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Flexibility Found in Online Education The average secondary school graduate most likely still thinks of their future in terms of attending a “brick-and-mortar” university located relatively near to home. You may even think of attending a school very far from home, depending on the familial context. However, what many recently graduated students do not consider when deciding upon their plans for higher education is their overall strategy for life. That is, the specific paths they must take in order to achieve a successful career (many students do not even know what specific career they want). The Advantage of a Traditional College Education One advantage of the traditional college route is that it facilitates the formation of strategy – that is, a university setting provides an opportunity for students to network with other students and professors, research different programs, experience new skills and consider new subject material that will ultimately help them discover an area where they can thrive. Another advantage of a physical university is that students can collaborate on projects and create new products or theories or areas of research, etc. For example, if a student is studying graphic arts, then that student can become friends with other students in the major to create new designs for products which they love. Then, by networking with graphic arts professors and demonstrating their work, the students can gain outside professional contacts through the professors’ networks who could potentially offer them a job within that field. However, if it takes most students about two years to finally choose a major, that has a significant effect upon the efficiency of the university as well as the personal timeline of each student. This might be an oversimplified assertion, but it must be agreed that students who choose and stay with a particular career path while an entry-level university student will have more time and opportunities to gain experience in that field and find a specialization. The main difference then, between the two scenarios, is commitment. Students do not commit to a certain career track, which delays their commitment to the process of progression. Much of those commitment issues disappear when non-traditional students are discussed. A student is defined as “non-traditional” when they meet a few criteria (including part-time status, working full-time while going to school, being a single parent, etc.), and the focus of such a student is readily apparent. The New Advantages of an Online Education Helping non-traditional students to find success at the university level has rather recently gained traction in the world of academia. Not only are there more flexible options (such as evening classes, part-time school, online lectures, etc.) available at some universities, but certain universities (including the Columbia University School of General Studies and Empire State College) have also created programs designed specifically for non-traditional students. Another, increasingly used, route to obtain an education for non-traditional students is through online education. There are different types of online education including online classes, MOOC’s, online universities and accredited online universities (the two most well-known online universities are University of Phoenix and Kaplan University). Interestingly, student enrollment in online education has steadily increased over the past few years with even what would be considered traditional students opting to complete a degree online. Although some may be skeptical of this approach, students are finding great benefits to online education. The greatest benefit would be flexibility. The students are given flexibility in their schedule, in the submission deadlines for schoolwork, in the length of lectures (since they can start, stop and return to them whenever) and in the courses offered. For any student, but especially for non-traditional students working full-time with children at home, this flexibility in education can be empowering. And given the extreme commitment on the part of non- traditional students (who are typically making great sacrifices to achieve an education) the tool of flexibility found within tangible as well as online universities is just the motivation they need to change their lives.
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