Higher Education

Higher Education

Quickest Way to Get a Bachelor’s Degree in 2024

Getting into college and earning a degree is an exciting experience, but you may be in a hurry to finish school and get started in your career. Fortunately, there are many paths to speed up your college learning path and earn your degree faster! 

What is the quickest way to get a bachelor’s degree? From “testing out” with exams to transfer credits, here are some options to get your degree faster. 

Transfer Credits 

If you’ve taken any college-level courses with credits, transfer them! You’ve already earned those credits, whether you took college courses as a high school student or you’re returning to school after a long break, so put them to good use. Even one course will save you time and money. 

Remember, some credits will transfer as an equivalent that counts toward your degree requirements. For example, if your new program requires a science elective – and you’ve taken biology or chemistry – those may count. 

Make sure you have your transcripts and have your prospective schools review the credits you’ve earned. Speak to your new school’s admissions advisor about your transferable credits and compare your options. 

Take Exams 

Life experience can earn you some college credits if you can prove it in a test. This is common with adult learners, but even young students could have skills that allow them to “test out” of a college course for credit. There are many ways to learn a subject outside of a formal course. 

For example, if you’re a bilingual speaker, you may be able to take an exam to test out of Spanish I and satisfy a language requirement. Or maybe you have a hobby interest that can be applied to a course, such as computer programming. 

You have a few options for exams, including the College-Level Examination Preparation (CLEP) or DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST). Consider the courses you may be able to test out of and make sure your school will accept the test for credit. Note that you will need to meet the minimum score on the exam. 

You may have to pay a fee, but that’s a fraction of the cost of course tuition.   

Get College Credit with High School Courses 

If you’re still in high school, Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses can give you a jump on your college courses. These courses are at the college level and prepare you for an exam, which you will need to pass to earn college credit for your work. 

Another option is dual enrollment, which is when you take college courses, taught by college professors, while in high school. These courses count toward your requirements for your high school diploma, just like AP courses, but they give you a head start on your bachelor’s degree. 

Enroll in Accelerated Programs 

Accelerated programs are exactly what they sound like – a fast-track through course material. This is a great option if you have the self-discipline and aptitude to learn course concepts at a faster pace than standard classes. 

Depending on what you plan to study, you could use an accelerated bachelor’s degree program to graduate in under four years. These programs have much heavier course loads, however, so consider your study style and whether that will be a good choice for you. 

Some accelerated programs are designed for people who are enrolled in both bachelor’s and master’s programs – and want to finish both quickly – so they can apply a few courses toward both degrees. This won’t necessarily help you speed up your bachelor’s specifically, but you’ll be ahead when it comes time for your master’s program. 

Become a Full-Time Student 

Naturally, being a full-time student is a faster path to a degree than part-time. Often, students go part-time to manage other responsibilities, such as a job or family, or to see how they adjust to the rigors of college by taking it slow.   

Keep in mind that for some schools, a full-time courseload is a path to finish a degree in about four years. Part-time students may take five years, or possibly longer, to finish a bachelor’s degree. 

Think about how much time you can realistically devote to your coursework. If you think a full-time schedule will be too demanding and your schoolwork or personal responsibilities will suffer, it’s best to stay part time and double up on courses when it’s feasible. It’s better to take longer and come out with good grades and a firm grasp of the material than rush through it just to finish faster. 

Get a General Studies Degree 

If you’re not sure what degree you want, and you’ve built up a lot of random college credits over the years, a general studies degree may be the ideal choice for you. Pursuing general studies will allow you to maximize your transferable credits, since these degrees have a wider variety of free electives than more focused degree programs. 

This is an ideal option for students who have explored a lot of different subject areas and interests to see what works best for them. You may find your career fit later, but in the interim, general studies develops valuable transferable career skills like critical thinking, written and verbal communication, and interpersonal skills. 

Use Online Learning Options 

Online learning platforms like Sophia offer low-cost courses that are transferable to many colleges across the country, including a long list of partner universities. Most of the courses offered at Sophia are general education courses, which are required for every bachelor’s degree program. You could even start taking courses in high school. 

There are also some prerequisites that you can take toward specific degrees, such as science courses for nursing school and foundational business courses for a degree in business administration or business management. 

Best of all, they’re self-paced, so you can work through the material at the speed that works best for you. For example, if you took a high school public speaking course, you can use that knowledge to your advantage to move quickly through the material with Sophia. 

While Sophia can’t get you a full bachelor’s degree faster, it can help you accelerate your progress toward your degree with gen ed courses. 

Ready to Take the Next Step? 

Your four-year degree may not have to take four years! Whether you use one of these methods or combine them, some strategic planning will allow you to fast-track your bachelor’s degree and get started on your career. Explore Sophia courses or start your free trial today! 

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Your Guide to Online Nursing Prerequisites

Nursing is – and always has been – an in-demand field. If you’re planning to study nursing, a lot of academic preparation goes into the process, including prerequisite classes to give you the skills to manage the challenges of the advanced nursing courses. 

While many colleges and universities offer nursing programs, you can take some prerequisites at local schools or online to save money, enjoy a more flexible schedule, or get them out of the way early. 

Learn more about nursing prerequisites, what to expect, and the benefits of taking them in more flexible formats to increase your success. 

What Are Common Nursing Prerequisites? 

Prospective nursing students must take prerequisites before enrolling in a program or taking advanced nursing courses. These courses are designed to build your foundational skills to ensure you have the knowledge you need to succeed in challenging, nursing-specific classes, such as math and science courses. Most programs require a C or better in prerequisites to transition into advanced courses. 

The prerequisites vary by program, but they often include courses like: 

Intermediate Algebra 

This course covers common algebra concepts like functions, expressions, and quadratic equations. Most of the math applications in this course emphasize the real-world applications for algebra, which are important for understanding math in science and medicine courses. 

Biology 

Naturally, sciences like biology are essential for nursing and understanding concepts like metabolism, cell structure, biochemistry, and genetics. This course also introduces the scientific method and enhances scientific literacy with both lecture and lab sessions. 

Human Anatomy and Physiology 

Anatomy and physiology is another foundational course for advanced nursing courses for obvious reasons. The course covers human anatomy and physiological function, including body systems and anatomical structure. There are typically two courses – A&P I and A&P II. 

Introduction to Developmental Psychology 

Nursing involves people of all ages. Developmental psychology covers concepts related to how people grow physically, emotionally, and cognitively, as well as how the social environment and cultures shape their experience. This course is necessary for advanced courses on human development. 

Microbiology 

Nurses assist in treating disease. Microbiology, which is the study of the biology of microscopic organisms like viruses, bacteria, algae, fungi, slime molds, and protozoa, is essential to understanding how these microorganisms infect the body and cause disease. 

Chemistry 

Chemistry is vital to nursing because it helps nurses understand the human body at a cellular level, as well as the structures and properties of ions, atoms, and molecules. It’s also important for understanding lab values, disease properties, and how medications work in the body. 

Is There an Order to Take Prerequisites? 

Because prerequisites are intended to prepare you for success in related advanced courses, they’re typically taken earlier in your academic experience. You will be expected to know a lot of the information and concepts from prerequisites in order to succeed in higher-level courses as well. 

While there’s no particular order for some prerequisites – as long as you take them before your advanced coursework – you may benefit from choosing them strategically. For example, taking algebra before your chemistry or biology courses prepares you for some of the ways math is used in the sciences. Naturally, courses with levels, such as A&P I and A&P II, are intended to be taken in order. 

Common Challenges with Nursing Prerequisites 

Balancing Coursework and Responsibilities 

One of the most common challenges that students face in demanding programs like nursing experience is maintaining the balance between their studies and personal responsibilities. These two aspects of your life influence each other – both positively and negatively – so you need to learn time-management skills to succeed. 

Getting Overwhelmed 

The practical phase of nursing school can be demanding, and many students become overwhelmed. The same can happen with the prerequisites, especially if you’re taking a full course load to accelerate your program. 

Challenging Coursework 

Though they’re prerequisites and not high-level courses, some students struggle with different nursing prerequisites based on their aptitude. For example, you may have a hard time with the math prerequisites if you aren’t great at math. That said, some nursing students struggle with anatomy and physiology and organic chemistry, which are challenging courses overall. 

