3 Challenges Online Education Helps Adult Learners Overcome

Darwin Green for US News World Report writes: After a long and difficult decision, I decided to return to college after a 12-year gap between my sophomore and junior years.

Things had changed since I had been to college, both for me and in education. I now had a pregnant wife and bills to pay – something I never had to consider as a young man in my early 20s. And an undergraduate degree somehow became the new high school diploma. I needed a way to find financial security while maintaining my responsibilities as a father, a husband and as an adult. I decided to apply to an online education program.

As an adult, I found there are three advantages of online degrees:

1. Online school provides flexibility in the face of other responsibilities: As a freshman and sophomore in college, I could schedule classes during the day without worrying about fitting in other things around them. Then, I would probably show up late because of parking or just because I didn’t feel like it.

Life as an adult presents a lot more challenges and results in more serious consequences when not meeting deadlines. Getting bad grades in school could make job prospects more difficult, but losing a job can potentially result in homelessness. The time investment made for work often makes going back to school as an adult more difficult.

Some online programs offer asynchronous learning, where a student meets deadlines on their own time. This gives adult learners the flexibility that many brick-and-mortar schools don’t offer.

As an online student, it becomes easier to prioritize my life. I can ensure that my son gets all the attention he deserves while filling in the rest of my time with school, part-time work and other duties.

2. Online school removes the stigma of being older: When I decided to return to college, I realized I had become an “adult learner.” This meant that I had not graduated from college in my early 20s, when many thousands of people had.

Not having a degree in my early 30s often drew a sneer from adults who expected more than just charm, charisma and a resume with only work experience. This caused me embarrassment, but the embarrassment of being the oldest “kid” in the class almost prevented me from returning.

In the virtual world, students can more easily hide their age. In fact, in the online environment, it seems like older students make up a larger percentage of the classroom than in brick-and-mortar colleges.

3. Adults can attend distant campuses: Not every adult can pack up their belongings and move into a dormitory. I’d rather attend college from home as an adult than move cross-country, away from my family, and live in a dorm room with kids two-thirds my age blaring pop music while I try to sleep or study.

The thought of having to bunk with kids on campus or look for apartments nearby with younger roommates prevented me from returning to college. Online school removes the need for relocation and allows adults to attain educational goals from around the globe.

The takeaway: The virtual world of the online campus stems from home, and adults can resume or maintain their lives while reinventing their futures through online school.

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