The coronavirus pandemic has forced everyone to adapt to a new normal. The cancellation of vacations or work trips has left many with more free time than they’re accustomed to. Some cities, states or individual medical conditions mandate continued social distancing. And the economic landscape has led some to look for a new career path, or ways of enhancing their current one.
Indeed, it’s a precarious time — but perhaps the ideal moment to consider furthering your education online.
“In times of uncertainty, one of the best things you can do is develop new skills or enhance your resume or improve your professional background,” says Chris Foley, Associate Vice President and Director, Office of Online Education at Indiana University. “So I think this time frame offers a great opportunity for going back and getting a degree or some additional training.”
For Kentucky residents, pursuing a degree or certificate at IU Online means guaranteed social distancing from the safety of your own home. It means not having to wear a mask to interact with instructors or classmates. It means joining a vibrant social community at a time when being together physically is difficult and studying through a program that’s built for working adults with responsibilities who can appreciate both the flexibility and cost-effectiveness an IU Online education presents.
“The average age for most students is 32 or 33, and they take courses at the pace at which they can complete the degree,” Foley says. “Generally, they work professionally. So they've got a career, they certainly have what we would consider adult concerns. They have a mortgage and have to worry about their families and have those traditional elements in their life while pursuing an education at the same time. I'm always impressed by them, because they juggle a lot of things in their life, and they're still really good students.”
Same approach, same outcomes
Courses at IU Online last 15 to 16 weeks over a general semester. Students take them via a laptop or desktop computer, although many can be accessed over a tablet, and some chats and reading materials can be viewed over a smartphone. Popular courses include undergraduate and graduate business, mathematics, and technological degrees like data science and informatics. There’s also a strong demand among online students for traditional liberal arts degrees like history, communications and political science.
IU typically offers around 3,000 sections of online coursework each semester, most of them asynchronous — meaning, students can take them when they want to, rather than at a set time. Courses at IU Online are built using the same core structure and faculty as in-person courses, and in many cases share the same course names and requirements. The goal is to bring all the benefits of traditional classroom learning to the student studying at home.
“If you're in an online program at IU, you'll not only be sitting in classes with students who are taking online programs, you'll also be sitting in classes with students who are in face-to-face programs, but need an online course,” Foley says. “They all fulfill the same requirements, and are built by the same faculty to meet the same rigor that we would expect in our traditional format. They’ve all been built to have the same quality, and strive to produce the same outcomes when all is said and done.”
For prospective students from the Louisville area, tuition remains affordable — around $300 to $450 per credit hour for undergraduate programs, Foley says. And by studying though the IU Southeast campus across the Ohio River in New Albany, Indiana, students who reside in Bullitt, Jefferson, Meade, Oldham, Shelby, Trimble and Spencer counties in Kentucky are eligible for the resident fee rate under a reciprocity agreement between the two states.
Flexibility and quality
The flexibility built into online classes can actually prove a financial benefit for students, allowing them to maintain a work schedule while they study, or take courses as they can afford them. Studying online at home also enables students to avoid the added expenses that come with living on campus, all while maintaining the amount of social distance they’re comfortable with.
And through IU Online, students know they’re receiving a quality education that differs little from what students experience on campus. It’s all backed by a respected state institution with more than 700,000 alum that carries immediate name recognition among prospective employers —benefits not every online school can match.
“Students really do need to think about where they're going to go if they are going to take part in online education. Particularly at this time, they still need to do a lot of due diligence to understand what kind of an experience they're going to get at that institution. Not all experiences are the same, and IU has a very different approach than many other institutions who completely build online separately from their traditional educational experience,” Foley says.
“So it's really important for people to take some time to look at the various institutions they’re considering for online education, and make sure they're choosing a partner which is going to be dedicated to helping them get completed, is going to be well-respected in the marketplace, and is going to give them strong outcomes that will allow them to utilize that degree or that credential or that course as best as possible to benefit their lives. There's a lot of variation right now in online education, and it's really important for them to choose a good partner.”