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Career Colleges COVID-19 Dual Enrollment Family Finances General Interest Online learning

8 great benefits of distance learning

Is distance learning right for you?

This is something you may have said (or thought) if you’re considering a college. At The Distance Learner, we obviously think distance learning can be a good idea for a lot of students. 

Why? Here are eight benefits we think you’ll like.

1. It typically costs less

Did you know that distance learning is often less expensive than in-classroom learning? This makes sense, since you’re not paying for the upkeep of classroom buildings or maintenance fees for keeping the college looking spick and span.

So save some money where you can. Life typically only gets more expensive.

2. It requires no driving

Speaking of saving, distance learning cuts back on travel costs. If you have a car, you’ll save money on gas, oil, and general wear-and-tear. If you don’t have a car, you’ll save on your bus fare (or at least not have to worry about getting a ride from someone else).

Also, there’s the whole “no-traffic” thing. So if you’re a big fan of sitting in traffic, distance learning may not be for you!

3. It’s flexible

The benefits of a flexible learning schedule rely on knowing what time(s) of day you think best. So say you’d rather have your mornings off to go for a jog or you’d rather take a break in the afternoon to play a video game. Distance learning gives you the flexibility to do this.

4. It’s great if you have a job

This flexibility is especially useful if you have a job. Whether you’re working part-time or full-time, distance learning lets you do the work when you can. You are not beholden to the class schedules of in-classroom learning. So if you want to get some work experience while you’re in school, distance learning may be the route to take.

5. It allows you to learn at your own pace

If you’re like me, you need only a little bit of time for studying English and history courses, but you need an exorbitant amount of time for studying math courses. With remote learning, you can learn at your own pace. This gives you greater control over your education.

6. It allows you to learn just about anywhere

Want to view lectures at your momma’s house as you wait for a delicious, home-cooked meal? You’ll likely be able to do this, provided she has decent Internet service.

Maybe you prefer going to class out in your yard where your home’s Wi-Fi is still good enough to watch lectures. This is possible through the magic of distance learning. 

7. It can help you get better at time-management skills

Learning how to manage your time is especially important for folks who are used to having someone else dictate their schedule, like their high school or parents. But time-management skills are a necessary part of any professional’s life, and the flexibility and self-paced nature of distance learning can help you hone these skills. 

For instance, employers are increasingly allowing their teams to set their own working hours. Since you have been setting your own schedule via distance learning, you should have no problem with doing this. 

8. It prepares you for remote employment

In the age of COVID-19, more and more businesses are going remote (or at least partially remote). Remote work is a trend that likely won’t go away when the pandemic ends. This is where distance learning plays a key role: It gets you used to the idea of working remotely.  

That means you are:

  • Learning how to be comfortable with working online
  • Learning how to collaborate with classmates
  • Learning how formal email etiquette works

These are all skills that are useful for working in a remote position.

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Career Colleges COVID-19 General Interest

7 tips for transitioning from in-classroom learning to distance learning

Distance learning has become increasingly popular in the past decade—especially for college students—and that trend has caught even more momentum in the age of COVID-19. But if you’re preparing to switch from learning inside a classroom to learning online, the change can be a little jolting. 

For one thing, you’re not interacting with people in-person. Human beings were not made to socialize via screens. So while using screens to communicate is better than nothing, screens and Wi-Fi will never be as effective as in-person communication.

It can also be tough to adjust to distance learning after getting used to someone else playing a big role in your schedule. Now, class times and professors will likely not dictate your schedule—you will. And where are you supposed to view lectures if you’re not in a classroom? These are all things you’ll have to address when you transition to distance learning.

Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate any issues that might come from the change.

1. Stick to a schedule

Having a general schedule will provide some structure and stability to your day, which can help you focus. It doesn’t have to be incredibly rigid, but you will likely want to have something in place so that you know you can get everything done.

Here are some tips:

  • Have regular sleep/wake times
  • Set aside time to view lectures and take notes
  • Set aside time to do your homework/study
  • Have a set lunch period in your day
  • Have a general cutoff date to each day, though this will likely need to be adjusted depending on your workload
  • Set aside time for rest and relaxation so that you can mentally prepare for the next day

2. Be willing to be flexible

While it’s good to stick to a structured schedule, it’s also helpful to be flexible. For instance, if you need to spend more time on one class than another or you want to take a longer lunch with a friend, be willing to do that. The beauty of distance learning is that it allows for the flexibility that traditional classrooms do not.