Tips and Tricks to Ace Your Nursing Courses 

  • Use your prerequisite time to learn time-management and stress-management skills. The practical phase of nursing school is famously demanding and can lead many students to feel overwhelmed, so building these skills early will serve you well as you advance in your academic program. 
  • Understand your learning style. People learn differently, so it’s important to understand the reading, studying, and learning techniques that work best for you. This will not only serve you in your prerequisites, but it will set you up for success as you take on more difficult – and more relevant – courses for your nursing career. 
  • Schedule time for your coursework. Nursing school can be a bit of a marathon, so you will need to plan around your coursework to ensure that your studies don’t suffer alongside your work responsibilities, social life, and other obligations. Set time in your schedule to finish your coursework early, ensuring that you have time to get help if you need it and have some flexibility to manage your other tasks. 
  • If you find yourself struggling with the course, reach out for help. Your advisor or learning coach is there to help you succeed, so don’t be afraid to have a conversation early in the course to learn about the resources available to you. In addition, if you expect that a course may be difficult for you, try to balance it with easier courses or give yourself more time with a self-paced course format to ensure you get the concepts. 

Where Can I Take My Prerequisites for Nursing Online? 

Many colleges and universities offer online prerequisite courses, including some of the science classes that require labs. You could also take nursing prerequisites online at Sophia with self-paced courses that you can complete whenever and wherever it works best for you. 

There are many benefits to taking courses online, including better schedule flexibility and access to online resources. You also have the option to take courses before committing to a nursing degree program, so you can be sure that it’s the right choice. You may also save some time and money in the process. 

Ready to take the first step? Explore our science courses today or start your free trial! 

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How to Find Motivation When a College Subject Doesn’t Interest You

No matter how much you love to learn, it’s likely that you’ll come across subjects that you find dry or boring. Everyone has unique interests, but as a college student, you have to take a range of courses and maintain a high level of academic performance. 

So, what can you do if your course in a particular subject puts you to sleep? You could just try to push through completing it, but you gain more from your academic experience if you learn to like your courses. Here are some tips to ignite your interest in a boring subject. 

Find a Seed of Motivation 

The first step to building passion for a subject you don’t like is to find a connection between the subject and your reason for learning it. For example, this course may be a prerequisite for the course you really want to take, but it’s a hurdle you need to overcome. 

Think about where you are – possibly a new student early in your degree program – and where you want to be when you’re finished with your degree. It may seem a long way off, but you have to think of it as a journey. Otherwise, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and defeated. 

Focus Intently with the Pomodoro Technique 

The Pomodoro Technique is an effective time-management tool that can help you stay focused, become more productive, and most importantly with a boring class, avoid procrastination. The concept behind the Pomodoro Technique is dividing larger, more time-consuming tasks into smaller, more manageable efforts. 

To use the Pomodoro Technique, you simply set a timer and complete focused, high-effort work for 25 minutes. Once that time is up, take a five-minute break. You repeat this process for three cycles before taking a 20-minute break. These short blocks of maximum effort with short breaks in between may decrease the friction of getting started and can help you sustain high levels of focus over long periods. 

Minimize Distractions 

Have you ever watched a show or movie and found yourself scrolling on your phone or having your mind wander? The same thing can happen when you’re studying, especially if you aren’t interested in the subject. 

It’s easy to get distracted, and you may even be subconsciously looking for something else to capture your attention as an “excuse” to stop studying. Turn off your phone’s notifications, including your email and social media notifications, and commit to uninterrupted studying for that time. Everything can wait until you take a break. 

Pair Up with Someone Passionate About the Topic 

Your course may be boring to you, but it may not be to someone else. Everyone has their own passions, some that may include the subjects that others find painfully boring or dry, and they’re the ones you want to talk to. 

Pairing up with classmates or discussing the topic with someone who’s passionate about it can not only deepen your understanding, but they may offer a new perspective that sparks your interest in the subject. And even if you don’t come out of the course with a newfound passion, you may drum up enough interest to excel come finals. 

Gamify Your Learning 

Video games, online games, and game apps are popular for a reason. The way they’re designed using challenges and rewards creates an engaging experience that motivates people to win – and that same concept can work for your classes. 

The gamification of learning applies some of these concepts to your studies, including milestones, rewards, and leaderboards that make studying more fun – no matter how bored you are with the subject. 

Here are some ways to add gamification to your studies: 

  • Create instant feedback: Use practice quizzes or flashcards to reward yourself points when you get answers right. 
  • Make it an actual game: Play your favorite board game but replace the game questions or cards with course-related questions. You have to get them right to advance in the game. 
  • Team up with peers: Get together in a group and act out scenarios to get a real-world perspective. For example, you and your peers can take on the personas of different philosophers and discuss each other’s views as your chosen persona. 
  • Wager on knowledge: Whether on your own or with peers, place bets on correct answers and turn studying into some lighthearted competition. 
  • Connect lessons to real-world problems: Games use quests and puzzles to encourage gameplay. Consider your assigned reading, practice quizzes, and written assignments a series of missions that you want to complete. If you don’t get it right the first time, you have more “lives.” 

Seek Out Supplemental Learning 

Sometimes, courses are boring because of how the information is presented, not the information itself. There are plenty of additional resources that you can use to enhance your learning on a particular subject, such as documentaries and video series on YouTube.  

Be sure to explore a few different options. You never know if someone else’s teaching style will jive better with the way you learn. For example, many students struggle with the dry, abstract nature of math, but there are numerous YouTube mathematicians that amassed a following by making math fun and easily digestible. 

Choose a Focus That Does Interest You 

Subject areas can be diverse and multifaceted. Just because you don’t like one course focus doesn’t mean you’ll be bored by the entire subject.  For example, maybe you don’t like the humanities, but Critical Thinking or Introduction to Ethics can spark your interest. 

Similarly, some students find business courses boring, but a course in Personal Finance has a lot of practical information you can use in real life and gets you closer to your required courses. The same can be true of English and communication courses, which might be more interesting if you take a course like Visual Communications to learn about design. 

Develop Your Intellectual Curiosity 

No matter how much you love to learn, it’s likely that you’ll come across courses that you find dry or boring. Everyone has unique interests, but as a college student, you have to take a range of courses and maintain a high level of academic performance. 

Get Excited About New Topics 

In school and in life, not everything can be exciting all the time. You’ll come across subjects and courses that don’t hold your interest, work with projects or clients you don’t enjoy in your job, and deal with mundane day-to-day tasks. But becoming a better learner will help you not just with boring subjects, but gaining the ability to develop new skills and passions that will serve you in your career. 

Ready to get started on your educational journey? Start your free trial at Sophia and explore our courses

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Are Gen Ed Courses Filler? No, Here’s Why

You’re just starting college, looking over your course requirements and the college course catalog to choose your first semester’s classes. You can’t wait to dive into the subjects for your major and build the foundation for your career. 

Unfortunately, your advisor informs you that you have a certain number of requirements to meet before you can earn your degree or even get into your degree-specific courses. You may be wondering why you have to take these unrelated “filler” courses, how they serve your major, and what you have to gain from them. 

Are gen ed courses filler? No, not at all. In fact, your gen ed courses are what help define your bachelor’s degree and college-level education. Let’s take a deeper look at this topic. 

What Are General Education Courses? 

General education courses are a range of classes in specific categories that meet educational criteria. Typically, these courses include history, social sciences, natural sciences, math, English, arts and humanities, and foreign languages. 

These courses are usually taken in the first two years of a four-year degree program and may encompass about a third to a half of the total degree credits. While there are exceptions, it’s recommended that you complete some or all of your gen ed credits before you start working on the core requirements for your major. 

Why Are General Education Courses Required? 

There are several reasons that colleges and universities include general education courses, and it’s not just to fill out your schedule, charge more tuition, or make a degree take longer. 

The original US college curriculum had its origins in medieval universities of England. This classical education was based on the seven liberal arts (grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music), as well as the three philosophies (natural, moral, and mental). 

