Some Encouraging Advice

The Teaching Home is a magazine for Christian home educators. A few years ag, they published some suggestions for parents and students who are considering higher education. If you’ve been wondering what the Biblical motivations and goals behind higher education should be, this is an excellent read.

Read the full article.


Why It Doesn’t Pay to Get Straight a’s in College

I worked hard to get good grades my first few years of college. My last year, I was tired of the whole college deal (and was working full time in my career field already) so I didn’t stress out quite so much about getting straight A’s.

I still got a decent GPA, but in the end it didn’t really matter since I’ve never had a potential employer ask about my grades. They generally only care about whether or not I can do the work.

Being good at book learning rarely equates to being good at any particular job.

Does studying for 60 to 80 hours a week, pulling all-nighters and not having time for socializing describe your college life? It describes 25-year-old Jon Morrow’s, and in this retrospective essay he questions whether it was worth it.

Read the full article.


What Can Distance Education Do for You?

Here’s an interesting article about distance education that was published by a news station in Madison, Wisconsin. Despite the fact that it’s targeted at adults who want to go back to school, it contains a good overview of distance education along with some valuable warnings about what to watch out for when picking a program.


How Do I Find a Proctor?

Teacher with Book

Most distance education programs require that you take your mid-term and final exams under the supervision of a proctor. Finding one isn’t difficult if you know where to look. Your local library is a good place to begin your search. Any certified librarian can act as a proctor for you. This is the route I took since I have a library close by. Another option is to find a proctor at a local community college. A proctor from a college may charge a nominal fee, though. Either way is acceptable in most distance education programs. You should check what the requirements are for your specific program.

Once you’ve located a proctor, you will typically need to have them complete a short form. This is a one-time request the allows the college to verify that you chose a qualified proctor. Thomas Edison State College has an example of their proctor request form online. After submitting the form and verifying that the college has processed it, you may then begin taking your exams under the supervision of the proctor. Taking a proctored exam is no different than taking any other exam. The proctor will simply ensure that you don’t have any extra books or notes with you before you start. He or she will also typically be the one to submit your completed exams to the college for grading.


What Is Concurrent Education?

Another question I received during my NCHE workshop was in reference to something called “concurrent education” and whether it was compatible with distance education.

I wasn’t familiar with the phrase at the time the question was asked, but after doing some research it seems that it’s just another name for what many home schoolers choose to do: enroll in college-level courses while still in high school. This is often a very smart thing to do because the credit earned can be applied towards both a high school diploma AND a college degree. However, many families choose not to opt for dual enrollment because it can sometimes put an unnecessary strain on the student. (I myself chose not to pursue this avenue during my high school years.) For some families, though, it can be an excellent fit.

Back to the original question: can concurrent education/dual enrollment programs be pursued at a distance? The answer is: ABSOLUTELY! In fact, I would venture to say that dual enrollment is most effective when done at a distance. Why?

  • Transportation expenses (gas, parking fees, etc.) are avoided.
  • A potentially lengthy daily commute is not necessary. This gives students time for other activities.
  • Students are able to stay at home where they can take advantage of the guidance and counsel of their parents. (This counsel can be especially helpful if the student is taking a dual enrollment course at a secular university and the course content is overtly anti-religious.)

For these reasons, I would encourage home school families who are pursuing a concurrent education program to consider doing it through distance education. Many colleges are quite flexible about the student’s age when applying for distance education courses. Even if a college doesn’t have a program labeled “concurrent education” or “dual enrollment,” it is likely your student will still be able to enroll in one or more courses while still in high school.

Do you have any thoughts to share? Has your family had experience in pursuing concurrent education/dual enrollment options? We’d enjoy hearing your story! Please post a comment.


Is ITT Technical Institute Accredited?

One question I received after the distance education workshop at NCHE this year was if ITT Technical Institute is accredited. I assume the attendee who asked was considering them as a possible distance education provider.

