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An online education is a convenient way to complete your accredited courses in order to graduate with a certificate or degree. While it may seem easy to take these classes in the comfort of your home, it isn’t the easy way out since it will require a lot of discipline and hard work.

If you’re new to the online world of education, it’s important to ask a few questions before signing up for a class.

Your Learning Style – Will It Work?

An online course will be much different from the traditional courses you were used to in high school. These courses will require a lot of reading, taking notes and very little, if any, personal interaction with your professor and classmates.

If you don’t feel like you learn much from reading on your own or you don’t like writing in general, then you may find it extremely difficult to succeed in an online setting since most coursework requires a lot of writing and reading lectures online.

Computer Skills – Can You Survive the Basics?

With most online classes, you will be expected, at a minimum, to learn how the software works in order to submit coursework and interact with your classroom. Most online colleges will use web-based software and will expect you to know how to email, upload documents, scan and download third-party software. If you feel you can do anything on the computer, you should be fine; however, if you struggle with some basic computer applications, then you may find the online atmosphere very frustrating.

Be Careful With Your Choices

Search the term “online college” and you will be presented with thousands of options. While there are a lot of wonderful choices out there, it’s important to know which school will work best for your education.

For example, if you want to receive a bachelor’s degree, then you will want to make sure the school is accredited by the U.S. Department of Education. If it isn’t, your college courses may not transfer to another institution or future employers may not consider it a true degree, making it a waste of your time.

When making your choice, try to choose a school that has been around for a while and offers a solid education for your money. Also, be sure to look into financial aid, the advising department, technical support and see what students have said about the school in general.

Check out the Local Community College

Four major universities are joining forces with Coursera, a Silicon Valley startup, to offer free online classes in more than three-dozen subjects.

Most of your local community colleges have taken advantage of the 21st century and now offer its traditional classes online. If your local community college offers an online program, this is a great opportunity for a few reasons.

For starters, it will be one of the cheapest options available if you’re considered an in-district student, and all of the courses you take will more than likely transfer to a local state university, allowing you to finish your bachelor’s degree for a lower than average cost. Also, all of your community colleges will be accredited and can offer a physical presence if you were to need help during one of your online classes.

Expect to Work Hard

Online classes will typically take the same amount, if not more, work than the traditional classroom. Be prepared to spend eight to 15 hours of your week to invest in each class you sign up for. Most online classes will expect you to interact with classmates on the discussion board and complete multiple assignments throughout the week. As long as you go in with the mindset that you have to work hard, you shouldn’t have troubles; however, if you feel you can spend 30 minutes on your homework every week and succeed, then you may want to re-think your priorities.

Before you sign up for an online course, make sure you meet with a college advisor to see if it aligns with your future goals. There are a lot of online course options out there, so it’s best to do your due diligence before investing hours of your time each week in an education for your future.