses and degree tuition at the same rate for in-state students and out-of-state students. This is something rare to traditional education, unless states participate in a tuition agreement with other states.

Things to consider when considering an online program:

  1. Accreditation. Unfortunately, one of the downfalls in the internet age is that one can more easily be taken advantage of. When researching online programs, make sure one of the questions asked is whether or not the school has received accreditation. Accreditation means that the school has met a list of requirements and is endorsed by an accrediting agency. To learn more about accreditation, go to . To check on the legitimacy of an accrediting agency, you make call the U.S Department of Education at (202) 219-7011.

  2. Admission requirements. Some online institutions have requirements other than an application for admissions. For example, one of the more widely known online institutions, University of Phoenix - Online (, requires individuals to be at least 21 years of age and employed. The reasoning behind this is to have an organization environment to apply theory from studies.

  3. The Availability of Financial Aid. Some online institutions offer no financial aid, others offer financing through the institution, and others offer Federal financial aid. If receiving financial aid is going to be essential to attend school, pay very close attention to what a potential school offers.

As the world around us becomes increasingly smaller, online education is going to play a very large role in shaping the work force. Whether someone is working towards their first degree, adding more to their education in hopes to receive a promotion, or simply are taking courses online for the love of learning, online courses and degrees are making these goals much more achievable.

To find out if online courses are for you, a quiz is available online at: selftest3.html

Life goals. Money goals. In that order.

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