A Non-Traditional Route To An Advanced Degree

Earning a college degree has become a must in today’s competitive job market. However, many young adults who have struggled with the traditional classroom setting through high school have found it to be nearly impossible to make it through many of their college courses. The pressure of being on their own for the first time, having to balance a budget on nothing but loans and part time work, and being just one out of hundreds or thousands of students vying for the attention and counsel of their professors has led many students to drop their studies altogether and enter the job force with what little education and experience they have. In return, upon entering the job market and searching for employment, they are often placed behind those students who have earned that vital degree.

Having worked as an academic advisor at the University of Florida for three years, I saw my share of students let their insecurities and frustrations with the traditional university setting sabotage their opportunity to receive a quality education and an advanced degree. My advice to these students before they drop a class or all their classes was to change their traditional course to an online option offered by the university. While following up with the student’s progress, I saw a huge leap of not only improvement, but in confidence as well.

The casual experience of online classes can be a great change for a struggling student. One experience during my time as an advisor was with a business student who was trying to make it through his art history class. After only a week and a half he was sure he’d never pass the course, and never receive his arts credit for general education. I recommended he try the online version of the course, and after checking up with him just two weeks later, the change not only in his grades, but in his attitude and outlook were incredible. Before, where he may have felt uncomfortable staring at a projected piece of art from the back of an auditorium filled with four hundred students, he now had the paintings and sculptures presented before him on his computer screen, where he could study it in detail and gain a deep understanding before moving on.

This student was just one of many who have found that they prefer learning in the comfort of their own home. The flexibility of online classes saves them the hassle of a commute, and lets them schedule their learning during the precious few hours of free time they may have. One of the biggest complaints I received as an advisor was the pacing of specific course material in a class. It is a great benefit of online classes that they offer the student the option to spread their work out over the entire week, or complete many assignments in one of two days. There are even online universities who provide the student with the possibility to work on a specific class over the course of just a few weeks, or several months, even extending beyond the traditional semesters if needed. This catering to students is a luxury that a busy university professor with hundreds of students seeking his personal attention isn’t something normally afforded to the traditional university student.

This form of alternative education has exploded in the past decade and has allowed many students who have tried and failed in the traditional campus setting to return to school to finish an undergraduate degree at their own pace and at the comfort of their own computer.

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Lucy Markham worked as an academic and career counselor for three years while earning her B.A. in English from the University of Florida. She is currently pursuing her M.A. in Education from the University of Utah.