Trends in Online Education: Going Back to School Part 3

Going Back to School and Beating the Odds

For those who have already completed their degree requirements and want to acquire further qualifications, there is no reason they won’t succeed at going back to school or taking college courses online. But if someone didn’t do well in school in the first place, what are the chances of a successful return to school, especially after having been out of the educational mindset for a number of years? Even for “problem students”, the prospects are as good as for first-time students. A Journal of College Student Retention study indicates that of problem students who returned to school , “approximately 47% eventually graduated, a number that compares favorably to national graduation statistics.” 5 After all, re-entry students are goal-oriented and directed. They tend to be more mature and sober. They have experience in life that the first-time student does not.

And for the re-entry student, age is no barrier. It may even be an asset. A study by the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching asserts that although older students (age 50 - 65) are more likely to have been schooled in more traditional settings and may need a bit more orientation, they found online learning to be even more satisfactory and rewarding than did their younger counterparts. (It makes sense that, having experienced both online and offline methods, they find the online option to be an improvement.) In fact, the older students in the study performed as well or better than the younger students.6

Things to Consider When Going Back to School

If you are planning to return to school, there are a couple of things you should consider carefully:

  • It is absolutely imperative that you transfer as many of the credits you have already completed as possible. There is nothing more frustrating than repeating courses you have already passed, not to mention the extra time and expense involved. Online schools, being very much oriented towards the needs of re-entry students, will be in a position to make the credit transfer process as easy as possible. Some schools will have time-elapsed restrictions on credits.
  • Some schools may not offer courses that you have taken and therefore are not able to accept otherwise transferrable credits. If that’s the case, then you will probably want to find a more compatible fit. Don’t be afraid to shop around; one of the greatest advantages of online learning is that there is a huge selection out there, right at your fingertips.
  • Not only do you have to make sure to transfer as many credits as you can, but that the school you are transferring them to is accredited in such a manner that you can transfer credits again, if you should decide to switch schools. Check out the Internet to find out about a school’s reputation before enrolling.
  • There may be prerequisite (or even remedial) courses you will have to take or make up. Not all of these need to be taken at the school to which you are ultimately transferring. For example, certain basic courses that are ACE compatible (such as those available through StraighterLine) are available at a greatly reduced cost and the credits may be transferred to the school which you have ultimately selected. But you have to make sure that that school will accept ACE credits.
  • If you are trying to obtain professional certification, make sure that the school you are considering will fulfill the requirements of the state and/or any specific institution necessary. For example, if you want to study for a Master’s in Education online, make – absolutely – certain beforehand that the state in which you want to teach will accept your degree. Check with both the school and the state.
  • Any online school will typically have a department dedicated to the needs of the re-entry student. Seek it out and be sure to make full use of any help available. And be sure to check out the financial aid department.

Going back to school can be a daunting challenge. But the personal and professional rewards can be great. And as far as costs are concerned – in terms of both money and time – the online solution is likely to be your best bet.


5 Roslyn A. Berkovitz, Karen O'Quin, Predictors of Graduation of Readmitted “At Risk” College Students, Education Resources Information Center, Baywood Publishing Co., Inc., Scholarly Scientific Content, 2007, Abstract http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/detail?accno=EJ744658

6 Amy S. Gaumer Erickson, Patricia M. Noonan, Late-Career Adults in Online Education: A Rewarding Experience for Individuals Aged 50 to 65, Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, MERLOT, v.6, #2, Abstract, Jun. 2010 http://jolt.merlot.org/vol6no2/erickson_0610.htm