Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Testing the Waters of Online Education: Reasons to Give Dist

Online learning is still a relatively new format for the delivery of classroom instruction. And while the benefits of attending a virtual classroom instead of a physical classroom are many -- ranging from convenience and affordability to better collaboration and accessibility -- there are still a number of potential students out there who are reluctant to give it a try.

Yet, there is a way to test the waters of online learning to figure out if online study is right for you. Unlike, say, parachute jumping or becoming a heart surgeon, you can find out without taking a big scary plunge.

While traditional colleges and universities normally require you commit to a full semester or even year of courses, that is anything but the case with most online schools. Without any commitment, and very little (if any) expense, you can decide firsthand whether or not online education is a good fit for your unique learning style. After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

That being said, online learning isn�t just about earning a degree any longer -- far from it in fact. There are countless certification courses out there -- offered by top-tier and accredited universities -- that can be taken to learn a new skill or brush up on an old one. From graphic design to massage therapy, certification courses can lead to a new hobby and even a new career.

�Personal growth� courses also abound, and range from discovering your inner peace and improving your positive thinking to photography and screenwriting. While these kinds of online courses might not enhance your resume, necessarily, the impact they have on one�s life can be profound. You won�t find a more convenient or affordable way to pursue some serious -- and seriously fulfilling -- self-improvement.

So why not give online learning a try -- or try online learning to test that career path you�ve always dreamed of?

Here are some reasons to give online learning a try.

Dream Big

You only live once, so why not look into the true dream job or career you would want most out of life? With today�s countless options online, anything is within your grasp � whether you�ve considered becoming a private eye, trial lawyer, or heart surgeon.

No one wants to be wondering years down the road whether they should have taken the chance on a career that they really would have loved. You never know what�s possible until you try!

Get Creative

Online learning isn�t just about getting a degree or improving your technical skills. It�s now an educational arena more and more people are turning to for art, music, photography, and other creative endeavors.

At the very least, you�ll liven up your current life with a fulfilling creative release. And who knows, your creative passion might even lead to a whole new career!

Try Something New

As we mentioned, distance learning can be a convenient and affordable way to investigate a new passion, learn a new skill, or sample a new career direction -- with no risk and little expense.

Maybe you�re a receptionist that�s always wanted to try graphic design? Or a paralegal itching to get into IT? Statistics show that most people change careers at least once in their lives, and gaining expertise in a new field is a great way to test-drive a new career. Online courses let you sample a new field without leaving your current one, and can generally be worked into your busy schedule with ease.

Take a Step Up

On the other hand, maybe you�re already happy with your job and chosen field, but would like a quick career boost. You�d likely be surprised at how much learning one new skill can impact your job standing. An accountant learning a new bookkeeping program, for instance, or a graphic designer getting a grasp of the newest cutting-edge software, can make all the difference in the world when a promotion is at stake.

Additionally, your employers will almost certainly be impressed with your drive and initiative -- not to mention your tangible new skill. Some businesses will even cover the cost of your tuition if the course directly applies to your work with them.

Help Yourself

If you�re a small-business owner, or just aspire to be, there�s a perfect online course just waiting out there for you. What shopkeep, e-commerce seller, or innkeeper couldn�t stand to improve their bookkeeping skills, know more about saving on their taxes, or gain crucial knowledge on business management?

Imagine the money you could save by handling your own financial ledgers, or dealing with your own tax filing at the end of the year!

And for the aspiring entrepreneur, your only challenge will be choosing the right business to explore. Whether you�re considering opening a B& B, restaurant, import-export service, or other small business, there�s likely an online course available to show you the ropes.

Strengthen a Weakness

It�s safe to say that everyone has at least one weakness -- from the technically handicapped, to the financially clueless, to those who struggle to communicate better or run their office in a more organized manner.

That monkey on your back has been there too long, but you can give him the boot with one thorough online course. You�ll feel a weight off your shoulders and won�t feel so much at the mercy of your bookkeeper or office IT staff.

Satisfy Your Curiosity

Maybe you�ve always wondered what it was like in the world of graphic design, or how those computer gamers come up with such amazing results. Everyone has something they�re curious about but never looked into. Our pragmatic side, or fear of failure, tells us �that�s not for you,� or �you�re an accountant, not an interior designer, darn it!�

With the accessibility and affordability of distance courses, you can now satisfy your curiosity without breaking the bank, or even a sweat. Even if you don�t end up making a career change, you�ll get to see how the other half lives � and gain expertise in a brand-new area.

Stop Waiting!

Regardless of your choice with distance learning, there�s no time like the present to give it a try. The field as a whole has grown to be so extensive there is literally no end to your online options.

For someone who's unsure whether or not they want to start pursuing a full degree online, a certification or personal development course can be ideal for getting a true feel for what online learning is all about. If you like it and feel you can succeed at it, then you can take the plunge and move on to a legitimate degree program. If it�s not your cup of tea, no big deal, since the monetary and time commitments are fairly nominal.

But the fact is, you won�t know how you feel about online learning, or that dream career you�ve always thought about, or learning a new skill, until you give distance education a test-run.

You have little to lose and a world of possibilities to gain.

About the Author

Zachary Chouteau is a freelance writer for To learn more about online education visit or join our newsletter at


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