Earning an Online Certificate or Degree in Helena Alabama
High school graduating students and working professionals interested in continuing their education are considering online schools in Helena AL more than ever. They are not only looking for more affordable options, but a way to earn their certificate or degree while working or maintaining their busy lifestyles. And with the state of the job market and economy, many people are taking advantage of online training and education programs to help advance their careers or provide options in alternative fields. Not only are they finding that attending online classes is more convenient and typically less expensive than attending school on campus, but that the credentials earned online can be just as valuable as those earned from more traditional trade schools or colleges. But what does one look for when searching for an online school? We’ll cover some of the questions you should be asking the online schools you are considering later in this article. But first, let’s take a look at some of the additional advantages of learning online compared to the typical classroom setting.
Online Schools can Lower Cost
One reason that people in Helena AL initially consider online schools is that their impression is they are less expensive than on campus schools. In many instances that is true, but not always. Some internet programs charge tuition on par with their brick and mortar counterparts. However, many require a lower tuition and in some cases, much lower. In addition, when you include the savings achieved by reducing or eliminating some of the ancillary expenses often incurred, it can make the total cost far more affordable. Ancillary expenses can include:
- Commuting and parking
- Boarding on or off campus
- Study materials and textbooks
- Daycare for children or pets
- New wardrobe as needed
- Meals, snacks and coffee (lots of coffee)
- Backpack, laptop or tablet, notebooks, etc.
This list is by no means all inclusive. And don’t forget the value of the time you will save by being able to attend online classes right in your Helena AL home. For example, if you can save just one hour per day in commuting time, three days per week (or more), that would free up about a day and a half of a typical eight hour work day each month. How much would that be worth in savings?
Online Classes Provide Convenience
Being able to sit at your kitchen table with your laptop and log into one of your classes is about as convenient as going to school gets, especially if you can attend while wearing your pajamas. You won’t have to get up early so that you can make it to a morning class, or worry about getting there late because of a traffic jam. You can access course material online at any time, so you don’t need to go to the school library for research or studying. And if you plan on working while earning your certificate or degree, you can schedule your class times around your work day, not the other way around. Sometimes Helena AL students can’t find the type of program they are interested in locally and are not able to relocate to attend school. With so many schools offering internet options these days, accessibility need no longer be a problem in most cases. And finally, being able to attend classes and study when it is convenient and at your own pace gives you a big advantage over attending classes on a set schedule on campus. Having this flexibility greatly increases your opportunity for successful completion of your certificate or degree program.
Online Courses Offer Variety
Accessing higher education via the internet provides a wide range of available credentials, including diplomas, certificates, Associate Degrees, Bachelor’s Degrees, Master’s Degrees and even Doctorates. They can be earned from trade and vocational schools as well as colleges, universities and technical schools. Virtually any subject, major or degree that someone wants to study in Helena AL is available and offered by an online school. Granted, some types of training are not as viable online, such as for certain “hands-on” types of trades, such as welding or plumbing. Some others will require an off-line component to the course material, such as for healthcare occupations, which generally have a clinical or lab requirement. But in most other cases the majority or all of the course work and classes can be accessed directly online. And many online programs are designed to provide just the training related to the certificate or degree and do not require any unnecessary or unrelated “filler” classes in order to graduate. This allows students to concentrate on just the training or education that they need which saves time and often reduces tuition as well.
Online Classes Foster Student Interaction
One of the benefits of attending an online school is being able to join classroom discussions and speak with your fellow students and teachers more openly than you might in a conventional classroom. Some Helena AL students are hesitant to participate in classroom discussions for various reasons, including fear of public speaking, shyness, or fear of ridicule. Sometimes it’s just hard to get into the flow of conversation or to get the instructor’s attention. When you’re part of an internet classroom, it’s easier to participate in classroom discussions simply by typing your questions or comments. Networking with other students is easier as well by participating in chat rooms and student forums or even by email correspondence. And perhaps the greatest benefit of all is having direct access to your instructors using skype, email or other forms of internet communication. Being able to communicate directly with your instructors will allow for more personalized and detailed questions and dialog that you may not feel comfortable expressing in an open classroom or in person.
