If you want to earn a college degree but have to work full time, self-paced degree programs might be the answer to your dilemma. Today we have the technology to bring a university classroom into your living room or office on your schedule. According to statistics, by 2020 five million students a year will be earning their degrees online.

Synchronous Versus Asynchronous

Online degree programs are delivered in two ways. Synchronous programs are those that require a student to log in at a specified time and day for live class presentations. The student has video or text access to the class and participates in real-time discussions. Assignments are completed in a given time frame as well. Asynchronous programs, also called self-paced learning, are programs that allow students access to learning materials at their discretion. There are requirements for participation in online forums and there is a date by which all courses must be completed. Within that framework, students work on their own schedules.

How Do Self-Paced Degree Programs Work?

Years ago some people earned their degrees through correspondence programs. The lessons were mailed to the students and the students mailed their assignments back to the schools. Today universities use email or learning portals. Schools that have distance learning components require students to set up online accounts through which courses are delivered, and students contact instructors and their peers. If you enroll in an online program, you might have to buy some textbooks, but much of the material will be published online. You will generally be required to post on an online forum which is set up for class discussion. You finish courses and assignments on your own schedule, but there is a specified date for completion of the program. Your examinations may be submitted at your convenience, they may be proctored in real-time online or they may require your attendance at the school or an approved location. You will generally be tested on a competency basis. That means your examinations will assess how well you have mastered a given set of skills or your working understanding of a certain knowledge base.

Pros and Cons of Self-Paced Degree Programs

The positive aspects of this type of learning are evident.

• You can keep your current employment while you study.

• The disabled, including people who have difficulty in groups, can still attend class.

• Advanced students can progress at a faster pace while those who require more time to process the information may take more time.

• You set your own schedule. That means you have the flexibility to pursue your learning according to what is happening in your life.

There are some negative things about self-paced learning. This kind of program demands organization and the ability to regulate yourself. It is easy to get distracted. In addition, you become your own instructor. You must read and study the materials instead of having someone present them to you, answering your questions. Self-paced learning doesn't allow you to build the kind of relationships and sense of community you would get as a traditional student, or even through synchronous programs. Self-paced learning could affect your financial aid. Scholarships and grants are available to students in self-paced programs, but if the degree program requires that a certain amount of material be completed in a specific amount of time and you have fallen behind, your financial aid might be delayed.

There are many reasons for pursuing an online degree. You could be aspiring to advancement in your profession or entering an entirely new career. You might just want the personal satisfaction of earning your degree. Thirty percent of people today earn at least a bachelor's degree, and, if you decide on an accredited self-paced degree program, that degree will be as valid as if you had studied at a traditional university.

You may also like:

The 30 Best Affordable Online Colleges