3. Set aside a space just for learning

By setting aside a space that you only use for schoolwork, you can make it somewhere your mind associates with learning. This can help you think clearly and focus on what you’re doing when you’re in that space. If you have a small home, you may want to have a certain chair that you only sit in when doing schoolwork.

If you can’t be at home, consider going to a local library, coffee shop, or even a park (if you can get Wi-Fi out there). Again, the point is to have a place where learning can occur effectively.

4. Get organized

Once you have established your learning space, it’s time to get organized. Note-taking is an art of sorts, and organization is the key to making it beautiful (and useful). 

Sites like Trello allow you to make to-do lists that you can use for every class. Of course, you can go with traditional organizing tools such as Microsoft Excel, but Google offers a free alternative in Google Sheets.

5. Get outside

Vitamin D can be great for lifting a person’s spirits. And by going for a walk or doing any other form of exercise, you’ll get your heart pumping and your blood flowing. This can reinvigorate your body so that you can learn better. 

Side note: Be sure to wear sunscreen if you think you might get sunburned. Having to rub aloe on your sunburnt nose will likely distract you from learning.

6. Take mental breaks

Even if you don’t go outside, you should still take mental breaks throughout the day. Often stepping away from the thing you are working on will allow you to more effectively tackle it once you get back to it. That can include doing something mindless (like watching a sitcom on TV) to working on your favorite hobby (like building ceramic penguins).

7. Socialize with people in person

There’s a lot of social interaction that happens with in-person learning, which can teach you valuable social skills like teamwork and listening. Setting aside time during the week to socialize is especially important for extroverts who love the face-to-face interactions that come from being in a classroom.

Even if you’re someone who generally prefers being alone, consider getting out with family or friends each week. If you’ve been wanting to try out a new restaurant with your friends, you can use the excuse that going out is helping you refine your social skills and acclimate to distance learning.

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Career Colleges COVID-19 Online learning

Is a hybrid college right for you?

Today’s average college student looks far different than the typical caricature of a bright-faced 18-year-old setting foot on campus for the first time.

Does that surprise you? It’s a relatively recent phenomenon.

Today, 45 million Americans have some college experience but no degree. What’s more, the population of non-traditional college students is rapidly growing. One report from found that around 73% of students currently enrolled in college have at least one non-traditional characteristic: being independent for financial aid purposes, having one or more dependents, being a single caregiver, not having a traditional high school diploma, delaying postsecondary enrollment, attending school part time,

or being employed full time.

Enter the world of the hybrid college.

A hybrid approach to college combines online learning with face-to-face interaction with a coach and a physical study space to mix and collaborate with other students. It’s a method of post-secondary learning that’s become commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. But even as life returns to a new normal, hybrid colleges are likely here to stay.

Trademarks of a hybrid college

There are several hallmarks of an effective hybrid program:

  • A curriculum that’s tightly focused on credentials with real-world application in the job market.
  • Many on-ramps throughout the year that allow students to leap into a degree program quickly and easily.
  • Employs a combination of online and face-to-face instruction and coaching.

A hybrid example: PelotonU

A great example of a hybrid campus is PelotonU. Based in Austin, Texas, PelotonU takes a multi-faceted approach to helping individuals gain work experience and an accredited, marketable credential. PelotonU was founded in 2013 to create a seamless pipeline that matches students with accredited online learning options, job placements, a community-based local learning environment, and a coach to help them through the process.

The cost component is a big positive factor with PelotonU. Average tuition expenses are in the range of $6,000 per year compared to $11,039 for a public in-state school in Texas. On average, students complete their associate’s degree in 12 months and their bachelor’s degree in 36 months, with an overall graduation rate of 81 percent. Those who persist to complete their bachelor’s degree see an average earning increase of $19,107 per year.

