Today, people are more knowledge-hungry than ever before, and an increasing number of adults are deciding to return to school, whether it's to catch up on getting a high school diploma that they missed out on in the past, get a degree for the first time or improve their employment prospects by building on the graduate education that they already have. Whether you are considering taking a high school level qualification or want to embark on a master's degree, there's no denying that re-entering education as an adult can be a tricky path to take.
Historically, adults looking to return to school may have had to cut down or rearrange work hours in order to be able to attend classes, take evening, night or weekend courses, arrange additional childcare, and make more adjustments that may not always be possible for everybody. Thankfully, times have changed and learning at any level is becoming more and more accessible to everybody thanks to the growing rise of online learning. Whether you want to take a short vocational course to boost your career prospects or are considering investing years into a master's or another post-graduate degree, online learning has many benefits – let's explore some of the main ones here.
What is Online Learning?
Online learning is an educational medium that allows students to gain their qualifications by participating in online courses. All materials, classes and more are available via the internet and students do not need to attend classes or visit lecture halls in person; they can instead choose to learn wherever is best for them from the comfort of their own home or another chosen location. In addition, online learning has also become a gratifying method of passing on their own knowledge for subject experts.
For many students, online learning means getting a degree from a college or university. In 2014, almost six million students were enrolled in at least one distance learning or online program provided by a major educational institution.
Freedom to Learn Whatever You Want:
There are certainly plenty of options available today when it comes to learning and increasing your knowledge of a particular subject. Colleges and universities offer hundreds of subjects and majors at a range of different levels, and most students find that a suitable program is available to them from a college or university of their choice. But what if the program that you want to study isn't that popular? Unless you are willing to travel often a long while to study at a university that offers what you need or are lucky enough to have a local college that provides it, getting the qualification that you really want can be tricky.
On the other hand, online learning tears down many common barriers faced by traditional learning institutions, such as budget, staffing, and syllabus issues that often define the programs that a college can and can't offer. Since these problems are less of an issue for online institutions, you are more likely to find specialized programs or programs that are not hugely popular in the traditional setting.
The comfort of Learning From Home:
If you're an adult considering the idea of returning to education, then you may have already worried about how you're going to manage fitting attending classes and lectures around your already busy schedule. For many adult learners, the pressure of getting to evening classes after a long day at work can easily become too much, or the financial constraints that come with reducing working hours in order to attend lectures during the day can make it even more difficult for them to reach their academic goals.
However, online learning provides students with the option to learn from the comfort of their own homes – after a long day at work, there's no need to get back up, go out and attend a class. You can simply switch on your PC or open your laptop and get on with studying right there in your living room, bedroom or kitchen. You don't even need to get out of your pajamas.
In many schools, there is often a very competitive atmosphere – professors posting grade-point averages and test results for everybody to see, or simply being around fellow students discussing grades and results can create a lot of pressure on other students. Even if your classmates can't tell which student ID number is yours, they will probably know how you are comparing to the rest of the class.
For some students, it's impossible to thrive in this environment and many become disheartened as a result. And, the pressure can have an effect on your work, leading to problems like apathy, poor performance and reduced absorption of knowledge. On the other hand, online learning is a completely different environment in comparison. Although it's still easy – and encouraged – for students to interact with one another and with their tutors, there is no need to face a competitive classroom atmosphere every day.
Flexibility and Convenience:
Many adult students find themselves becoming far too over-scheduled, with barely any time left in the day between work, school, family responsibilities and everything else. You could easily end up in a situation where you can account for every minute of your day from waking up to going to sleep, and spare time for yourself becomes a thing of the past.
Even if you like keeping busy, over-scheduling can be dangerous for your health both mentally and physically as you no longer have the time to simply relax, decompress, and enjoy your life. As a result, it's easy to begin feeling resentment towards every activity that you participate in. And, whilst it's important that you take online classes seriously and come up with a schedule to stick to that works for you, you do have the added flexibility of deciding to study when it is most convenient for you. As a result, you can work studying around your fixed commitments and ensure that some 'me time' is scheduled in there too.
