The digital revolution has been good to Toni Santoleri. A wife and mother, Toni has found that an online degree program was the best option for pursuing her bachelor's degree.
Toni is one year into a degree from Kaplan University in Paralegal Studies . She already has an associate's degree that she earned through an online school program, and was able to apply 100 percent of her credits from her associate's degree towards her bachelor's program, drastically reducing the time it will take her to graduate. Toni has no doubts that learning through the Internet is the best way to secure the future she wants and bolster her career.
"I love it," she said of her online education. "The convenience is unbelievable. I don't have to worry about making class times, class interaction online is great, and there are numerous advantages, such as reviewing transcripts from class discussions and studying with e-books."
Perhaps the most common argument against online learning is that an online degree will not be as well accepted in the industry where the student hopes to work. As online education becomes more typical, any bias that might have once existed continues to fade. Also, institutions specializing in online learning usually work hard to ensure that their programs are just as academically-challenging, if not more so, as traditional programs.
Toni has not found online study to be a detriment to her career at all. On the contrary, she is already experiencing success in her chosen field.
"The only drawback I was concerned about was that the online diploma would not be as seriously considered as a traditional diploma, but I had no other option," said Toni. "I'm already working in my field, and my employers view my degree no differently than a traditional one. If anything, my workload is larger than a traditional one would be. So the only drawback I thought there would be with learning online turned out not to be one at all."
Toni said that the process of becoming an online student was also convenient and simple.
"It was an easy process. An administrator called me to start the process, and I completed the paperwork online. I was notified via email when I was successfully enrolled," she said.
There are also advantages to the learning process that are exclusively found in an online college environment. Toni said that she thought camaraderie among students and communication with faculty was actually enhanced with online learning.
"Teachers have two office hour days, where you can instant message or email them with any problems you're having. If you email your professors on any other day, they usually respond within 24 hours. But if you go to a live campus, you have one day with your professor a week, and that's it. Also, with every class, a list of classmates is emailed to you, so anyone can ask a question at any time. Three or four people always answer my questions. And by chatting online before class, you get to know each other."
The streamlined process of learning online is also beneficial to Toni.
"It's all very user-friendly," she said. "If I want to work, all I have to do is pull out my lap top. Then, I just click a link and I'm where I need to be."
When she was considering further education, Toni didn't consider sacrificing time with her family or compromising her role as a mother and spouse an option. She is very pleased with the balance she has between her online education and the other aspects of her life.
"I haven't sacrificed anything. I have time for my family; my daughter is four, and she will snuggle on my lap as I type. My husband is very supportive and is so impressed with the program that he is hoping to become a tutor for the school's master's program in education. I can arrange school around my schedule, sports, and dinner. It's the perfect thing for me," said Toni.
Online education is usually very flexible, and can also be more affordable. Most programs offer part-time options, and financial aid packages, including federal aid.
Toni said that she has no doubt that she has made the right decision by pursuing higher education online, and is so confident of the benefits to her career that she's considering additional online degree options.
"The program offers me a great price and convenience. Online education isn't going anywhere; it's only going to get bigger and bigger. I think it's the wave of the future, personally," said Toni. "I'm actually looking towards an online master's program and am considering law school online. I love getting my education this way-it's the best decision I ever made."