The purpose of these varied studies was to learn the thought and method of scholasticism and instill respect for the authorities of the discipline. Though universities and colleges would eventually offer majors and minors to focus on a profession, a comprehensive education in the liberal arts remains. 

The purpose of maintaining the liberal arts isn’t merely because of tradition, however. While some gen ed courses will likely always be part of the curriculum, such as English composition, some of the gen ed courses may shift according to trends and values in society – such as diversity and inclusion. 

Gen ed courses also set colleges and universities apart from professional and vocational trading. With the latter, the curriculum is focused on specialized knowledge to perform a specific job. With the former, the education is a blend of comprehensive fields and broad knowledge with a specialty in one discipline. 

Benefits of General Education Courses 

Build a Knowledge Base 

Virtually all colleges and universities have a set of general education requirements in a cross-section of subjects that ensure students develop a broad base of knowledge. 

While the goal of your degree program is to prepare you for that field with an advanced education, having a learning foundation in a wide range of topics – including the arts and humanities, natural sciences, and math – can help you succeed in your career. 

Enhance Communication 

Communication is essential to any career, not just the obvious choices like journalism and marketing. In the rapidly evolving, largely digital, and often multinational business environment, written and oral communication skills are some of the most important soft skills you can bring to the table. 

Most universities and colleges include some basic communication courses, such as English composition 101, public speaking, and journalism, but you can expand your knowledge even further with courses like professional writing, technical writing, grant writing, and visual communications

Improve Critical Thinking 

Part of the college experience is gaining new skills and perspectives. Critical thinking is a key part of that, which requires you look at a situation from all sides, consider the available information, and come to a sound and rational conclusion. This is more complex than simply developing opinions. 

Many gen ed courses teach and improve critical thinking skills, such as history, social sciences, political science, and math. These courses focus on analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing information and learning how to navigate problems and solve them more efficiently. 

Gain Soft Skills 

When you graduate and go out to look for a job, your prospective employers will be looking at more than just your academic accomplishments and technical skills related to your field. Soft skills, also known as people skills, are a crucial part of being successful in a job role – any job role. 

Good communication, interpersonal skills, teamwork, time management, and problem solving are all considered soft skills. These skills aren’t necessarily related to a specific field. Instead, they’re applicable to nearly every job. 

Gen ed courses develop a wide range of different soft skills. For example, English and literature teach communication and presenting persuasive arguments in writing. Social sciences and natural sciences enhance critical thinking, analytical skills, and scientific literacy. 

Explore Different Majors 

Gen ed courses are a good opportunity to try out different topics and subjects to see if they interest you. Some students go into college undecided on their major or choosing between a few options. 

Taking gen ed courses gives you exposure to different subjects to see if a major is really right for you – before you spend a lot of time and money on required courses. Otherwise, you may take degree-specific courses and decide you want to change your major, leaving you with courses that may not count toward your new degree. 

Ready to Start Your Educational Journey? 

Love them or hate them, gen ed courses are an important part of getting a well-rounded education, supporting your degree path, advancing your career, and honoring centuries of academic tradition. 

With the evolving landscape of higher education, you have more options than ever to complete your gen ed courses in a way – including online options like Sophia. With a convenient subscription plan, you can knock out your gen ed courses online, at your own pace, and transfer your eligible courses to a four-year program. Start your free trial and explore our courses

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Understanding the Value of Core Subjects in College

If you’re like most students, you may be wondering why certain courses are required in college, even if they’re unrelated to your degree. Why does a communications degree need life science courses? How does English Composition 101 help an engineering major? 

Contrary to popular belief, these courses aren’t designed to slow you down, pad your tuition, or waste your time. All of the core subjects and areas of study play important roles in preparing a student for college-level learning, a future graduate program, and an increasingly competitive job market. 

General Education for Foundational Learning 

Colleges may differ in what they require for core classes and electives, but all schools have general curriculum requirements that are designed to help students gain important skills. These typically include a range of courses in the arts and humanities, foreign language, English and literature, sciences, social sciences, history, and math. 

While these courses may seem irrelevant to your degree-specific courses, they build skills that will matter in your career. With competitive applicants for a job, employers aren’t just looking for job skills that come with a specific degree (which most of the applicants possess). They’re looking for the valuable soft skills that inform how you’ll perform your job and contribute to the organization, such as: 

  • Critical thinking 
  • Creativity 
  • Analytical skills 
  • Flexibility 
  • Teamwork 
  • Empathy 
  • Cultural sensitivity 
  • Civic engagement 
  • Clear communication 
  • Intellectual problem-solving 
  • Evaluating data 

Let’s take a deeper look at how each area of study develops important skill sets. 

College-Level Areas of Study 

Arts & Humanities 

The arts and humanities are central to all human cultures throughout time. Studying these subjects is key to gaining deeper intercultural understanding and laying the groundwork for an engaged life with cultural sensitivity and connections. 

The human touch is essential to the workplace in a variety of fields. The more routine work is automated, the more we need to include human judgment, critical thought, empathy, and creativity in the process – all of which is taught through arts and humanities. 

English Language & Literature 

College-level English courses and literature courses encompass a wide range of skills that are important to not just the academic experience but the transition into the workplace. These courses typically take place in the first two years and are used as an introduction to the college environment to build skills for future courses. 

English composition courses teach you how to write in an academic style that’s appropriate for virtually all college courses. They also teach research, rhetorical devices, how to construct arguments, and how to communicate ideas in writing. These skills are built upon with literature courses that develop strong critical thinking and storytelling skills. 

Foreign Language 

Studying a foreign language may improve the brain’s cognitive functions and may develop cognitive control abilities, increase nonverbal and verbal capabilities, and increase perceptual sensitivity. In addition, studying a foreign language and its nuances can strengthen existing English skills. 

Though a foreign language may not seem relevant to your degree, its study can improve opportunities after earning your bachelor’s. You may need some of these skills for work in multinational business, government, medicine, law, technology, or marketing. 

History 

For many, history is boring or irrelevant, but it must be studied because it doesn’t stay in the past. Learning about history is essential to understanding how the events of the past shaped the way things are today, and more importantly, how to avoid similar mistakes moving forward. 

History also supports academic skill building. Asking thoughtful, complex questions about historical events may enhance critical thinking and teach robust research skills, including how to evaluate primary, secondary, and tertiary sources and apply the information to a current problem. 

Math 

Math may seem irrelevant in everyday life, especially with smartphone calculators at the ready. Studying math is important for understanding our world and informing our perspective, however. Even at a lower level, math courses can develop critical thinking and quantitative analysis skills that are not only necessary for certain courses but your future career. 

Sure, not every field requires math in its day-to-day responsibilities. But even without calculations, math teaches us to think logically, identify and state a problem clearly, and develop and execute a strategy to solve it. We learn to evaluate and draw conclusions based on knowledge. 

Science 

The sciences are generally regarded as one of the most important areas of study, even for people pursuing non-science degrees. Science courses are essential for developing scientific literacy, which is the ability to identify questions and draw evidence-based conclusions. 

Science is also collaborative. Though students may not pursue the sciences and perform research that must stand up to peer reviews and scrutiny, it teaches them to work together toward a common goal and stringently – but respectfully --    vet the results from their peers. 

Social Sciences 

The social sciences encompass several disciplines, including anthropology, economics, environmental studies, psychology, and sociology. Together, these disciplines can build critical perspectives and deepen the understanding of different cultures. 

Combining elements of the study of history and sciences, social sciences also develop research skills, including analyzing sources, collecting data, and evaluating change on individual and systemic scales. In the workplace, these skills help to create more inclusive and effective organizations. 

Prepare for Core Subjects with Sophia 

Though they may not seem relevant, these courses are a key part of the college learning experience. At their core, these courses can teach you to ask questions, think about the world critically and creatively, and develop innovative skills to solve problems and become an asset to your future employer. 

Whether you have a major in mind or you’re just exploring your options, you can get a jump on your gen ed courses with Sophia. Our self-paced gen ed courses are designed to transfer and get you closer to graduation. Start a free trial and explore our courses today! 

