Thursday, January 2, 2014

Is It Time To Go Back To School?

Harkness Tower, situated in the Memorial Quadr...
Harkness Tower, situated in the Memorial Quadrangle at Yale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There is a Chinese proverb that says, "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second best time is now." This applies to most other endeavors that have been postponed for one reason or another as we made our way through life. Many of us wish that we could have finished that masters degree, completed that doctorate, or maybe even taken a different course altogether. Being 50 years old and above doesn't mean that these dreams are now out of reach. In fact, it may be the perfect time to go back to school and learn new things in preparation for retirement. 

The Rise of Online Courses 

A lot of older people would love to return to their university but several things get in the way. Their work schedules may not permit them to attend regular sessions unless night or weekend classes are available. Even then the load may prove too much for their health and well-being. Some may be fit enough to work and study at the same time but are not that comfortable with the thought of being the oldest person in class. It's a good thing that technology has evolved to the extent that courses may be offered online and taken at the student's leisure. 

Take a Dip in MOOCs 

Those who crave for knowledge but are not ready to commit to full degree can ease into it via Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs. These have only been in existence for a few short years but they have already attracted millions of students across the globe. They are typically short courses that last from 4 to 12 weeks dealing with various subjects ranging from arts to engineering. The professors are some of the most brilliant minds at well-known institutions such as Stanford, Yale, Duke and Harvard. Hundreds are available to the public for free. 

Taking these subjects will not result in a formal degree though a few may be accepted for credits at select universities. A lot of them offer certificates of completion as an acknowledgement of the student's efforts. There are several sites to choose from and each has its own methods. Usually, short video lectures are uploaded on a weekly basis and people view or download them from the site. There may be weekly quizzes and assignments. A few only have a final exam at the end of the course. Professors set the weight of each requirement as well as standard for passing the course. Students can interactive on the class forum or on social media. 

Plunge Head On with Online Degrees 

Should the MOOC experience prove successful and the student feels ready to take on a greater challenge, a variety of online degrees can be acquired through universities that have embraced this mode of instruction. The subjects are generally harder and more comprehensive than those found in MOOCs. There is a higher level of expectations when it comes to involvement in discussions and the quality of the academic work. After all, these lead to the conferment of a proper bachelors or masters degree. The time commitment is also more intense but still flexible. Some may be conducted entirely online while others require face time with the professor every now and then. 

In many ways, the age of 50 is the perfect time to return to school. The career is already stable, the finance is in order, and the children are old enough to take care of themselves. Celebrate this milestone by embarking on an endeavor that could lead to fantastic opportunities down the road. It could be the start of an exciting new life. 

Author Bio 
Ryan Ayers is a writer who creates informative articles in relation to education. In this article, he explains a few benefits of online degrees and aims to encourage further study with an online master of education degree.

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