Head back to school – online

Technically Speaking
By Tamara Nicola

Over the past few years, the number of colleges and universities offering classes and degree programs online has soared. With rising gas prices and the rural nature of much of Canada, an online education is increasingly becoming an acceptable method of learning for many.
Online learning offers the convenience of classroom accessibility 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from virtually anywhere in the world. Because you do all your classroom work when it is convenient for you, your schedule is very flexible. You simply access your virtual classroom through the Web.
You will need to go through the same application process as you would with any degree program. Once you’ve been accepted and your coursework begins, you’ll likely receive an online syllabus outlining the course. For your online coursework, you’ll likely have weekly assignments due and regular tests. Much like in the regular classroom, an online school holds students to the same standards as a traditional classroom. But the added flexibility of being able to work around your work schedule and other life commitments makes getting an online degree particularly appealing to adults who are already employed.
The University of Western Ontario (UWO), Fanshawe College and Lambton College all offer online classes. The content of distance learning programs can cover a wide range. If you aren’t sure about full-time online learning, many institutions such as UWO offer hybrid degrees, where students can learn online and also in a traditional class setting at the same time.
Athabasca University is Canada’s leading distance-education and online university. They are experiencing rapid growth and currently serve about 37,000 students per year. Another rising star is Baker College Online, which is accredited and based in the US. Baker College is known as an affordable solution at only $170 per credit hour for undergraduate programs. The University of Phoenix, which pioneered online learning, continues to be a leader in North America but take note: a single credit hour will set you back over $500.
Many colleges throughout Canada also offer online career training and individual courses for those wanting to learn a new skill. Online learning isn’t just for college students. People who have interests in a subject outside of work often take classes in that subject for fun and enjoyment. Lambton College even offers a senior discount on all of their online offerings.
If you are up for a challenge this fall, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) offers 1700 courses online, free of charge. They are one of many universities that are now part of an open courseware community. Check out www.ocw.mit.edu for more information.
Whether you are interested in a degree program, professional development or personal growth, you will want to register soon for the fall semester. This year many expect the virtual classrooms to be overflowing and the possibly of being waitlisted is greater than ever due to the pain at the gas pump.