Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 21, 2014, and was updated in May 2016.
A couple of common misconceptions about online learning still linger in some minds. Even though Stanford and Harvard offer online classes, and satisfaction ratings are exceptionally high for ACHS’s online programs, some people still believe that getting an online nutrition degree or an online aromatherapy certification will be easier, less challenging, and less fulfilling than attending classes on a physical campus.
But ask any ACHS student or graduate, and you’ll find that the online classes at the American College can be as rewarding and rigorous as sitting in a brick and mortar classroom. Add the benefits of flexible hours and 24/7-access to your classroom material, and online learning often turns out to be the better option for busy adults.
I’ve seen the power of online learning for years as the CIO at American College of Healthcare Sciences and as an online teacher. But this past year I’ve had the added benefit of acting as the learning coach for my fifth grader, who is enrolled in an online public charter school, and seeing first hand from a student’s perspective just how powerful online learning can be.
Once all the distractions inherent in a brick and mortar school are stripped away, only the learning remains. When you have a quality online program, with passionate faculty and staff, strong learning materials, up to date texts, and multimedia – the online experience is just as rich as listening to the “sage on the stage.” In our case, it’s been a lot more enriching. Plus we have an extra two hours a day not spent commuting to school, no searching for a parking spot in the pouring rain, and no bullies!
We were not sure if our dear daughter would be a good candidate for online learning. She had been at a Waldorf school with no technology, so it would be a big culture shock, but she quickly adapted. She aced her state tests (#proudmama) and became an honor roll student (#humblebrag). The experience made me realize that it is really hard to pre-judge who will be successful at online learning. That said, there are still a few key factors—many of them nuts and bolts really—that will help anyone be more successful.
So, if you’ve been wondering: is online learning for me? Ask yourself these 7 important questions, and see if it’s time you enrolled in an accredited online program in holistic health from ACHS:
Analyze Your Results
How’d you do? Online school is a challenge for everyone, so let’s take a closer look at those questions (based on questions I’ve had from prospective students):
Are you comfortable using a computer to send email, shop, and research for information online?
These seem like trite questions, but the more comfortable you are online, the smaller learning curve you’ll have when you start studying online. That said, our online classrooms are designed to be intuitive and user friendly, so even computer novices can quickly learn to find their way around. You’re not left in a discussion board with 1000 people trying to figure out what to do next.
Do you have a reliable computer?
If you don’t have a reliable computer, online classes will be challenging. Good news: Computers keep getting cheaper: The Toshiba ChromeBook is only $199 and Apple just released a MacBook Air for $899 (and studying at ACHS qualifies you for student pricing at the Apple Education Store!). You do not need the most expensive model out there.
We don’t recommend students rely on borrowing computers or heading to the local library. While that can work in the short term, long term you need to be able to save your notes and work on your class whenever you have a spare hour. Consistently working on your classes is the key to success. iPads and tablets are a great way to have your classes with you wherever you go, but not every tool in the online classroom is compatible with mobile devices. So if an iPad or tablet will be your primary access tool, make sure you can access a computer once or twice a week at least to complete the tasks that are not compatible, like flash based multimedia.
Do you have regular access to the Internet to attend online classes?
A reliable Internet connection is key to keeping up with your studies in an online classroom. We love Starbucks, but unless you can tune out all the distractions, it’s not a good place to take an entire online class (although those free coffee refills are great!). However, you don’t have to be online constantly to study at ACHS—our eTextbooks can be downloaded in PDF for offline viewing on your computer, Nook, iPad, or even your smart phone. But, lack of stable Internet access will make taking an online course more of a challenge!
Fast Internet access is cheaper than ever. Call your phone or cable company and see how they can help you. Some cities even have free WiFi. Are you in the middle of nowhere? There’s always satellite Internet. I live 20 miles south of Portland and we relied on our Hughes Net Satellite for 10 years before DSL finally came to our rural area!
We have a bit of a challenge with Internet access at home in the winter, as we get some impressive storms up here in the Pacific North West. And being in the country, our power tends to be the last to be restored. While we use laptops so we can keep going for a while without power, the Internet router needs power to work! Still, there is plenty to do if you do have intermittent power or Internet access (like many of our military students!). Read your texts, write essays, complete labs and you’ll be ready to go when you can get back online.
Do you usually complete the things you start?
Life happens: Kids and cats get sick, spouses forget that it is their turn to pick up groceries, the goat escapes, and the basement floods. In my house, that happens all on the same day. Learning to laugh it off and persevere despite the challenges is a skill that will help you complete your online holistic health program at ACHS. If you know that you tend to procrastinate, or that it is impossible to get things done at home with the kids running around, you’ll need to plan. Find ways to motivate yourself. There are ways to train ourselves to stay on task, or set up study times when we have babysitting, to make sure we have the space we need to be successful.
