Nontraditional Student Experience Term Paper

Nontraditional Student Experience

Serving the Needs of Nontraditional Students

The Internet has revolutionized the educational system with online education becoming increasingly popular. Critics charge that online education is vastly inferior to traditional classroom settings. True, despite the many benefits of online education, there are certainly many weaknesses compared to traditional, campus-based education. Still, nontraditional online education has merits over onsite courses and meets the needs of most adults who have nontraditional needs more so than traditional education in many circumstances.

When my daughter graduates from high school, I will send her to a college instead of asking her to take online classes because there are many things that you can learn in a college that you cannot learn in a virtual environment. The reason I will do so is that attending college is a great experience. Colleges shape students’ lives and teach values, ethics and cultures that are unique to schools. Often, one can tell which school a person has attended just by listening to the person’s communication style. Going to an online school is different. You can get a degree from an online school, but you may not get a chance to fully immerse yourself in the culture of the college you are attending.

Right or wrong, in most instances, a traditional college degree has more weight than an online degree. Employers typically prefer campus-based college degrees and frequently visit colleges to recruit new employees. I am not sure that any employer has ever asked an online college to send a list of their best students.

Colleges offer interactive environments and encourage students to participate in extra-curricular activities. Students join different clubs and student unions at the colleges, and participate in debates, games and sports. These activities help shape students’ lives and characters. Students associate with and learn from each other. If they do not understand something in the class room, they may find a friend who is willing to help them out. or, they may walk to the library to find a book or paper to serve their interest. They sit-down and read, or take the material with them.

Online courses are meant for mature people who already have a job and are willing to make a choice between getting an education or getting no education at all. Working professionals have to make sure they continue supporting their families, paying bills and mortgages and putting food on the table before they can go to school. They may have other obligations such as serving in the army, moving from one camp to another, spending long time on a ship, or traveling to different places. If they want to get a higher education, their only choice may be to join online classes. Online courses are meant to bypass activities that students may participate in on a campus-based environment. Online students spend all or most of their available time on the Internet, and their social life starts disappearing. Many recreational activities such as sports, gym, and dining-out start suffering. These are the sacrifices an online student must make in order to allocate time for online classes.

Since online students are usually mature people with life experience and practical expertise in several areas, online classes can run on an accelerated schedule. Although completing an online degree program depends upon how much time is devoted to classes, it is possible to complete the program in half the time that an onsite classes would take, making it more likely for students to accomplish their educational goals because they are not waylaid by conflicting responsibilities that arise over time. The longer the educational process takes, the more likely these events are likely to occur.

There are other benefits of taking online classes. When I was going to college, I always had a hard time preparing my schedule. Some classes that I wanted to take were so far apart that I had to wait for several hours to take the next class. Sometimes, I was only able to schedule one class in a whole day, although I had to spend the same commuting time to go to college as I would have for a full day of classes. After completing most of my classes and nearing graduation, I could not find the last classes I needed to graduate. I had to wait for two semesters before the college offered those classes. Online classes take care of these scheduling problems, and there is no commuting time, parking problems, or having to buy a car just to go to college. There could be blizzard outside the house and I could still take an online class in the comfort of my home.

Attending classes from the comfort of the home is an attractive thought, but the home environment may not be conducive to study. My daughter might be watching television, playing, or listening to loud music; or my friends and relatives might stop by any time they feel like it. When these interruptions occur, it may not be easy to pick up the computer and go to some other place to study.

Still, online classes have their merit. Despite the biases for the onsite classes, the quality of online classes varies just like the quality of onsite classes. The difference is that the online environment is going through rapid improvements. On the other hand, onsite education is not easy to change since it represents the culture of the institution. According to Dr. Henry Ingle, who is in a position to understand both traditional and nontraditional learning because of his role on the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities Virtual Learning Marketplace advisory board and his position as vice chancellor and chief instructional officer for the San Diego Community College,

Online learning is evolving as pedagogy of electronic instruction. Online faculty in their early stages of teaching via the Internet initially transfer materials that they use in a face-to-face setting before they get practical experience that let’s them see what they can realize with these telecommunications technologies that transcend space, time, people, and information. For example, via the WWW, they can more easily bring industry and expert speakers into the online teaching/learning environment and invite the authors of textbooks they use to come in the chat room for a short period of time. Accepting the invitation is more easily accomplished than through traditional transportation and travel. Outside resource people and guest lecturers can do it from their desktops or laptops anywhere, anyplace, and without having to necessarily drop other things to do it.”

Further, online education offers financial advantages and flexibility not just for workers, but for employers as well. Peter Fretty published an article in the magazine PM Network making the point that,

Distance learning – a tech-savvy combo of the classroom and the Internet – has rapidly gained favor among companies looking for more effective ways to train employees. Considering costs alone, distance learning is a plus for companies that no longer have to devote a massive chunk of their education budgets to travel. The format’s appeal goes beyond financial considerations, however. Flexibility is the most obvious advantage of a solid distance-learning program.”

According to Jennie Berkson in her article “Learning Online,” the following guidelines should be considered to determine if online education is the right choice:

Decide whether online study is really for you? Some people need to get out of the house to learn in an actual physical classroom. Others may find the virtual environment more convenient or more comfortable

Determine what kind of study program you want. Options range from college courses for credit to workshops of a few days.

Think about the sort of learning environment you prefer. Do you want a course with assignments, a critique group or a one-on-one tutor?

Check out the teacher’s credentials, other teaching experience, and knowledge of the subject.

Compare the costs of different programs. There is a wide variety, and costs are not always related to quality.” can say from my own personal experience, education has gained more emphasis than actual work experience. Now, more and more, employers are asking for formal degrees before looking at someone’s accomplishments and expertise. Therefore, working people may not prosper without a degree. Online education provides an option to get a degree that might not otherwise be available. I am suffering from the same problems that prevent most people from obtaining a degree and I am taking online classes from home. It is allowing me to fulfill my parental obligations and to continue my education while I am working in a way that is more flexible and affordable than traditional classrooms. While these offer many benefits over online courses, I do not need these at my current stage in life.


Berkson, Jennie. “Learning Online.” The Writer. May 2005. Boston: Vol. 118, Iss. 5; pg. 23, 3 pages Retrieved from ProQuest on May 23, 2008, Document ID: 825769111

Fretty, Peter. “Career Track,” PM Network. September 2006. Drexel Hill: Vol. 20, Iss. 9; pg. C16

Ingle, Henry T. “Distance Learning/Technology.” The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education. 8 May 2006. Paramus: Vol. 16, Iss. 15; pg. 33

Fretty, Peter. “Career Track,” PM Network. September 2006. Drexel Hill: Vol. 20, Iss. 9; pg. C16

Berkson, Jennie. “Learning Online.” The Writer. May 2005. Boston: Vol. 118, Iss. 5; pg. 23, 3 pages Retrieved from ProQuest on May 23, 2008, Document ID: 825769111

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