If you believe Zig Ziglar, the mere act of deciding to go back to school puts you well on your way to reaching your goal.
But hold on a minute …
Did you notice Zig Ziglar’s qualifier? He says a goal halfway reached is one that’s been properly set.
Besides deciding the “why” and “when” of going back to school, you must also figure out the “how,” as in “How will you get your degree? In the classroom or online?”
Fortunately, you have a choice.
While traditional classroom-style college education with its more structured, on-campus environment is a great way to earn a degree, the virtual classroom with its flexible, no-commute schedule can be especially appealing to adult students.
Since there are so many myths about online degrees, we went straight to the source to find out how to finish your college degree without ever stepping foot into a classroom.
Here’s what two Franklin University graduates have to say:
Why did you opt for an online-only degree?
MarKel Snyder: I went the 100% online route for two reasons: the convenience of being able to work and go home rather than commute to class, and Franklin’s MBA program because it’s set in the context of the lifecycle of a business and I’m an entrepreneur at heart.
Roderick D.S. Wheeler: While serving four years on active duty, I was offered the opportunity to earn a master’s degree through a new program called eArmyU. The online option was a way to get active-duty soldiers like me to finish school without getting stopped by military responsibilities, travel and deployments.
How did 100% online classes work for you?
Snyder: I’m very comfortable with technology since that’s my profession, so it was really easy for me to make the connection between curriculum and technology. I determined how I could get through pretty quickly so it only took me 18 months to finish my MBA (the fastest it can be done is 16 months). My 100% online degree was a way to further complement my professional skills, I think.
Wheeler: My online classes were more difficult than my in-person courses from my undergraduate program because I truly had to master the subject matter and be more disciplined and serious about the course content. On the other hand, having relevant life experiences to relate to my coursework really helped.
What do you think are the most important ‘success factors’ for anyone wanting to pursue a degree solely online?
Snyder: There were several for me. First, I always created a schedule of everything I had to accomplish. I would review not just the first week of class and its content, but all six to 12 weeks of it, including the due dates. Second, there was real value in learning how to use online journal and periodical databases and navigate search engine resources. Third, becoming more comfortable with delivering assignments in written form was a big part of the process since that’s really how class participation works with an online degree. Lastly, I had to get really comfortable learning new ways to facilitate dialogue using resources like Go To Meeting or Microsoft Live Meeting. In some cases, online learning can be lonely or a deterrent since it can feel like you’re just talking into a box. For some people, it can really take some getting used to.
Wheeler: There’s greater accountability when you have to show up to class, so if a student lacks the discipline required by the online program, I suggest that the student opt for the in-person version. Even though online classes have specific assignments due throughout the week to help you structure your academic progress, you still have to be completely committed to setting aside time to master the subject matter, independently research topics and meet deadlines independent of class participation.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of enrolling in a 100% online degree program?
Snyder: An online education is an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and increase accessibility at all levels. The world is moving toward more connectivity and because of technology barriers are being lifted. But that also means you have to know how to facilitate or moderate a conversation and interact in the digital world or else you’ll be left behind. Remember there’s always an initial hurdle when you pursue something new before you gain the confidence that allows you to be successful in the long run.
Wheeler: You cannot focus on anything but school, family and work. If there’s anything else that conflicts with those three priorities, then it’s probably not a good time to complete an online degree. No volunteering, board membership, extensive travel, sports or coaching. It takes time and dedication to achieve your goal but it’s definitely worth it.
About the Graduates
MarKel Snyder is the CIO at Columbus Metropolitan Library. He is a technology enthusiast and a Franklin University MBA graduate.
Roderick D.S. Wheeler is a former U.S. Army soldier, senior grants officer at Central Indiana Community Foundation, and a Franklin University MBA graduate.