Many people raising families can feel like their dreams are slipping away from them – that their interests go unnoticed and their ideas go undeveloped. Raising kids is certainly a time-consuming undertaking, especially if you are doing it on your own.
It is never too late to follow a passion. You don’t have to attend a university or college in person in order to receive a challenging and fulfilling education. Courses ranging from engineering to art are available in online study form. Click here for more info.
Online study is a direct descendant of distance learning, which was pioneered in the UK by the Open University, which offered degree standard courses that could be taken from home. This was a scheme created to help make education more equal and accessible.
Online learning is a vast and expanding educational niche. The COVID-19 pandemic has essentially curbed in-person learning for the time being. This has meant that top universities are investing more and more into online learning infrastructure. The rise of video conferencing software like Zoom during the pandemic has made online learning infrastructure much more accessible and sociable.
Through the gloom there is a little bit of good news for people wanting to study as they raise a family. The essential nature of online learning to universities means that learning from home is not only accessible – it is the norm. Learning from home you will be getting the same access to resources as all other students, and these resources will be of absolutely top quality if you make the right choice of course.
Choosing to learn online can be a very liberating experience, but it can also feel like a bit of a labyrinth. It can be hard to get a ‘feel’ for the right institution for you, and it can sometimes feel OK to compromise. Here are some of our tips for picking and pursuing a course from home.
A key thing to remember is that you are not obligated to compromise on the quality of your education just because you are not taking part in person. Remember – you are paying for your education, and you need to get the most out of it.
There is absolutely no need to choose a disreputable institution when studying from home. Although some institutions like the Open University were built around distance learning, many others are adopting it late. Top universities such as Harvard, MIT and Oxford are offering distance learning courses. The world is your oyster when choosing an institution to enroll with online.
It is in the interests of these top institutions to offer online educational facilities that are on par with their in-person courses.
Compromise is one thing – being scammed is another. With the rise in people learning online has come a rise in scam artists using online degrees as a lure to take people’s money. Recent scams have not just come in the form of simple theft. Some disreputable institutions vastly overstate the worthiness of their qualification or simply bombard customers with adverts for further courses.
The solution? Always go for an established institution whose qualifications are recognized by employers. Never trust an institution that claims to offer high-level qualifications for a bargain price up front.
One key to getting a worthwhile degree and a fulfilling educational journey out of your online learning experience is shopping around.
Just like when you apply for an in-person course, universities want your money and your expertise. If you have any previous experience in your field, be sure to make it very clear in any applications to online learning institutions.
It is perfectly good practice to make it clear to a university that you have received better offers elsewhere. If universities clamor for your expertise by offering more resources such as lab time and equipment, you should make the most of it.
If you don’t have any previous experience in your chosen field, don’t worry! Universities still want your custom.
Who Works There?
Whatever your field, you’ll be wanting to surround yourself with the most talented people doing the work you love. Part of the shopping around process in further education is scouting out which institution has the teaching and research staff that most closely fit your needs.
The most celebrated and helpful academics do not always work at the most celebrated universities. The process of finding which people you will have access to during your online study will take a little bit of sleuthing.
‘Department shopping’ is a phrase used in academic circles to describe the practice of finding the right academic mentor and attaching yourself to their internal university department. This might not be necessary if you are planning on studying for a bachelor’s degree, but can be a really worthwhile thing to engage in if you are studying for an MA, MSc, PhD or postdoctoral qualification.
Socializing Is Important
Never disregard the importance of having a social life. One of the most important and eye-opening elements of any education is the new friends you make and the new networks you join. Studying online makes all this harder, but it needn’t be that way.
Universities can offer infrastructure that creates a social environment amongst students studying online. A good course will point online students towards video conferencing sessions, message boards and social media communities related to their subject. Academic society often rests upon the ability of members to engage in discussion and friendship with their peers.
Take careful note of the names that pop up in journals related to your subject. Consider these writers to be your peers. Do not hesitate to reach out to your peers for support, to offer your support or to engage in conversation about the subject. You might not be able to go for a drink with them, but you can still wag tongues!
Keeping in touch with your cohort also stops you from letting your passion peter out. Keeping your focus on a subject can be hard when you don’t have too much interaction with people working on similar things. Make sure to compare notes and engage in discussion with your classmates to stay on track.
Passion Over Everything
When choosing a course of further education, it can be tempting to look cynically at the situation. A word of advice: don’t look past your passions just because you don’t think they offer perfect job opportunities.
It can be easy to fall by the wayside when you are not passionate about what you do. When learning online, this is even easier. Don’t rush into something that you are not in love with. Choose carefully. A successful post-qualification career won’t just spring magically from your achievement of a degree. Instead, it will be the result of a genuine drive to do well and to challenge yourself.
Achieving a degree can be a long slog, but as the saying goes: time flies when you are having fun. Make sure to pick a field which sparks creative or problem-solving fireworks off in your head and heart.
Don’t Feel Guilty
It can be easy to feel guilty for time spent studying alone when you are raising a family. The thing is though, you deserve to be able to follow your passion, whatever that may be. Although you might find that there is some initial resistance from your family members to you taking further study, you’ll be doing everybody a favor in the long term by keeping yourself in mind.
Most importantly, you should not feel guilty because you are following your own path alongside raising up a family. You are an individual, and your development does not end when you start a family. It shouldn’t, anyway.
If you have a partner, perhaps they can begin taking more responsibility for raising the family during the time you are studying. Any faithful partner will accept that their soulmate has the right to pursue their own individual academic or vocational passions. Of course, not everybody can make time or raise enough money for further education, but if you do have the resources then it is a truly worthwhile endeavor.
Be Wary of Loans
Speaking of resources, it is wise to steer clear of short-term loans when thinking of applying for an online course. Loans, in general, do not mix well with the often overstretched financial situation of people raising a family.
If you do need to take out a loan in order to study, ensure that you don’t borrow too much. Specialist educational loan organizations such as Student Loans in the UK can offer relatively good interest rates for educational purposes, but any loan has to be paid back.
Don’t treat any degree as a guaranteed money maker. It doesn’t always work out, and overstretching yourself financially in order to study can make the pressure feel unbearable, especially if you are supporting a family.
Instead, try and study within your means. A great career might follow, but don’t take crazy risks to get there.
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