The answer is yes, ITT Tech is accredited, but not by a regional accrediting body. Regional accreditation is what to look for when choosing a good distance education school because regionally accredited schools have met very high educational standards. Also, if a school is regionally accredited it is typically easier to transfer college credit into and out of the school.

This goes back to the question of what your ultimate educational goals are. If you want to earn a degree that will generally be recognized by employers as being from a quality institution, regional accreditation is a must. If your only goal in attending school is learning a skill that you will then put to use in your own business or in an employment scenario that is less strict about such things, regional accreditation becomes less important.

The bottom line is that you should opt for regional accreditation as often as possible. For more information on the various types of accreditation, check out this article.


Distance Education on the Road

Hello, folks! I’m looking forward to contributing to this blog. Thanks to Matthew, my older brother, for giving me the opportunity to participate.

During a recent one-week road trip with my family, I learned yet another benefit offered by earning a degree through distance education — the convenience factor. I’m currently enrolled in two eight-week summer courses from a state community college. Due to the short duration of each course, the material covered is fairly heavy-duty, yet I was still able to keep up with my assignments even while on the road. With the frequency of wireless internet access points nowadays, it’s a fairly simple task to carry along a portable computer and access email, post to class discussion boards, and get updated assignments. Had I been enrolled in a traditional college program with mandatory classroom attendance, I would never have been able to wing this trip. As it was, all that I needed was a laptop, my books, and some time set aside for study.

Imagine the time saved through distance education – it gives you so much more freedom to pursue other opportunities while still working toward that “piece of paper,” the college degree.

General Interest

Distance Education Workshop at This Year’s NCHE Convention

Welcome to my new distance education blog!

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be giving a workshop on distance education at this year’s NCHE conference. (NCHE stands for North Carolinians for Home Education; my brother and I were both home schooled K-12 and were members of the group at one point.)

The workshop is titled “Distance Education: An Alternative to Traditional College.” In it, I’ll be sharing the story of my own experience earning a four-year degree in Computer Science via distance education. I’ll also be sharing the many benefits distance education offers over traditional college, as well as providing some pragmatic steps that parents and high schoolers can take to find a good distance education program and succeed in it.

My reason for creating this blog is two-fold. First, I want to let you, my readers, know about the conference in case some of you might want to attend. For a description of the workshop and more information about the conference, visit the conference web page.

Second, and most importantly, I plan on sharing the URL of this blog during the workshop so folks can visit, ask any follow-up questions they might have, and possibly even use a discussion board (I’m considering adding one to this site). I’ll be continuing to post about distance education and its role in today’s economy over the next few months for those who are interested in the topic.

If anyone has any immediate questions or comments, feel free to post a comment here. I’d also enjoy hearing from you if you plan on attending any workshops at this year’s conference.


The Online Learning Trend Is Exploding

The Washington Post ran a feature story this week about how the shift towards distance education, especially Internet-based education, is rapidly accelerating. If we thought distance education was becoming popular in the late 90s, we haven’t seen anything yet.

It’s predicted that by 2008, one in 10 college students will be enrolled in an Internet-based education program. The interesting thing is that this statistic only covers online coursework. It doesn’t take into account mail and video-based distance education programs which account for an even greater number of students.

Why the rapid increase? There are probably a number of factors involved:

  • The employment market is becoming increasingly competitive. Jobs are getting harder to secure straight out of college, making it even more vital that fresh graduates have real-world experience to go along with their degree.
  • Colleges offering distance education are hitting their stride in terms of course content and delivery. They have had 10 years to improve their Internet-based offerings, and this improvement is beginning to show.
  • Federal law is easing back its restrictions on distance education as people are beginning to recognize that, far from being an inferior way to earn a degree, it actually makes an incredible amount of fiscal and academic sense.

There is a reason why the University of Phoenix, a regionally accredited college offering full degrees through distance education, is now the largest private university in the United States. (Its enrollment jumped 20 percent in fiscal 2006.) People are recognizing distance education as a compelling alternative to traditional college, and they are making the switch.

Read the full story: Online Degree Programs Take Off