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How to Earn an Associate Degree Online

written by: Jacer•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 11/19/2009

If you have ever considered an associate degree online to further your career, now may be the perfect time. No matter how many classes you need to finish your degree, going back to school has never been easier with online learning!

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    Online Associate Degree

    Going back to school, especially as an older adult, can be overwhelming and downright daunting. After all, who has the time to sit down and study? Most adults have hectic work schedules and busy personal lives. Some have the added burden of caring for elderly or ill parents. But despite a hectic schedule, if you have been considering furthering your education and getting a degree, why not consider online learning?

    With the advent of the Internet, continuing a higher education and obtaining a college degree within the confines of home is now possible. Online learning offers a convenient and often-times affordable alternative to traditional on-site learning. We can watch and listen to lectures, do homework, write papers, communicate with instructors and fellow classmates from the comfort of home. We don't have to worry about driving to class in bad weather, spotting that hard-to-find parking space, or find a babysitter. With a simple click of a few buttons, we are instantly transported to class!

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    As with most things in life, there are both pros and cons in continuing an education traditionally or online. Before making the final decision on how and where to get your associate degree, consider both the advantages and disadvantages to determine which method of adult learning is right for you.

    • Location - As long as you have the proper equipment, location is no longer an obstacle, issue or detriment to obtaining your degree virtually. With online learning, you can attend a college or university many miles away from home or right next door. And with online learning, you don't need to worry about missing a test or paper deadline. Study and take a test while you are on vacation or holiday.
    • Flexibility - As long as you meet the specific deadlines required by your instructor and course, you are in charge of setting your own school schedule. Whether you study at 2:00 p.m. or 2:00 a.m. - the choice is yours.
    • Availability - Many schools offer online classes with a wide variety of courses. And more and more colleges are also jumping on the online bandwagon.
    • Convenience - One of the biggest advantages of getting a degree online is the convenience factor. You attend school at your convenience, in the comfort of your own home.
    • Childcare - For those with younger children, finding a reliable babysitter can be problematic and expensive. By taking your classes online, you will be saving time, energy and money by not having to hire a sitter.
    • Cost - Besides saving money on parking spaces, gasoline and babysitters, finishing a degree online is often cheaper than traditional learning. Before registering, check with the business office to determine which method of learning is more affordable and cost effective for you. While many campuses do provide financial aid, be sure to check with the financial aid office to verify financial aid is available for the online courses you are interested in.
    • Personality - If you are someone who is shy, is fearful of crowds or doesn't like to step out of that comfortable comfort zone, communicating with others online may be easier than face-to-face.

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    While there are numerous advantages in getting your degree online, there are some disadvantages you need to be familiar with as well.

    • Availability - Depending on the individual school and particular major, it may be difficult to complete an associate degree online. Some schools may require on-site or lab attendance making it difficult to obtain a degree solely online. However some colleges do provide alternative methods in allowing students to get a degree online. Some schools allow students to take proctored tests or complete labs at an accredited neighboring school while others may offer an alternative class in order to complete the particular degree. Be sure to ask your academic advisor if getting an associate degree online is plausible.
    • Location - While many colleges do offer a wide selection of online courses, many still do not. Some schools offer a wide variety of courses, but not all the required course work in order to obtain a degree. It is important to check with your academic advisor to make sure.
    • Tools – No matter how many classes you are going to take, it’s important to have the proper tools. Besides expensive textbooks, you will also need a computer, appropriate software and a fast Internet connection. Some people may not be able to afford a computer or software while others may not have access to a fast online connection.
    • Technology Challenged- Some people feel they are technologically challenged and are not computer-savvy enough to take an online class or finish a degree. This is especially true for older adults who did not grow up using technology. If you are considering getting your degree online and are concerned about your computer know-how, take a free computer course or hire a tutor to help you get started.
    • Social Interaction - Although there is some interaction with the instructor and fellow students in an online environment, if you need the socialization and interaction of personal contact by the instructor or classmates, getting your degree online may not be the best fit for you.
    • Discipline - In order to finish your degree online, you need to be self-motivated, disciplined and are able follow a regimented plan of study without direct supervision. If you have a tendency to procrastinate, have difficulty following directions or are unable to meet strict deadlines, getting a degree online may not be a good choice for you.

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    If you have been thinking about getting your associate degree, consider online learning. It is a convenient and cost-effective method of higher education for the adult learner.