There are quite a few challenges in pursuing an online degree. But as long as you know them beforehand and can prepare for them, all of these challenges won’t put any bigger obstacle for you.
The key challenges in distance learning are the eight ‘Cs’.
- Copyright issues
There is a variety of distance learning programmes on offer. Some are quite expensive (even though the distance learning alternative is cheaper than studying the same programme on campus). Well-known universities make life easier by allowing you to pay in instalments.
For instance, they might agree that you only need to pay a part of the fees, say 25% before each module. If this does not work with your institute, maybe your boss might be supportive and agree on an advance payment of your salary. Or someone in your family would be able to help you out. If all of this is not the case, you might also consider taking an education loan from your local bank to solve this problem. Some banks offer particular attractive interest rates for these kinds of loan.
As the online course is entirely computer dependent, access to a computer is an absolute must. If you cannot afford one, then you may use one of the Internet cafes near your house or request a friend who has a PC. Now the challenge is to use it. Studying online is not complicated however you may want to familiarise yourself with the software used before making a decision to enrol. If you feel that your computer skills need a brush-up. There are many institutes around helping you with that, or save that money and see is some of your friends might be able to help you by teaching you. See, how important friends are!
Now, this is very important. The University which is offering you the degree should be trustworthy. Otherwise, your money and time will be wasted on a piece of paper (the certificate) which has no value at all. The University which you have selected should be well known and recognized worldwide. Look for the accreditation of this institute, as well as comments of other students at this university. You have to browse the internet and consult others who have already done the same course. Please make sure everything is fine before you pay the fee.
It is essential that the contents of the course will be of some relevance to your job. Please go through the course material before taking a decision. If the said University is not offering what you want, please do not hesitate to check another University‘s curriculum. Choices nowadays are manifold and with websites like this one, you have literally thousands of offers at your fingertip. If you are still confused contact somebody who has already completed the course. They may be able to guide you.
A student always feels comfortable when they are connected to their tutor. This is another challenge in DL. You are not able to see your tutor face to face and thus, might feel isolated. But be aware this is only a transition phase. You will get over it in no time because you will be able to chat with your tutor online and he will be monitoring your progress continuously. You will also be given his email address so, you can contact him directly.
6. Copyright issues
As you might know, most materials created are protected by copyright. In simple terms, the copyright certifies the "original works of authorship" and thus, protects the rights of the author. It applies for instance to literature, drama, music, art, architecture and certain other intellectual works. In the world of academics, copyright is of particular importance. That means whenever you refer to thoughts are statements not discovered or created by you – references must be mentioned.
For our studies today, most of our information is obtained from the internet. Of course, we may use this information but need to mention the name of the original author correctly or state the original source of information. Keep in mind that not respecting the copyright is breaking the law – and once discovered it might cost you more than your title.
Confidence is everything. However, your confidence is at a very low level when you first enter the discussion forum. Here is the experience of an online student: "I had tachycardia (fast heart rate) initially because I had joined the group at a later date. I could not catch up with others because they were already in the game and were ignoring me as though I was a moron. I was in front of the computer for almost 5 to 6 hours searching for information. Within a few days I picked up the thread and believe me, I scored the highest marks for that. I advise you to keep cool and do not allow anybody to restrain you."
That is an important lesson for both your studies as well as your life. It is always difficult when you are doing something for the first time but later it becomes a habit and you achieve it without a lot of thoughts. Look for example at a child learning to walk. He stumbles in the beginning but starts running later on. I am sure once you stick to it, you too will run soon!
Please do not necessarily expect that all your co-students are angels. You might come across some devils that are waiting to pounce on you. My advice is to just ignore them. The University itself prohibits such behaviour but some people cannot control themselves so ’Ignorance is bliss’. Just concentrate on your work but if everything runs out of control, inform your tutors about it and they will sort it out for you.