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Take a Strategic Approach to Gen Ed Courses

General education – gen ed – courses are part of any college curriculum. They may feel like extra hoops to jump through to get to your degree but they’re designed to give you foundational knowledge and build different skills to support your academic and professional careers.

Still, it may feel like taking math, science, history, or public speaking courses are a delay and expense on your way to major-specific courses and your degree. If you're eager to complete these courses and dive into your field, there are some ways to choose your courses strategically to save time and money.

How to Choose Your Gen Ed Courses

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute 

Classes fill up early, especially for popular courses that have limited offerings. Registering early allows you to choose your courses while you have several options for time slots, so you can balance your schedule more easily.

Ideally, work with your advisor to plan your schedule a few months in advance. If you wait until the last minute, you could get stuck with a course you dread. Worse yet, you could miss out on opportunities to combine your requirements with strategic scheduling.

Balance Difficult Courses with Easier Ones

Academic burnout is a real thing, even for high achievers who are comfortable under pressure. Gen ed courses are often easier than degree-specific courses, but a packed schedule with tough major courses and gen eds or electives that take you out of your comfort zone is a setup for burnout. 

Make sure to balance your schedule with difficult courses, easier courses, and some fun courses. This will help you prioritize your study time according to workload and keep your mind fresh with varied subjects. If you want to challenge yourself with an unfamiliar course, surround it with easier courses to ensure success.

Speak to Your Advisor About Degree Requirements

Your college advisor is your asset in choosing the right gen ed courses to optimize time and tuition. Get the full list of gen ed courses you will need to take to plan things out. You will have two types of gen ed courses:

Strict requirements that you will need to take, such as English Composition 101. These are courses that are typically required at any college or university in the US. Usually, the only way you won’t need to take these courses is if you had an AP course or got a jump on your gen eds with online courses. It’s best to get these required courses out of the way early. 

Flexible gen ed courses that fit within certain subjects to complete your subject area requirements for your degree. These aren’t “free” electives with complete flexibility, but you have a choice of specific courses to satisfy your English or math requirement, for example.

Identify Your Prerequisites

Prerequisites are courses you need to take before you’re able to take other courses or higher-level courses. For example, if you need upper-level psychology courses for your major or minor, you will need to take Psychology 101.

Some prerequisites are required for your major or minor, but others may be required if you want to take a specific course for your gen ed or electives. For example, if you are set on taking a computer science course, you may need to take College Algebra. 

Pay attention to your prerequisites to get them completed early in your college career. Some of the degree-specific or upper-level courses you need to take are limited, so you don’t want to struggle with your third- or fourth-year schedule by missing a prerequisite.

Look for Opportunities to “Double Up”

With your list of gen ed courses, electives, and major and minor course requirements, you can get into the strategy. Some of these categories may overlap, giving you the option to “double up” and knock out two requirements at once.

As mentioned, prerequisites are something you want to get out of the way early, but they’re also good for doubling up. For example, if you’re pursuing a major or minor in anthropology, you will likely need courses on human origin and evolution. A prerequisite for that may be geography to understand the relationships between people and the environment, but that course could also count toward your science or social science requirement, depending on the school. 

Gen ed flexible courses and minor courses are another great opportunity to double up. These are categories that require a certain number of credit hours in a specific discipline like science, writing, or humanities, but you have freedom to choose courses within that discipline.

So, you could double up on a gen ed category that also helps your major or minor. For example, a history major may be required to complete a certain number of gen ed arts and humanities credits, so an art history course may count toward both categories.

Here’s an example of how this could work:

Say you are an English major with a business minor with a requirement for six credit hours in history, art, social science, and communication. Your major requires English Composition as a prerequisite for your degree-specific courses. 

You could set up your schedule one of two ways:

Schedule 1:

  • English Composition 
  • Art History 101
  • Sociology 101
  • Linguistics 101
  • Small Group Communication 101

Schedule 2:

  • English Composition
  • History 101
  • Introduction to Humanities 101
  • Sociology 101 
  • Public Speaking 101

With the first schedule, some of your courses may count twice, depending on the school’s requirements. For example, Art History may satisfy an art requirement and a history requirement. Linguistics could be a communication credit, but obviously benefits an English major. Small Group Communication may fulfill your public speaking requirement, but it’s also beneficial for a business minor.

Now, with Schedule 2, each gen ed requirement is covered by only one course – no more, no less. You would still need to take courses to get credits for your major, minor, and other gen ed flex categories, as well as any prerequisites. 

Naturally, not every course will perfectly align with your requirements, major, minor, and individual interests – not to mention that sometimes the schedule simply doesn’t work out. Scheduling conflicts exist, especially with courses that are popular and limited. But planning in advance helps you optimize your schedule and requirements as best as possible.

Another option is to balance your in-person courses with self-paced online gen ed courses. You won’t need to worry about classes filling up, scheduling conflicts, or balancing a lot of coursework. You can employ similar strategies to double up on requirements with online courses for transfer credits, just be sure to speak to your advisor about your transfer options and degree requirements.

Take Courses That Interest You

Choosing your gen ed courses strategically isn’t about gaming the process. While it can be helpful to double up or complete certain courses early, gen ed is also about exploring your interests and igniting intellectual curiosity. Don’t be afraid to take a course to try something new, even if another course fits better. 

Knock Out Your Gen Eds with Sophia 

Gen eds can be a great way to explore interests, learn new things, and satisfy your intellectual curiosity. But if you want to fast-track your degree program to get into the degree-specific courses you really enjoy, choosing gen eds strategically can help you double up on requirements, get prerequisites out of the way, and get your degree faster.

Ready to get started? Start your free trial at Sophia and explore our courses!

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How Affordable Online Schooling Is Changing Education (for the Better)

Higher education has had a standard format for decades – centuries even – that’s only begun to shift in the past few years. Around the same time that remote work became an option for certain careers – enabled by advanced technology for communication and collaboration – colleges and universities started to include more online learning in their curricula for distance learners. 

Now, online certificates and degree programs are available at top institutions, and just as respected as the in-person counterpart, which legitimized online learning. While there may be some skepticism remaining, schools, professors, students, and parents are seeing the practicality and advantages of online learning as a nontraditional track to a degree.   

The COVID-19 Paradigm Shift 

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, the world shut down practically overnight. Campuses had to close, disrupting millions of students’ education. Professors and students had to do their best with tools like Zoom or collaborative platforms and no real plan for how to translate their traditional learning into a remote model. 

However, some higher education institutions were able to adapt immediately and offer all of their courses virtually, thanks to already having robust online education programs. The pandemic’s challenges were a demand to innovate, which forever influenced the way education will be delivered in the post-pandemic world. 

After experiencing the benefits of online learning, more colleges and universities are making the move to offer more online learning courses, degree programs, certificate programs, and nontraditional options to suit the needs of a wide range of learners. 

For those who are looking for a path outside of the linear, conventional move from high school directly to college, the rising popularity of online education allows more students to access education to earn or finish a degree, upskill, change careers, complete a certificate, and more. Older students, working adults, students with neurodiversity, and people from different cultural or language backgrounds were no longer restricted by the common barriers. 

How Has Online Schooling Changed Education? 

Flexibility 

Though online learning can have similar formats to in-person courses, it’s generally more flexible. Courses may be asynchronous or self-paced, allowing the professor and the student to adjust the learning experience to their schedule. 

For adult learners, this opens doors to new educational opportunities. Often burdened with work, family, and financial responsibilities, going back to school used to mean giving something up. Online learning makes it possible to balance the commitment of school with other priorities. 

Accessibility 

In many ways, education has never been more accessible than it is now. Students can attend schools all over the world with online programs, relieving them of geographic boundaries and commutes. The virtual classroom is available anywhere that has a strong internet connection. 

There are also more options in terms of learning platforms, degree programs, and individual courses. Students can take general education courses for transfer credits, upskill with self-paced learning platforms, and take multiple courses at once with a subscription-based model. 

Customized Learning Experiences 

The flexibility in time and program structure with online learning allows students to adapt their learning experience to their needs and abilities – unlike traditional courses that have a set structure and pace. 

