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Thanks to distance learning, no matter where you live or how hectic your schedule is, you can take college courses and even earn a college degree.

Correspondence courses used to be the only choice for distance learning. Now, however, there are even more options for self-disciplined distance learners: independent guided study, video conference courses, and internet courses. Also, college credits can be earned through evaluation of non-collegiate educational experience, military course work and college-level exams such as CLEP or GRE.

“With distance learning I can study during my lunch break at work, and I don’t need to find a babysitter like I would if I took a night course,” says one distance learner.

Even if you’re enrolled in traditional college courses, distance learning is an effective way to make up for missed credits or to accelerate your education.

One of the many benefits of distance learning is the flexibility to study at your own pace. It’s also a great way for reluctant students to prove to themselves and admissions officers that they are capable of college level work.

“I wanted to take a year off before starting college. Distance learning allows me to take some basic courses on my own schedule, and when I start next fall I’ll be that much further ahead of other freshman,” says a student of independent guided study.

One drawback of distance learning is the lack of classroom discussion. Distance learners often get less feedback than their traditional counterparts unless they seek it out. In addition, some students may miss traditional campus social life.

When taking a distance course, be prepared to spend the same amount of time studying as you would if you were taking a traditional college course. Additionally, most courses for credit will require a proctored exam. Typically you can take an exam at a nearby college or have it proctored by a professional librarian. For those in the Armed Services, an Education Officer may proctor the exams.

Beware of “degree mills” that offer phony degrees. Be sure that the courses are offered by a regionally accredited college. To find accredited colleges that offer distance learning opportunities, consult PETERSON'S GUIDE TO DISTANCE LEARNING PROGRAMS, (Peterson’s, 1999) or visit their website at www.petersons.com. Other sources of information regarding distance learning are BARRON'S GUIDE TO DISTANCE LEARNING, (Barron’s Educational, 1999) and Pam Dixon’s VIRTUAL COLLEGE, (Peterson’s, 1996.)

To help you decide if distance learning is right for you, just answer the following questions:

Are you self-motivated and self-disciplined?

Is traditional campus life unimportant to you?

Do you have time every week to dedicate to each course you take?

If you answered yes to the above questions, you may find distance learning very rewarding.