Further Your Education With Online Opportunities

High school dropout rates have declined since 1990, which is optimistic for the future of education. High school, however, is where many educations end. Skyrocketing college costs, both for the institutions and students, prevent the continuation of higher education for many high school grads. As academic alternatives, online colleges offer eager-to-learn students affordable, credible opportunities.

Solitary Pursuit

Education is no longer a “one size fits all” proposition. Students have different needs and require different types of instruction. Online resources also play a large role in giving students opportunities to find schools suitable for their interests and career goals. College bound students can devise an educational roadmap at http://www.collegeonline.org to secure their collegiate path online as well as learning more on how to finance those options. Earning that diploma, training for job certification or completing requirements for a college degree can all be accomplished in alternative settings today, notably through online programs.

Online educational institutions offer an alternative to classroom learning, especially for students who are struggling, have children or need greater time flexibility. There are many advantages to online learning: Self-paced instruction is perhaps the most-cited reason for enrolling in “computer college.” Besides college degrees, online schools offer GED programs, high school diplomas and training in the trades.

There are four basic types of distance learning, according to CampusExplorer.com. Open schedule online learning gives students the most freedom and flexibility. Hybrid courses have some scheduled check-in or chat times, but assignments can be completed at a student's own pace. Computer-based distance learning has actual classroom time once or twice a week. Fixed-time online courses are strictly online, but require students to complete assignments at a certain time and log-in at certain times.

All of these courses fall in either synchronous or asynchronous format. Synchronous courses involve interaction between an instructor and students, whether over chat, video or in a classroom. Asynchronous formatting is basically self-paced with little interaction.

When you decide which type of course is right for you, here's what you should look for in potential schools.

Accredited Institutions

The first question you should ask is about accreditation. Whatever your goals, from a high school diploma to a career skill to a specific training certification, an associate degree or even a master's degree, there are local, regional and national agencies that evaluate and certify the courses offered. You should always look for that accreditation, and don’t pay money for false or misleading claims.

One of the online institutions dedicated to decreasing the skills gap in this country, Penn Foster, is accredited to offer associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in 22 separate programs. The school, founded in 1890 and headquartered in Pennsylvania, was also named a military friendly school this year by GI Jobs Magazine.

Online Social Interaction

Self-paced education may be just the ticket for some students. Some students, as well as instructors, encourage a type of classroom atmosphere through mentoring, conference calls, online chats and even video conferencing.

Western Governors University, another online college that uses some of these techniques, was cited recently as a leader in innovation that's using technology to improve learning and maintaining low tuition costs. Many of the programs of this institution, which calls Salt Lake City, Utah, home, are developed through input from business and commerce. WGU, also accredited, offers numerous degree programs. It has grown to a reported enrollment of 40,000 students, the average age of its students is 37 and almost 70 percent are employed full-time.

Guest Writer: Lourdes Garcia