Online courses tend to be smaller than traditional classrooms, facilitating better interactions between students and peers or professors. There’s also more diverse learning materials, including images, infographics, videos, ebooks, forums, discussions, and virtual labs, for a dynamic and tailored experience. 

For students who struggle with certain topics, self-paced learning personalizes the way the information is learned and retained as well. Students can spend more time on challenging topics or courses – even repeating modules as needed – to ensure that they truly gain practical knowledge, not just a passing score. Similarly, students who have a natural aptitude for a subject or real-life experience can move through a course quickly to accelerate their degree schedule. 

Cost-Effective 

While the costs can vary, online education is often more affordable than traditional on-campus learning. There are different payment options as well, such as subscription models, installment payments, and integration with short-term loans to finance education. 

Some schools or platforms offer individual courses, so students can get a jump on their degree while they save or can explore different areas of study before committing to a full program. Then, if they need to take a break to save more before another term or semester, they can do so without losing their place in the program. 

In addition to the direct cost savings, online school can be more cost effective than attending school on a campus. School expenses aren’t just tuition, but extras like housing, meal plans, parking, on-campus amenities, and fees – all of which add up. 

Diverse Learning Formats 

Online learning is broad and encompasses diverse learning formats and types. Some universities and colleges offer synchronous online learning that mimics a classroom environment, while others embrace asynchronous online learning that lets the student set the pace. 

Some courses are taught without direct interaction with a professor, instead relying on pre-recorded videos, discussions, and interactive elements that enhance the learning experience. Courses may incorporate innovative learning features like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), lab simulations, and gamification features that make education fun and engaging. 

Students have a lot more variety in the courses themselves as well. It’s simpler for universities and colleges to set up online courses for more niche topics to expand their offerings. Some schools and learning platforms even offer courses that are just for personal development outside of a degree track, such as dog psychology, ethical hacking, music composition, and dance choreography. 

Online Learning Is the Future 

The benefits of online learning are far beyond this list, which may be why more and more students are pursuing online schools and courses over the traditional on-campus experience. While some students thrive in a classroom, online learning can be ideal for students looking for an alternative that’s affordable, convenient, and accessible. 

Interested in taking online courses for your degree? Start a free trial and explore our courses at Sophia Learning. 

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6 Benefits of Taking University Courses Online

Online learning has taken the world by storm in the past few years. People are no longer restricted by their location or schedule, opening a world of opportunities for new and returning students alike. 

Whether you’re balancing the responsibilities of your family or work, you have limited time to sit in traffic and stick to a rigid schedule, or you want a broader variety of universities to choose from all over the country (or world), here are the benefits of taking university courses online. 

1. More Flexibility 

One of the most restrictive aspects of traditional learning is sticking to a set schedule. Sometimes, courses are only available in a few time slots, making it much more challenging to fit your education into your schedule. 

For example, that core philosophy course you need to complete may only be available at 11 am on a Wednesday – right in the middle of a workweek for a typical 9-5 job. Or your required courses may only be scheduled for evenings, but that’s when you spend time with family or get the kids ready for school in the morning. 

Online courses are often asynchronous, giving you more flexibility in how you participate and complete assignments. If you’re an early riser, you can study and work on assignments before you go to work or the kids go to school. If you work second or third shift, you don’t have to disrupt your sleep schedule to attend class groggy and unfocused. The possibilities are endless. 

2. No Geographical Boundaries 

As much as college is a chance for young students to develop more independence, most stay close to home.  

Some of this is financial, as moving away to attend college can add to the overall cost. For some students, this can mean not attending at all if students live in rural areas far from any institutions. 

For adult learners returning to school, the considerations are similar. Moving away to attend school or having a long commute may not be manageable with a work schedule or family obligations – either limiting the options or preventing them from earning a degree at all. 

But without these geographic limitations, you can attend virtually any university that offers online programs for your major. Distance is no longer a consideration, so you can focus on the most cost-effective or prestigious options. Better yet, if you are pursuing an unusual major that’s only offered at a few select schools, you don’t need to uproot your whole life to achieve your goal. 

3. Often More Cost-Effective 

Total costs for school are often a consideration – if not a limitation – for students. While online courses aren’t always cheaper than in-person courses, they can be more cost-effective overall. Some colleges and universities offer online courses at a lower cost per credit hour than campus courses, saving a lot of money over the typical four to six years. 

Even if courses aren’t necessarily cheaper online than in person, there are other costs that can add to the total investment in education. On-campus learning has additional expenses for room and board, transportation, parking, campus fees, meals, and more. It all adds up, but taking courses online eliminates a lot of these added costs. 

4. Better Course Variety 

Online learning in university environments greatly expanded the options for courses that apply to your degree. It may be more difficult for universities to offer a lot of variety on a physical campus, but self-paced online courses can allow for more diverse course offerings with less administrative burden for the institution. 

This course variety gives you more options to take courses that are not only necessary for a degree but appeal to your personal interests. For example, if you don’t like science but you love animals, courses in zoology or wildlife science may be available online. Maybe you want to supplement your university experience with practical courses like career readiness or workplace communication. 

Along with more options for interesting subjects, online courses may have more variety in scheduling. Unique courses like “Feminism in Rom-Coms” or “The Golden Age of Piracy” are not only rarer than standard subjects, but they’re often waitlisted. With online courses, you may be able to sign up for a class that may have otherwise conflicted with your schedule. 

5. Increased Collaboration 

Compared to large university classrooms, online courses are more intimate and offer plenty of opportunities for students to collaborate with each other and their professor. Without in-person participation, discussions are moved to message boards, group assignments, and other collaborative forms to encourage interactions among students – though still asynchronous. 

Students may also receive more one-on-one time with their professor in online learning. They may keep office hours, but they’re also available via email or phone for more availability outside of office hours. 

6. More Personalized Education 

Traditional university courses are structured similarly, which can be a limitation – or a possible dealbreaker – for nontraditional learners. Students who are shy may find themselves shrinking in a large classroom, while more independent learners may struggle to stay on pace with the structure of a group. 

University courses with self-paced formatting offer a more personalized learning experience to adapt to each student’s needs. You can complete your coursework when you feel most productive, and in the environment you choose, whether that’s your home office or in bed during the wee hours of the morning. 

Not all university courses have self-paced online learning, but as education adapts to the demands of the public, it’s becoming more common. You can also complement traditional learning with self-paced formats for select courses, such as with gen ed courses from Sophia Learning. 

Is Taking University Courses Online Right for You? 

Have these benefits convinced you to skip the traditional classroom? Online learning isn’t for every student, but if you value flexibility, independence, and control over your educational experience, it could be the perfect fit. If you want to experience what online learning can be while completing your gen ed courses, start a free trial and explore our university partners at Sophia! 

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7 Advantages of Self-Paced Online Courses

For many, the thought of learning and education conjures images of a classroom full of students or an online program guided by a professor – cohort-based learning. This is a common learning model, but it’s not the only one available. 

Self-paced learning offers students the freedom to choose when, where, and how they want to learn. More independent than cohort-based learning, self-paced learning gives students more flexibility over their time and education experience. 

Discover 7 advantages of self-paced online courses to see if it’s right for you. 

What Is Self-Paced Online Learning? 

Self-paced learning, also known as on-demand learning, is an education style that allows students to advance through an educational program at their own pace. Though you may be part of a class with others, you progress through the course and complete the required reading and assignments at your own comfortable speed. 

Online programs are typically a self-paced model that offers on-demand course curriculum. For example, you can watch lectures, take quizzes, and complete assignments whenever you choose – whether that’s in the late evening after the kids are in bed, on the weekdays before work, or on a Sunday afternoon. 

Advantages of Self-Paced Learning 

There are many advantages to learning at your own pace, especially if you’re balancing a lot of responsibilities outside of school that make it difficult to keep to a strict schedule of lectures and exams. 

Here are some advantages of self-paced learning: 

1. Flexibility 

On-demand courses offer more flexibility than traditional learning models. If you’re struggling with a topic and need more time to review and retain the concepts, you can take your time with the course without feeling pressured by deadlines. 

Conversely, if you are already familiar with course topics – either from natural aptitude or your work experience – you don’t have to hold yourself back. You can move through the course quickly to save time. 