Another great reason to consider studying for your next qualification online is that it's cheaper. Compared to the tuition and associated costs of studying in a traditional classroom setting, online courses like these CCNE accredited online RN to BSN programs can cost you around a third less, or even more. Reduced tuition fees are a welcome breath of fresh air for many aspiring students today, with student debt worries a mounting concern nationwide.
And along with reduced student debt, studying online can help you spend less as you get your degree. The ability to study from home means that any potential extra costs for putting more gas in your car or using public transport to get to classes or paying for parking on campus can be forgotten about. Additionally, many online programs will have all materials included, and some will often include the key textbooks leaving you with less to worry about when it comes to the materials you will need to buy in order to get started.
More Interactive Opportunities:
You would be forgiven for thinking that online learning is a lonely place – it's a common misconception, but quite often, the opposite is true. University and college campuses can often seem like social places, but they can often actually create an insular environment where you're exposed to the same people every day in classes, giving you less of a chance to branch out when it comes to your social interactions.
On the other hand, an online program gives you opportunities to meet people from all over the country – and in many cases, across the world too. When studying online, there will be numerous opportunities for you to converse with fellow students through chat rooms, forums and both official and unofficial social media groups. And, with online students generally being more diverse, you can often learn just as much from your fellow classmates as you can from tutors and professors in an online learning environment.
Expand Your Career Horizons:
Finally, if you are looking to boost your work opportunities and expand your horizons when it comes to your career, an online learning program could be an ideal choice for you. Thanks to their flexibility and convenience they are the perfect option for anybody who wishes to continue working full-time whilst they study towards earning a qualification that may allow them to gain a promotion in their current workplace or even switch out to a new employer or a completely different career. Learning online is also ideal if you are not planning to inform your employer of your plans just yet, as you will not need to request any time off to attend lectures or changes to your working hours in order to accommodate your studies.
Today, online learning is bigger than ever with millions of students from all around the globe enrolled in an online or distance learning program. There are many reasons you may be thinking of starting or returning to studying. Whatever your reason, there are thousands of online programs to choose from that offer all of these benefits and more.
4 min read
One of the few things I remember from grade school biology is the concept of tropism. In plain language, tropism is the reaction of a living thing, like a plant, towards a stimulus like sunlight or heat. You've likely seen this before but just didn't recognize it for what it was. If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action. The plant is bending towards the sunlight.
If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action.
In our everyday lives, we are all inundated with stimuli throughout the day. The driver in front of us that stalls at the yellow light and zooms through the red light, leaving us behind to wait. Or the customer service rep that leaves us on hold for an ungodly amount of time, only for the call to prematurely drop. There are so many examples both common and unique to our individual lives. The trouble begins when we form the habit of responding to everything — particularly negative stimuli. By doing this, our mental peace is disrupted and diverted making us slaves to whatever happens to happen. Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us. Now take that concept and multiply it by the number of things that can happen in a day, week, or month. What happens to you mentally with so many emotional pivots?
For me, the result is: Restlessness. Anxiety. Sleepness. Mindless Eating. Everything besides peace of mind.
Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us.
Earlier this year, something pretty trivial happened to me. I'm sure this has happened to you at some point in your life also. I was walking through a door and, as I always do, glanced back and held the door longer and wider than normal for the person coming behind me. My gracious gesture was met with silence — no thank you, no smile, not even a nod. I remember being so annoyed at this travesty of justice. How dare they not acknowledge me and thank me for holding the door? After all, I didn't have to do it. I know I spent the next few hours thinking about it and probably even texted a few friends so that they could join in on my rant and tell me how right I was to be upset. In hindsight, I should not have allowed this pretty petty thing to occupy my mind and heart, but I did. I let it shake my peace.
I've since taken some classes on mindfulness and what I've learned (and I'm still learning) is the art of being aware — being aware of the present and my feelings. Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy. We're all human and having emotions is part of the deal but as mindful adults, it's critically important to choose what you're going to care about and let everything else pass along. There are several tools on the market to help with this but the Headspace app has really helped me in my mindfulness journey. The lessons are guided and coupled with some pretty cute animations.
Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy.
Over the course of the next week, I'd like to challenge you to pay more attention to your reactions. How aware are you of how you allow your environment to affect you? Are you highly reactive? Do you ruminate for hours or even days on events that are insignificant in your life? If so, practicing a bit of mindfulness may be the way to go.