But costs aren’t the only aspect that make PelotonU workable for working adults. New cohorts of students start every month, giving busy adults a nimble way to leap directly into a degree program rather than taking months to apply and start a course of study. Maintaining motivation is a significant factor for these non-traditional students as well, so the program pairs each learner with a coach for weekly meetings built around guidance and inspiration.

Another PelotonU offering that nudges students along are local study spaces where students are free to pursue their studies. PelotonU describes the spaces as more like a coffee shop than a classroom. Equally important is the fact that PelotonU links students with individual mentors, or coaches, who help keep them on the path to graduation.

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Career Colleges COVID-19 Family General Interest Homeschooling Online learning

The best and worst states for homeschooling in 2021

One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that education in America has changed dramatically. In a matter of days, tens of millions of families were forced to pivot to both working and teaching their children at home as schools across the nation closed in 2020. Although this new homeschool reality was a shock for many families, it was business as usual for the 2 million Americans who were already educating their kids at home.

And while schools slowly reopen this year as vaccinations increase and new coronavirus cases plummet, a seismic shift is rocking the landscape of American education. Instead of sending their children back to school, many parents are choosing to permanently join the ranks of their homeschooling peers across the nation. Along the way, they want to know how their state compares when it comes to homeschooling regulations. 

A snapshot of homeschooling in America

While homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, each state has its own laws, guidelines, and regulations. This means that some states are more homeschool-friendly than others. 

For example, some states are very hands-on and require homeschool parents to file paperwork, teach required subjects for a specific number of hours, agree to in-home evaluations, and participate in state testing requirements. 

In other states, once parents file the initial paperwork they have a great deal of autonomy to guide their child’s education as they see fit—with very few requirements from their state government. This means they can develop their own curricula, enroll in online homeschool programs, and join cooperatives with other parents to teach subjects like foreign languages, art, and music. 

Not surprisingly, for many parents the less record-keeping, reporting, and testing required by the state the better. For them, more autonomy makes for a better homeschooling environment for their children than in those states with more invasive government intervention. 

The best states for homeschooling

According to the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), the best states for homeschooling are those with the least-restrictive legal environments. Here are some of the top states based on this criterion: 

Alaska: Perhaps the least-restrictive state in America, Alaska simply requires children between the ages of 7 and 16 to either attend a school or comply with the state’s homeschool law. This means parents who choose to homeschool are not required to notify the state, get approval, give tests, be a certified teacher, or maintain contact with the government. 

Idaho: No notice to the school district is required, nor do homeschool parents have to possess specific qualifications, obtain district approvals, do testing, or provide information about their homeschool program, if asked. But they must select an instructor for their children, which can be anybody, including themselves. They are also required to teach language arts, math, science, and social studies.

Illinois: Homeschools here are treated as private schools. They do not have to give notice to the school district, nor do they have to register with—or be recognized by—the state. However, homeschool parents must teach required subjects including language arts, math, science, social studies, fine arts, and physical development and health, and they must specify that instruction takes place in English. 

Indiana: As one of the least-restrictive states, home schools here are essentially considered to be private schools and must comply with the state’s private school statute. Parents must teach in English and provide instruction equivalent to public schools—though the state board of education is not  allowed to define what this means, nor can it approve homeschool programs. Parents must also operate their homeschool the same number of days as public schools—usually 180 days—and keep attendance records.

Michigan: While no notice to the school district is required, parents have the option to homeschool under the state’s homeschooling law, or as a nonpublic school—or both. Regardless of the option chosen, parents must teach specific subjects, though the regulations do not prescribe grade levels or how often courses are taught. 

Missouri: Although no notice to the school district is required, parents must teach specific subjects and keep records for all children under age 16. They must also provide at least 1,000 hours of instruction during each school term—with 600 of these hours in core subjects.

New Jersey: Under state law, the only requirement is that parents provide their children with an equivalent education to one they would receive in public school. So while no notice to the school district is required, parents must be sure to teach the same subjects offered by their local public school. 

Oklahoma: With no requirement to test, report, or give the school district notice, parents here have great freedom to run their homeschools as they see fit—so long as they operate for at least 180 days each school year.  