2. Balancing Daily Responsibilities 

Your education is a priority, but you may also have responsibilities to your family or your job (and you have to pay bills). As much as you may want to put school first, life happens and may at times push school on the backburner. 

With a traditional course format, this can cause late points or missed assignments and poor comprehension, impacting your grades and subsequent coursework. But with self-paced learning, you can manage your time more effectively to complete your assignments without neglecting other responsibilities – or vice versa. 

3. Better Retention 

Some people thrive under pressure. Others don’t. If a looming deadline makes it challenging for you to focus and organize your thoughts, despite knowing the material, self-paced learning takes the pressure off. 

When your deadlines are open-ended, you can focus better and go over material until you have a command of it. You’ll not only improve your performance, but you’ll retain the material for your future coursework and career. 

4. On-Demand Access 

Modern students have many paths to their education. Some are taking courses while still in high school, others are balancing a degree program with the responsibilities of running a home. People with thriving careers are upskilling or changing careers while balancing a busy schedule – which may include business travel or a long commute. 

With on-demand course access, you can complete lectures and assignments anywhere at any time. If you have a short work trip with a few nights in a hotel, all you need is a laptop and a strong internet connection. If you have a long commute on public transportation with Wi-Fi, you can watch course videos or assigned readings. When you’re not restricted to a classroom, the possibilities are endless. 

5. Ownership Over the Learning Experience 

With self-paced learning, you are the master of your own learning experience. You have ownership over your learning by defining what you do, when you do it, and how you study, building self-confidence and developing strong learning habits. 

Everyone learns differently, but having ownership to learning can help you identify and develop your own skills to support and enhance your learning experience, not just with mastery of one course, but throughout your degree program and in your career. 

6. Self-Assessment Tools 

Though exams and assignments may be graded by a professor or automatically, self-paced courses often have self-assessment tools that you can use to ensure you have a mastery of the concepts before those high-stakes assignments come around. 

Self-assessments can take many forms, including assignment rubrics, scripts, journal assignments, concept reviews, and practice exams. Texts also contain short ungraded quizzes or assessments to ensure you understand the foundational concepts before you build upon them. 

7. Improves Self-Reflection 

Self-paced learning can be more confident learning. As an independent learner, you are responsible for your success and are positioned to develop an internal motivation to master course concepts all on your own. You have a clear purpose of what you want to gain from your learning experience, making it more meaningful and enjoyable. 

Also, when you focus on the areas that interest you and develop your own learning skill sets, you can better identify those areas in which you struggle. With the pressure off, you can nurture your own learning without the feelings of frustration, anxiety, or boredom that often accompany courses that don’t pique your interest.  

Considering Self-Paced Learning? 

Instead of the restrictions to schedule and learning speed with a traditional format, self-paced learning puts the power in the learner’s hands to manage time, motivation, coursework, and concept mastery. If self-paced learning is the right fit for you, start a free trial at Sophia or explore our courses

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Is It Cheaper to Go to College Online? Our Expert Take:

If you’re making the decision to get a degree after high school or go back and finish your degree, you have a lot of options with traditional and online education.

While there are differences between online vs. in-person experiences, one of the biggest ones is the cost. 

Whether you’re working with your own budget or you’re worried about drowning in student debt after graduation, the cost of your education is an important factor in your decision.

Take a look at the differences in cost between online and traditional education, what you can do to save, and how to decide which is best for you. 

Traditional College

For some, the traditional college experience is part of the appeal of attending college. They share classes with fellow students, stay in a dorm, eat meals in the dining hall, and cheer for the school team – building social support as well as educational support.

There are education and career benefits as well, including opportunities to network and build relationships with people who will benefit their professional goals. These relationships are easier to cultivate in person than online.

In addition, younger college students often benefit from the structure and guidance that’s offered with in-person college. Transitioning from the strictly managed environment of high school to the more independent, self-managed college learning experience can be jarring – but these support systems are designed to cultivate independence while providing an educational safety net. 

But all of this can come with high costs. Colleges and universities factor the costs of buildings, dorms, and food into the tuition costs, often leading to extra fees for everything from meal plans to parking. There are amenities, such as access to the school fitness center or onsite lectures and events.

All traditional college doesn’t come with the same sticker price, however. It can range from small community colleges to state universities (with different in-state and out-of-state costs) to pricey private institutions like the Ivy League, all with different price points.

Many of these institutions offer financial aid to help with the costs. Often, this means lower out-of-pocket expenses for your education, especially if you combine them with federal student aid. Keep in mind, however, that student loans will need to be paid back – plus interest.

There are ways to save, though. Traditional colleges may offer summer courses – either online or in-person – that you can take to accelerate your program. You can also take core courses at a community college or online with a program like Sophia Learning, which often have much lower costs for tuition, books, and other fees. 

If you choose this option, remember to consider the costs if you’re staying in student housing and need meal plans, transportation, or parking during the summer. You must evaluate the full costs, not just what you’ll save in tuition.

If you take courses at another school. It’s important to speak to your advisor to make sure that any transfer credits from an outside institution will be accepted.

Online College

Generally, online learning is more affordable than traditional college. You still get the same quality of education, but the lower overhead costs mean that tuition is lower. In addition, you won’t have added fees for housing, meal plans, transportation, parking, or amenities, as these are all expenses you have outside of school (and expenses you’d probably have regardless). 

That said, online tuition is still a big investment that may require financial aid and out-of-pocket costs. Your biggest savings will be with all the “extras” you won’t have to pay for, all of which add to the higher tuition costs at traditional colleges and universities.

But keep in mind that your savings come at the cost of some of the support, socializing, and networking that you get from living on or near campus and attending courses in person.

Some online colleges or courses do have hidden fees, such as technology fees or lab fees, that can inflate your tuition. It’s important to be discerning when you’re evaluating your options.

One of the biggest benefits of online college – along with generally lower tuition – is that it’s more flexible overall. Many online courses are asynchronous, so you can complete your coursework at whatever time works best for you to manage other responsibilities to work or family. 

You also have flexibility in how you complete your degree that may not be available at traditional college. You can take summer courses online or challenge courses that you already know with the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP). Fewer courses means fewer terms, getting you to graduation faster (and cheaper).

Another option is to take your gen ed courses online and transfer them with programs like Sophia Learning. These courses are core requirements for a degree and equivalent to the course you’d take at a college or university, but they come at a much lower price point.  

With Sophia, a wide range of gen ed courses are available in a self-paced online format. For one subscription fee, you can take up to two courses at a time to knock out your gen eds. It’s important to check with your academic advisor at your preferred institution to ensure that your courses will transfer, however.

Evaluate True Costs 

When you’re choosing between online and traditional education, be sure to contact the financial aid offices of the schools you’re considering to understand their full cost of attendance, average degree cost, financial aid packages, and eligibility for government aid.

Compare the full dollar amounts – including all applicable fees or associated costs – to understand your financial investment. Small fees, such as student activity fees, library fees (online or on-campus), and course materials can add up quickly.

If your preferred school seems out of your budget, consider options to save with scholarships, transfer courses, CLEP, or work-experience credits. The financial aid office should be able to help you with resources and opportunities to save.

The Verdict 

Generally, online degrees can be cheaper than traditional degrees, but not always. Colleges and universities vary widely in their tuition costs, fees, and more. Be sure to conduct your own research to find the most affordable and appropriate option and save where you can, including taking online transfer courses at Sophia. Start a free trial or explore our courses!

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9 Reasons to Take Advantage of Online Summer College Courses

From kindergarten through senior year, we all look forward to the summer break for fun, relaxation, vacations, and free time. While leisure time is important, current and prospective college students are missing an opportunity to accelerate their degree program with summer courses.

Enrolling in online summer college courses can improve your college experience, save some money, and expand your knowledge – all without sacrificing your summer fun. Here are the top 9 reasons to consider online summer classes for college credit.

1. Early or On-Schedule Graduation

If your goal is to graduate early, taking pre-college summer online courses is a great way to accelerate your program. Whether you start in high school to get a jump start or take some college courses online in summer alongside your degree program, graduating early lets you get started on your career path.

