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Getting an Online Education: Save Money and Avoid Frustration

written by: davidmakofsky•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 7/31/2009

What are you trying to accomplish by enrolling in an online course or program? The article tries to offer some tips on saving money and avoiding frustration by asking questions before you enroll in online education.

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    Are you enrolled in a specific program?

    Perhaps you work all day and you are enrolled in a college studying for a degree. There may be a course at a time you cannot make, or your school may be on summer break. The idea of commuting for an extra hour or two is not appealing – after all, you could spend that time completing the course.

    Perhaps you are a high school student and you would find it difficult go to go to class beyond the hours that you already spend going to classes. A college supplement to a high school education sounds interesting.

    Perhaps you are a college or university student on a break and you want to study at your own pace, or in an alternative educational environment. Online education may offer a different type of format than you might receive in a lecture format.

    All this assumes that you actually enrolled in a program or are planning to enroll in a one. If so, you can avoid some of the major problems in online education. This is the beginning of the DO's and DO NOT'S involved in online education:

    Is this course at a legitimate college or university and is this course going to count toward the certificate program or degree of your choice? Just because a course name sounds similar to what you are looking for, do not assume that the course material is remotely similar to what you need. I write as someone who taught Statistics and Business Statistics, a very popular course for students who want to meet this requirement. There is a great deal of inconsistency between programs over what material should be covered and whether or not a monitored exam is necessary. Do go to a guidance counselor or administrator to determine whether the course is acceptable before enrolling.

    There is nothing more frustrating and depressing than paying money and doing coursework and then finding out that none of this counted.

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    Do you want to save money on tuition?

    Online courses are not necessarily less expensive than courses taken by attending classes in a regular college or university. This being said, there are many online courses offered absolutely free of charge, but none of them offer credits then can be used for a degree or certificate. There is a link below which leads to information on free online courses.

    If you want course credits, one important thing to do is to find out the cost of courses that are acceptable to your program. Do remember this: the most important to be saved in on-line education is your own time and effort.

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    Do you want to experiment with a new certificate or career?

    If you want to experiment with a new program or a new degree, then you face different challenges.

    Let's begin with the advantages of beginning an online program. If you have the time and a little extra money, this may provide an opportunity to expand your horizons. You may find a fit for your talents that you did not know was there.

    One caution is that online courses demand that you are a self-starter. Begin with one course and see how much work it takes to complete. Don't sign up for too much work.

    One of the disadvantages of on-line courses are that you may never meet your instructors or fellow students face to face. This may provide some disadvantages for professional advancement.

    The most important disadvantage is that you may be involved in a non-accredited program that has no professional standing at all. Two sites may help you check this problem in advance. If you have doubt about an online education institution, then you can use the following online source for verification:

    • US department of education has a database of all accrediting agencies across the United States.

    • Council for Higher Education Accreditation has a database of accredited courses across the US.