I saw a piece on the news about online learning that was discussing the problems with students not being able to return to college because of COVID-19. The premise of the piece was that by forcing them to go to college online, they couldn’t learn as much. There was an interview with both a student and a teacher who assured the reporter that online learning was sub-par to classroom learning.

Online learning is actually better.

How can I make such a bold statement? I am the epitome of a “non-traditional” student. I started pursuing my degree 35 years after graduating High School. I never saw my college until the day I graduated. I spent four years working full time and attending class online. I graduated with a 3.75GPA with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems. I didn’t have friends and roommates to help me if I got stuck. I didn’t have a college library to access all the information they had. I had desire and perseverance.

Why I chose the non-traditional course.

Just before graduating High School, the Vietnam War was consuming everyone that was graduating. I made the decision to enter the Air Force on delayed enlistment to take my very low draft number out of the equation. That way, I had a possibility that I would not be front line cannon fodder. Shortly before graduation, the draft was stopped. Since I was already “in” the service, I continued on what would become a journey that lasted close to thirty years. The lifestyle of the military, in the jobs I had, coupled with raising a family, were not conducive to attending classes, either financially, or in the amount of available spare time.

Classroom learning is not that great.

Don’t get me wrong, I tried doing college when I got to my first duty station. I worked primarily nights, so it was available for me to attend college during the day. I quickly saw that the instructors cared very little about me. I probably cared less about them. Plus, since I wasn’t one of the privileged few to get scholarships, it was costing me money I really didn’t have. Fast forward one whole semester, and my college career came to an end.

Not everyone can handle distance learning.

The reason most students feel distance or online learning not as good is that unless they are forced to attend, they don’t have the discipline to actually do the work and learn. A good number of traditional college students are attending on either scholarships, or their parent’s dime. Most distance or online students are attending at their own cost because of a desire to learn. I’m not saying everyone that attends college on-campus is not as good as those who go the non-traditional route. There are those who take it serious, learn and grow and come out with tons of knowledge. It’s a tried and proven method of learning. But that are also a great number that are there for the ride and come out knowing barely more than they did when they entered, but had a great time.

What do you learn online?

The biggest thing you learn is self-discipline. Procrastination is not an option. My time with St. Leo University taught me time management and that all important self-discipline. Likewise, one of my daughters obtained her degree online with the University of Phoenix and a second daughter is currently enrolled at the Harvard University Extension School. Both attended while working full time jobs. To be honest, given the choice between two applicants for a position, if all other factors were equal, I would choose the applicant with an online degree. It shows me they already know how to manage time and, should another situation arise where working from home became necessary, they would have the knowledge of their own self-discipline to do the job without on-hand supervision.

I know – it’s just my opinion.

Perhaps I’m a little partial to online learning because I have experienced it first hand. I by no means want to belittle those who worked their way through college life for their degree. The point I want to make is that contrary to what the newscaster, student and teacher said on the evening news, online learning is not sub-par. It is just as viable as a classroom degree, and in my opinion actually more difficult. I am proud of what I accomplished as a true “non-traditional” student.