If you want to graduate on time, summer courses help you knock out courses to reduce your workload throughout the year. Perhaps you had to drop some courses, took time off, or struggled in courses you have to retake. Enrolling in online summer courses helps you get back on track to graduate on your anticipated date.

2. Save Time and Money

Accelerating your graduation may save you some money. Along with tuition fees like room and board, meal plans, or the cost of commuting and parking can add up. The longer you’re in school, the more you’ll pay on top of tuition.

With summer online college courses, you can save a lot on the fees by completing courses at home and at the time that works best for you. If you’re taking online courses outside of your institution, however, be sure to check on your college or university’s transfer policy.

3. Complete Core Courses

General education, or core courses, are mandatory courses in broad fields that meet the requirements of your degree program. Sometimes, these courses can be uninspiring for students focused entirely on their major.

If that’s the case, you can knock out your general education courses or prerequisites in summer programs. You’ll not only get “boring” courses out of the way, but you’ll ensure you have the necessary qualifications to register for key courses with your preferred professor or schedule.

4. Focus on a Specific Subject

No matter how much you excel in academia, you may come up against subject areas that are a little more challenging – it happens to everyone. For example, some people have weaknesses in entire fields of study, such as math, while others may get hung up on a specific course, such as geography or organic chemistry.

If you’re struggling, balancing the challenges of one course on top of your regular course load and life’s responsibilities could feel overwhelming. With a summer course, you can focus only on that one subject to dive deep and devote your full attention, rather than splitting your studies – and mental capacity – across several classes.

5. Avoid the Summer Gap

Having a break in studies is helpful, but it could be counterproductive. The summer gap in learning can disrupt your continuity and get you out of the groove of college-level study. Then, when you return in the fall, you spend valuable time getting reacquainted with the routine.

Taking just one summer course maintains your educational continuity, so you can enter your fall semester primed for learning and retention.

6. Smaller Class Sizes

While this isn’t always the case, some summer courses have lower enrollment than they do during the fall or spring semesters. Working within a small class has many advantages, including more intimate class discussions, more engagement, better contact with your professor, and more individualized attention and support.

In addition, summer courses generally have more availability in the offseason, so you’re more likely to get the courses you want without other students competing for coveted spots. Online courses, in particular, often have more availability without the scheduling restrictions of set on-campus times.

7. Prepare for Graduate School

If you’re planning to attend graduate school, taking summer courses allows you to investigate different areas of study or get a jump on some of the graduate-level classes. For example, a summer course focused on skills related to your degree – or desirable career skills like a second language – can be helpful.

Summer courses are also helpful for students considering entrance exams, such as the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), or Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). These tests include a lot of foundational learning, which you can focus on during a summer session.

8. Earn Credentials or a Second Major or Minor

No matter your major, you can bolster your resume and career prospects with additional credentials through a supplemental undergraduate or graduate certificate to complement your degree.

You could also take classes to focus on a second major or minor without extending your anticipated graduation date. This is a great opportunity to see if your new course of study is the right choice before making a big move.

9. Take Interesting Classes

Your electives are a great way to explore topics you’re interested in that aren’t required for your degree. In most cases, you can choose from a range of electives on a broad range of topics, many of which are available for summer courses and offer a lighter and more fun learning experience.

For example, you may enjoy creative writing, photography, and music production as a hobby. Perhaps you have an interest in the origins of humanity or English literature. Maybe courses that strengthen soft skills, such as psychology or communication, would be helpful in your career. Either way, an online summer course gives you the freedom to focus on learning the course material without juggling the demands of other degree-specific courses.  

Want to Get a Jump on Learning?

Taking online summer courses is a great way to accelerate your degree program, enhance your learning, and focus your attention on one or two subjects. If you’re interested in online summer courses, we’d love to help you out! Take a look at the partner schools at Sophia Learning or start a free trial to give it a try!

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5 Huge Benefits of Taking Your Gen Eds Online

If you’re working full time, have a family, or juggling other responsibilities that may get in the way of pursuing your degree, you don’t have to put your education on hold.

All institutions have general classes for college – gen ed courses – that you will need for your degree, no matter the program. If you complete your general education courses online, you can work toward your degree without committing to a college program.

Find out the benefits of getting your gen eds online to stay on track toward completing your degree.

What Are Gen Ed Classes?

General education classes for college include courses in a broad range of disciplines, such as arts and humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, mathematics, foreign language, and more.

Following in the concept of learning as a formative and transformative experience, general education curriculum is designed to provide a foundation for future learning. Though the topics may not seem relevant to a degree program, students learn vital skills in research, communication, critical thinking, academic style and formatting, collaboration, and working independently.

Different universities have different policies to complete general education requirements for college credit, but they’re usually between 42 credits and 60 credits of the typical 120 credits needed to earn a bachelor’s degree.

While students may take gen ed courses later in their college career, most are taken during the first and second years. Earning general education credits online to fulfill your gen ed requirements is a great way to get those courses out of the way and decide if pursuing a degree is the right choice for you.

Can I Take General Education Courses Online?

Yes! Several institutions offer general education courses online. You can take the courses, often without committing to a full program, and transfer the credits to your chosen institution.

You’ll still complete your program and earn a degree that reflects your institution and program, regardless of whether your core gen ed courses were taken there or elsewhere. The courses that are required for your degree program will still be provided by your institution.

Of course, it’s best to check with your advisor or preferred institution on the credit transfer policy. Though gen ed courses are generally transferable, some institutions may not accept elective credits toward a specific degree program. Invest in the courses you’re certain will transfer. If you haven’t selected a college or university yet, look for one that allows flexible credit transfer policies.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of taking general education courses online:

1. Convenience and Flexibility

In online courses, you’re in the driver’s seat. You’ll have your assigned deadlines, then you complete your reading and assignments at your own pace. This gives you an opportunity to balance your coursework with other responsibilities, such as work or family obligations.

While different courses offer different degrees of flexibility, they’re generally more flexible than on-campus learning.

2. Experience a Trial Before Committing

Whether you’re a high school student considering college or an adult looking to finish your degree, one major benefit of completing your gen ed courses online is that you can see if college is the right choice for you.

When you apply for a degree program at a university or college, you’re making a commitment to finish it. If you’re apprehensive about whether college is your path, taking gen ed courses online can help you get a feel for what it would be like to be a full-time student, online or on campus.

Also, you can see if your self-discipline and study habits are at the level necessary for college. For some students, the adjustment from high school to college is jarring, especially if they’re returning to school after a break. “Dipping your toes in” with some gen ed courses will show you if you’re motivated and ready to put the work in.

3. Financial Savings

In some cases, taking your gen ed courses and fulfilling the general education requirements for college saves you money on your tuition without compromising your degree. Though these programs can range in price, they’re usually more cost-effective than their traditional, on-campus counterparts.

Along with saving directly on tuition, you’ll also save on a lot of the costs associated with college. On-campus students have to pay for student housing and meals. Even students who commute have to pay for parking, gas, tolls, and other transportation expenses. When you take classes from home, you’re only paying for the expenses you’d have regardless.

4. Time to Choose a Major

Making a decision about what you want to do for the rest of your life can be daunting. If you’re undecided on your major, gen ed courses give you time to explore your interests and make a decision without a gap year or losing progress toward your degree.

Gen ed courses are broad but still on a college level. As you take these courses and develop critical soft skills, you may find a passion for writing or communication, psychology, mathematics, or other fields that can guide you in your decision-making process.

5. More Transferability

Gen ed courses are similar across institutions, so these transfer credits can be simpler to transfer than specialized, upper-level courses. For basic courses like these, direct course equivalency is more common.

For example, English 101 is basically English 101, whether it’s taken online, at a community college, or at a major university. As a result, colleges and universities are often more willing to accept that course in lieu of its own.

Conversely, if you were trying to transfer an advanced math course in place of Harvard’s notorious Math 55, that’s not likely to be accepted as it has no equivalent.

In some cases, you may be able to transfer upper-level courses as electives, but it depends on the institution. Always check with admissions or your advisor about the policy for transfer credits.

