Dear Barb – Taking the Plunge

Dear Barb:

Hi, I am in my early twenties and have been out of school for a few years. I have a two-year-old who I am supporting on my own. It’s been hard making ends meet financially, so I am considering applying to university or college to further my education. The problem is I will not be able to go to traditional university because I need to work, even if I went part time at night I would not have a lot of time to spend with my daughter. I am looking into Athabasca, that way I would be able to work on my courses while my daughter is sleeping and also continue to work full time during the day. I’m a little scared to take the plunge because I know that distance learning is a lot different than traditional learning. Would you be able to give me a heads up in order to prepare for some of the hurdles I may encounter? I know I could look it up online, but I would be interested to hear what you, and maybe some of the readers have to say about the problems they have encountered. Thanks so much, Lisa.

Hi Lisa:

Returning to school as an adult with a young child can be quite challenging even if attending a traditional university. Obtaining your degree through distance learning is even more difficult, but as you are probably beginning to realize very well worth the time and effort. One of the most important technical aspects of distance learning is having an adequate computer and Internet connection and being computer literate. Before you begin, look into the requirements and make sure you are able to accommodate, both financially and technically, as this may entail investing in a newer computer and faster internet connection. Also, as I’m sure you are aware, a big issue with online learning is the lack of support and encouragement from peers, as well as the lack of face to face contact with professors. Most online colleges and universities try their best to minimize this problem by implementing study groups, email, slack box, message boards, instant messaging and various other resources. Athabasca offers students easy access to tutors and academic planners. In spite of these resources many students still feel isolated. Another vital aspect of online learning is the ability to be self disciplined and motivated. No one is going to push you to get your essays done, or study for your exams; this is all up to you. How successful you are in online learning may depend on how social you are. If you are a very social person, this type of education may not work for you, as you may feel very isolated. My best suggestion would be to enrol in one course and try it out. If it’s not for you, you can still apply this credit toward your degree at a traditional university or college. You are on the right tract so it’s well worth the effort. Thanks for your very important question Lisa.

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Email your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.