The beauty of online learning is the flexibility you have to fit your studies in around life. If you know you’re not a morning person, plan your study times around your personal productivity peaks! We often start school here at 3 in the afternoon and work until 9! Sick baby keep you up all night? Sleep in and start late or take the day off and get back to work tomorrow. Or did you wake up with the flu? No need to take the day off school – you can drag your laptop to bed with a hot cup of herbal tea. Then you might even discuss the protocols you’re going to try with your classmates and instructor in your online aromatherapy class. Most of our classes at ACHS are on a weekly cycle, so while you have weekly deadlines, you can arrange your week to suit you and your family.
Do you use Facebook, Skype, email, or other online tools to communicate with friends and family?
Our online classrooms and private social networks are not public forums, so you’ll be interacting with your classmates and other ACHS students and alumni only. But if you use Facebook, Twitter, Skype, or other online tools to communicate with friends and family, you’ll feel fairly comfortable in an online classroom. However, you don’t need to be a social media junkie—just motivated to connect with your fellow students online.
Your classmates are going to become like family to you, so being able to chat with them via email, discussion threads, online chat, video chat (totally optional), is going to help you. The more you engage, the more fun your classes will be. We know that some people are shy, and that’s ok too. You can lurk if you want to: No one is going to pick on you in class for the answer. But our students at ACHS are a phenomenal group, and everyone’s passion for health and wellness shines through, so you don’t need to be shy and lurk! By the end of the first class, you might just find yourself becoming an online social butterfly!
Do you have nine hours per week to spend studying, completing projects, and reading?
It doesn’t matter when you have time to study… but it does matter that you have time to study. Whether it’s an hour per day plus two in the weekend or 4.5 hours Saturday and Sunday, there is no way around it: studying takes time! There is a bell curve on how much time each class and each week in class will take. Some will be easier and you’ll whiz through, while others will have you scratching your head and headed for the extra reading or video lectures! Don’t panic if that happens. We will stretch you, challenge you, and engage you. That’s what makes our classes so rewarding!
Give yourself some flexibility – if a lesson is challenging you, spend the time you need on it and skip some extra credit assignments elsewhere in the week. If a lesson is easy, get it done and read ahead in your materials to next week so that you have a jump-start when things start getting challenging.
We are expecting twins this fall (yay!), so we’re creating our study schedule for next semester right now and have started completing reading to get ahead (and we still have 7 weeks of summer holidays!). This way, when those first few weeks of sleepless nights happen, we’ll have worked ahead enough to take a bit of time to ourselves. That wouldn’t be possible in a brick and mortar school.
Why are you considering online learning?
Holistic health is about holism, so if you’re whole heart is dedicated to learning your subject—whether it’s an online course in aromatherapy, holistic nutrition, or herbal medicine—you’re already set up for success! Most of our students come to the path of wellness and holistic health because of personal challenges or challenges they’ve seen in loved ones, clients, or patients. Others are fed up of the cycle of prescription drugs and side effects, and they want to take back control of their health and wellness. Still, others have seen health and wellness taking hold in their workplace or industry and want to get involved in this growing industry.
Next, think about why online education might be a better fit for you than brick and mortar. Is it the flexibility you need? For work or family commitments? Are you keen to avoid the flu bugs lurking at every campus? Will time saved commuting and finding parking help you find time to study? Will the money you save from not commuting and parking help fund your education? Do you have to travel so brick and mortar isn’t even an option?
Your reasons are important to us, and your admissions advisor will talk about your goals and how you can harness them to stay motivated and authentically connected with your studies.
Now that you’ve taken the quiz, take a moment to remember your goals and reflect on if online learning is right for you. It may not be right for you. It might not be right for you right now. That’s all good! We hope you’ll hang around, read our blog, get some free eBooks, and enjoy a little taste here and there of what holistic health and wellness has to offer.
We’re a little different than many other College’s – we are looking for students that demonstrate their passion to be successful, not just anyone. Selecting our students (and for you, selecting an online College) is a little like online dating – it has to be a good match! Don’t be afraid to reach out to your admissions advisor to see whether ACHS might be a good fit for you: It might just be the perfect time for you to start working on your Masters Degree in Health and Wellness, your Associate of Applied Science in Aromatherapy, or a Certificate in Health Coaching.
You can discuss all of these questions by scheduling a time to speak with an ACHS admissions advisor here. Or, if you can also download our Program Viewbook for more details about the online holistic health programs at ACHS.
Not really psyched about online learning? We still love ya! Why not just hang out and read more posts on our blog, watch a few videos on our YouTube channel, and come make new friends at our Facebook community, so you’ll live long and prosper!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I am the CIO of American College of Healthcare Sciences, the Institution that publishes this blog. However, all opinions are my own. This blog may contain affiliate links. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”