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How Online Education Can Help You Earn a Traditional Degree

May 7, 2010 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Even though many students—particularly those non-traditional students with full-time jobs and families to support—are embracing online education, many others are sticking to the traditional route. But the line between traditional and online student isn’t as defined these days as you’d think.

Even if you’re going to a traditional college, you may encounter opportunities to use online education during the program. Colleges throughout the country are starting to work online education into traditional programs—from introducing hybrid classrooms with online elements to offering entire classes and degree programs online. Still, you can spend some or even all of your study time online—and still earn a traditional degree. Here are a few ways students are combining online and traditional educations. 

Many colleges are bringing online education tools into the traditional classroom to different degrees. Even though you go to class on campus, you may have an online discussion board to supplement the classroom instruction, your assignments may be handed in online, or your instructor may assign projects to be completed with online tools. These classes are often the way traditional students are introduced to online learning.

By using online courses to pick up extra credits


By taking a hybrid class

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Colleges throughout the country are starting to work online education into traditional programs—from introducing hybrid classrooms with online elements to offering entire classes and degree programs online.

Online classes are more flexible than traditional classes; instead of having a specific time to meet, you can log in and attend class any time that works for you. If you’re short on credits toward your degree, you may be able to fit extra coursework in if you take a class online—even if you wouldn’t have time to take a traditional class.  While your college may or may not accept credits from online classes at a different school, many traditional colleges also offer online classes—and the college you go to may have online classes that will help you earn more credits.

By transferring from an online to a traditional school

Online colleges are often more cost-effective than traditional schools—and they also fit better into the lives of busy professionals and parents. However, if you’re set on a traditional degree, you may be able to go to college online for most of your college career—then transfer to a traditional college in your last year to earn your degree.

Not all of your credits might transfer, and some traditional colleges don’t allow transfers from online schools at all, so before you enroll, do your research and be sure you’ve lined up both the right online and the right traditional school to make this plan work.   

By earning an online degree at a traditional school

Another option might be to choose a traditional school with an online degree program in your field. You may be able to switch to on-campus classes in your last year, but you probably won’t need to if your degree doesn’t specify whether it was learned online or on-campus. There are many colleges that offer online degree programs, including Drexel University, Arizona State University, Boston University, and George Washington University.

By earning online credits before you attend a traditional school

You may also be able to prepare for college by taking a few college classes online before your date of enrollment starts. This could help you prepare for school, eliminate the need for remedial classes, or help you earn credits toward your degree while you wait for enrollment to start—possibly shortening your time in school. Again, it’s important to be sure the credits will transfer first. If they won’t, ask the college you plan to attend if they offer summer classes or other prep classes online the semester before you’re scheduled to start.

The line between traditional and online classrooms is blurring—and students benefit from the flexibility and cost-effectiveness that online programs bring. Even if you’re working toward a traditional degree, online education may be part of your program—and it could be invaluable in helping you pick up extra credits, save money or prepare for a new degree program.


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