Questions to Ask Online Colleges and Trade Schools
Once you have decided on the program and type of certificate or degree that you would like to earn, you can begin the process of evaluating online colleges or trade schools. There are several factors that you should consider before selecting and enrolling in an online school. In most cases the location of the school will not be one of them since you’ll be attending via the internet. However, you may have to consider location if there is a clinical or lab component required as part of the curriculum. Often this requirement can be satisfied off campus in an externship program, so if the school is not nearby find out what’s available in the Helena AL area. Obviously tuition and ancillary expenses will factor into your decision as well. But other than cost and possibly the location of the schools, what else should you consider when comparing programs? You can start by finding out if the schools are accredited, and what their reputations are. Following we cover those and some additional questions that you will want to ask the online schools you are considering.
Are the Online Schools Accredited? More and more online schools are earning accreditation, but it’s still important that you confirm that both the school and program you enroll in are accredited. In addition, make sure that the accrediting organization is recognized by either the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Accreditation may also be earned from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation not only helps ensure that you receive a quality education, but in some instances may be required in order to qualify for licensing or certification. Also, many employers in the Helena AL area will only hire graduates of accredited programs. Last, financial aid and student loans are generally only available for students enrolling in accredited schools.
What is the Online Program’s Reputation? In addition to accreditation, before enrolling in an online school find out what its reputation is and how it ranks compared to other schools. This is particularly important if you are entering a new field, since potential employers will be relying almost exclusively on the quality of your training or education. You can check the quality and ranking of the schools you are considering by checking various rating services, such as provided by U.S. News and World Report. Another option is to ask some of the potential Helena AL employers you’re interested in working for after graduation and ask their opinions of the schools you’re considering. One thing to keep in mind is that even if a school itself is not highly ranked, the particular program you are interested in may be highly regarded.
Is there an Externship or Internship Program? Externships and internships are great ways for students to get practical experience outside of the theoretical confines of a classroom. Some online degrees require clinical training and externships are often part of the program. Ask the colleges you are considering if they sponsor externships or internships and if they have relationships with Helena AL businesses. In addition to the valuable working experience, externships and internships also help in establishing professional relationships within the local business community. Sometimes they even lead to offers of employment after graduation. They also look pretty good on a resume too.
Is there a Job Placement Program? You will undoubtedly want to get your new career off and running with a job position once you have earned your online diploma, certificate or degree. But without some form of job placement assistance, it may be difficult to enter your new occupation in the Helena AL area. That’s why it’s important to find out if the schools you are considering have a job placement program. You’ll also want to know what their placement rates are, how long it takes on average to place their graduates, and what their average starting salaries are. High and relatively fast placement rates, along with good starting salaries, are excellent indications that the schools have good relationships with large networks of employers. It also indicates that their graduates are highly in demand.
Enroll in the Right Online School in Helena AL
First of all, congratulations on your decision to enroll in an online school in Helena AL to earn a certificate or degree as a means of beginning a new career or furthering your current one. As we have covered in this article, there a several benefits to choosing an online program instead of a more traditional style of learning. As you will find, there are many options available for earning either an Associate, Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in a multitude of disciplines and trades. The main thing is that you ask the right questions and do your due diligence so that you enroll in the school and program that’s right for you. Accessing quality education is easier than ever with online education. And by applying yourself you can receive the training you need to succeed in your chosen new career.
A Little Bit About Helena AL
Helena (pronunciation hel-LE-nah) is a city in Jefferson and Shelby Counties in the state of Alabama. Helena is considered a suburb of Birmingham and part of the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Area. As of the 2010 census, the population was 16,793. Helena is highly regarded as a place to live and raise children; Business Week named Helena the 13th "Best Place to Raise Your Kids" in 2007. It has the eighth-lowest crime rate per population in the U.S., and the city was ranked in Money magazine's 2007 list of "Best Places to Live: Top 100" in the U.S., placing at number 91. The Alabama League of Municipalities awarded Helena the 2008 Municipal Achievement Award (population 10,001 to 20,000).
Helena initially incorporated in 1877, but reincorporated in 1917 after errors were discovered in the initial incorporation papers. It did not first appear on the U.S. Census until 1920, giving credence to the later date of incorporation.
The initial settlers to Helena, initially named Cove, were veterans of the final campaigns of the War of 1812. Members of Andrew Jackson's army who cut through the brush were attracted to the quiet, peaceful valleys and streams after the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. These first settlers were reported to arrive in 1849 and were predated by the Creek Indian tribes who these settlers had battled. By 1856, the Cove post office opened. Shortly thereafter, the settlers changed the name of the town to Hillsboro.
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