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From Bricks-and-Mortar to Clicks-and-Modem: Is the Future of Education Online?

As career competition increases, so does the need for higher qualifications. However, many of us have to consider family obligations and career and financial constraints before packing up and heading off to graduate school. That's why more and more students are turning to distance learning instead of heading to a classroom. Universities are responding to this need and many well-known and respected schools now offer a variety of courses-and often whole programs-online.

Are you ready for the future of education? There are a number of things to consider before clicking "send" on an application for online education.

The Opportunity

There are many benefits to pursuing a degree online. You can often study at your own pace-whether you want to accelerate or go slow. If you need the discipline of a schedule, there are also many online programs that offer a more defined pace. With both options, students can fit their coursework around career and family demands.

Today's work world is not 9-to-5 anymore. Many of today's employers require flexibility, both in the hours and the location of work. If you have to work the late shift or take a business trip, you can still "attend" classes online. Plus, by going online, you can earn a degree while continuing your career and gaining valuable work experience.

With an online degree program, you can pursue your goals whenever you can, wherever you are. You can study at schools across the country and around the globe without leaving the comforts of home, and you have access to a variety of view points and life experiences you might not find in a traditional, bricks-and-mortar school. Nowadays, with continuing advances in technology, many distance learning programs have evolved to ensure interaction between professors and students as well as amongst the students.

Online degrees can also save you money. Even if the cost of the courses is the same, you don't have to relocate, quit your job or commute. All you need is a computer and Internet access-with today's wireless technology it's even more convenient. Plus, with the steady advancement of technology, today's distance students have broad access to the university's resources right from their own living rooms.

As an online student, you can gain valuable discipline as well as hone your time-management, organization and technical skills. And with the growing popularity of distance studies, employers are recognizing it as a viable option for their employees, and maybe even participating in it themselves.

The Score

Online learning can be great...for the right kind of student. On campus, you have classmates and professors motivating you. With online learning, you have to provide your own motivation.

You have to be dedicated and have finely tuned time-management skills, especially if you are working or have a family. If you tend to procrastinate-to clean your fridge when you should be writing your essay-online learning may not be the best choice. You have to have focus and strong discipline to set a schedule and stick to it despite the demands of everyday life swirling around you.

If you are a technophobe or break the computer before it's out of the box, you might want to stick to the classroom. On the other hand, you could consider it an opportunity to gain some much-needed technical skills.

Even with modern Internet standbys such as chatrooms, discussion boards, instant messaging and webcams, the interaction in an online classroom is different. If you need constant feedback and face-to-face interaction with professors and fellow students, you might find online learning a challenge.

The Future

Get ready-all signs point to continued growth in the field of distance studies as more and more schools offer undergraduate and graduate courses and programs online.

What does this mean for you? Do you need to do your research before pursing an online graduate degree? Sure, the same as you would for any other graduate program. Can an online degree help you achieve your personal and professional goals? Definitely!

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