Texas: Homeschools here are considered private schools and must teach math, reading, spelling and grammar, and a course in good citizenship. And while no notice to the school district is required, homeschool parents must use a written curriculum, which can be satisfied by an online program. 

States with low regulation

Moving down the continuum, the HSLDA also looks at the amount of regulation imposed in the homeschooling arena. These states have fewer regulations and are thus considered to be relatively more homeschool-friendly:   

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Utah
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

States with moderate regulation

According to HSLDA, these states regulate homeschooling more, but do not fall to the bottom of the rankings:  

  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Washington, DC
  • West Virginia

The worst states for homeschooling

Standing in contrast, these five states combine high regulations with more restrictions and rank among the worst state for homeschooling in the United States: 

  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont

And in a surprising twist, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have no statewide system of regulation. This means that homeschool families are at the mercy of regulations imposed by local school districts. In practical terms, homeschooling conditions in these two states are inconsistent—with some districts treating homeschool families well while others overburden them with regulations. 

Homeschooling—the ultimate choice in education

Not surprisingly, opinions vary widely on the degree to which more or less regulation in homeschooling is preferable. Some parents appreciate greater regulation because—other than reporting and recordkeeping—the curricula are planned out for them. Others find that excessive regulations infringe on the freedom promised by homeschooling and see onerous guidelines as stifling. 

In the end, the option to homeschool in the least-restrictive environment possible represents the ultimate choice in education. And as Ian Slatter with the HSLDA notes, “Homeschool performance doesn’t change between students in the easy states and those in the difficult ones. There’s a lot of regulation and work placed on parents in the difficult states with no benefit.”

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Career Colleges COVID-19 Online learning

It doesn’t matter where you go to college—really

In a day and age obsessed with getting into the best college, does the decision really matter in the wider scheme of life?

Overall, the answer is no.

This is particularly the case in the age of COVID-19. One survey of college presidents from mid-2020 found that 72 percent are very or somewhat concerned about “a perceived decrease in the value of higher education” because of the virus.

The on-campus frills surrounding college are gone—think of the ivy-covered walls, classroom interactions, the social groups, etc.—all replaced with Zoom classes and online message boards.

As we begin 2021 with the hope that life will eventually return to normal, now is a good day to assess the age-old question of whether the college you choose matters, and if so, how much. We’ll do so in this blog post. Read on!

What about better jobs and income?

First, let’s tackle the earnings question. Depending on your area of study, a degree from a more selective college has no bearing on your future earnings.

For students majoring in science-related fields, there’s no statistically significant difference in earnings between graduates of elite colleges and those from less-selective schools, according to research from Michael Hilmer, an economist at San Diego State University, and Eric Eide and Mark Showalter, economists at Brigham Young University.

The biggest difference in earnings comes for business majors. But even here, students who graduate from elite schools earn, on average, just 12 percent more than their peers at mid-tier schools.

As Elissa Nadworny and Anya Kamenetz write for National Public Radio, “An individual’s choice of major, such as engineering, is a far more powerful factor in her eventual earnings than her choice of college.” One poll found that attending an elite college doesn’t make you happier later in life, either.

And don’t forget that many of the world’s most financially success people—think Steve Jobs and Bill Gates—dropped out of college.

Remember, going to an elite university is more about prestige and social connections than anything else

For wealthy people, college is more about social connections than acquiring knowledge. Granted, those social connections are often the key to getting the right high-paying, influential job after graduation. And many of them do. (The U.S. Supreme Court, for example, is exclusively represented by graduates of the Ivies.)

But if your ultimate goal is to acquire knowledge—and more importantly, to continue to learn how to learn—headed toward a well-paying job in your field, then your choice of college begins to matter less and less.

What’s more, surveys show that hiring managers don’t really care where you went to college—just that you have the hard and soft skills to actually get the job done. Having an Ivy listed on your LinkedIn profile is a definite mental boost (and it can’t hurt during a job hunt), but the cost of getting in and completing a degree isn’t always worth it.

Focus on the main thing

In the vast majority of cases, the name of your college doesn’t matter. What matters is earning the credential. It doesn’t have to be a bachelor’s degree, either. Don’t give in to our culture’s obsession with getting into “the best” college, a preoccupation that needlessly stresses out young people.