Fast-Track Your Degree Program

Whether you’re unsure about college, returning to school to finish your degree, or a new student looking for ways to save money and time on your education, completing gen ed credits online offers many advantages. Learn more about gen ed courses that are designed to transfer at Sophia Learning or start your free trial to get started!

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What Is an Academic Advisor and How Can They Help Me?

Academic advisors are an essential – but often underutilized – asset in your college experience. They bring holistic support to students to navigate their higher education experience for both undergraduate and graduate students.

But like anything else, they can only help if you use them. Students often wait until they have a problem with a course or they’re running behind on registration to reach out and leverage their advising resources.

Find out why meeting with your academic advisor regularly is crucial to your journey in higher education and how you can get the most out of your experience.

What Is an Academic Advisor? 

An academic advisor is a counselor who works with students in undergraduate and graduate programs. They help students choose a major and minor, register for courses, and stay on track with the requirements to graduate with their chosen degree on their chosen timeline.

What Do Academic Advisors Do?

Academic advisors fill a lot of roles in the college experience. They have to stay apprised of the requirements of the university or college’s programs, maintain records of the students in their counsel, and keep up with course registration.

Advisors may also work with students for graduate school planning or career planning and to find opportunities for scholarships or programs that will help with their career goals. Some academic advisors have connections in the industry as well, which can support your professional growth after graduation. 

How Can an Academic Advisor Help Me?

Your academic advisor is your partner in learning and your greatest asset. Here are some ways an academic advisor can help you in your college career.

Help You Stay on Track with Your Academic Timeline

Advisors help students select, add, change, or withdraw from classes on their schedule, but they also ensure that students understand the university’s policies and procedures. 

For example, advisors track the prerequisite courses to ensure you’re taking the appropriate courses each term or semester, so you can stay on track to graduate. If you encounter problems finishing on your intended timeline, your advisor can help you navigate possible solutions.

Provide Guidance and Resources to Achieve Your Goals

Universities and colleges often have resources that students may not know about. Your advisor can help you navigate the resources available to you to ensure you achieve your goals, such as a student writing center, university library, study hours, campus clubs, or technologies.

For example, you may be able to enroll in online learning courses that you can take between semesters, giving you a chance to get ahead on your academic progress. Your advisor understands the “opportunity cost” of your education – or the cost of schooling, on-campus living, and losing time in the workforce – and how you can maximize your investment with strategic scheduling. 

Provide an Experienced Sounding Board for Decisions About Your Academic Experience

Academic advisors have experience with many students from different backgrounds, with different academic goals, and facing different challenges. They can act as an insightful sounding board for decisions about your major and minor or different classes you should take to deepen your knowledge.

If you’re not sure what to pursue in college, your academic advisor can help with that, too. They’ll help you not only understand the career path you have with different programs, but they can help you proactively prepare for opportunities following graduation.

Highlight Opportunities You May Be Missing 

Both the job market and desirable graduate programs can be competitive. Whichever your goal, your academic advisor can highlight opportunities that can position you as a strong candidate, such as apprenticeships, work-study programs, scholarships, and specific courses.

Remember, academic advisors are assigned to different programs because they understand the specific fields of study. They can guide you and help you build skills and knowledge that will complement your degree.

Offer Career Advice

One of the most notable ways an academic advisor can help – and one of the least utilized – is with career advice. Academic advisors can be invaluable for your future career and taking positive steps now that will put you in a strong position when you hit the job market. 

For example, if you develop a connection with your advisor, they can write a letter of recommendation for your graduate program or a job opportunity and provide job references. Your advisor may let you know about different career opportunities for your major that you were unaware of.

Support Your Success

Your academic advisor wants to see you succeed and prosper. Whether you’re a new student or entering a graduate program, your advisor wants to ensure you have all you need to have a positive experience and guidance for your future academic and professional career.

And the more you contribute, the more of a connection you can build. It can be difficult and overwhelming to keep up with classes, personal responsibilities, and scheduling time with an advisor, but it’s vital to your success. Building deep connections helps the advisor understand your goals and challenges to be an asset during your experience. 

How Can You Find Your Academic Advisor?

Each school has their own advising office with academic advisors for students. Typically, students are connected with an advisor upon admission, though it may change depending on the major or program.

If you’re not sure who your advisor is or how to reach them, contact your institution’s advising office by phone or email. They keep detailed records of each student and can connect you with your assigned advisor.

Leverage Your Resources 

So, how do academic advisors help students? It’s so much more than scheduling classes and checking in near graduation. There is so much more value than meets the eye with an academic advisor. They are an untapped resource, but you only get out what you put in.

Want to get the most out of your educational experience? Connect with your advisor and schedule a meeting. Our Sophia learning coaches also offer a lot of insights for students. We partner with a bunch of universities – and you might even be attending one without knowing it! Find your school to get started!

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11 Big Pros and Cons of Online Classes

Whether you’re going to college for the first time or to finish your degree, you have plenty of options with campus and online learning.

For some students, the college experience includes in-person classes and interactions. For others, online learning is a more convenient and flexible option that helps them balance day-to-day life with school.

Though we’re (obviously) big fans of online learning, we want to give you an objective look at the pros and cons of online classes compared to in-person classes so you can make an informed decision.

Online Education Pros and Cons 

There are several advantages with online learning, including:

1. Flexibility

One of the biggest advantages to online learning is that it offers more flexibility than in-person classes. Though campuses often have a few time slots for each course, you still need to follow a schedule. With asynchronous or self-paced online learning, you can complete your coursework at the time that works best for you.

For adult learners trying to balance a full- or part-time job, family life, and caring for children or family members, this flexibility is a game-changer. It also helps if you’re the type who’s most productive at odd times of the day, such as in the early morning or late at night. 

2. Time Savings

Along with the flexibility of the schedule, online learning may save you a lot of time in the process. With on-campus classes, you have to spend time commuting to school. You may also end up with some “garbage time” between classes. You don’t have time to go home or get anything done, so you’re just wasting time waiting for your next class.

With online learning, your commute is to your home study space or the local library. Without a commute, you can spend your time knocking tasks off your to-do list, such as studying, completing quizzes, or doing a load of laundry.

3. Money Savings 

The total cost of college isn’t just the tuition, textbooks, and fees. There are other costs that can add to your debt, such as campus meals, dorms, and travel expenses. When you take online classes, your living expenses and meals are on your own – and it’s money you’d spend anyway. You also save money on travel, since you don’t have a commute.

4. Self-Paced Learning

Some online courses offer self-paced programs, giving you the freedom to learn at the speed that works best for you. While these courses do have some hard deadlines, you can manage your time as you see fit.

For example, you can move through quickly if the concepts are familiar to you. If you’re struggling with a course or a module, you can take your time to ensure you really grasp the information. 

5. Accessibility

One of the biggest pros of online learning is the immediate access you have to faculty, peers, and course information. You can connect with peers on your learning platform with a chat, email your professor, and view all your course documents and resources online.

With on-campus learning, you’re restricted to the available times to meet with groups or talk to your professor. Your course resources are typically given as you go, so beyond the syllabus, you can’t prepare for what’s ahead.

6. Transferability 

Many institutions offer online courses, some of which you can transfer to your degree program at your chosen institution. This gives you control over your learning experience – you can choose the course structure that works best for you.

Some online courses are less expensive than on-campus equivalents – despite the same education quality – so you can save on your tuition with general education transfer credits. It’s important to speak with your advisor about your transfer credit options, however.

Online college isn’t perfect, however. Here are some disadvantages to online learning:

7. Lack of Individualized Attention 

Online learning platforms are advanced, but they don’t provide the same in-person interaction and attention that you get with a professor at a campus class. If you need individual attention in your learning experience, online may be challenging.

That said, online learning does offer interaction through virtual class participation. Students are required to participate using discussions, forums, or other platforms – similar to engaging in discussions in class – to facilitate engagement.

8. Internet Connectivity

Though obvious, you need a strong internet connection for online classes. These courses use a variety of virtual resources to cover course material, including videos, interactive quizzes or exams, virtual labs, and learning software. If your internet is unreliable, you could face barriers to your learning experience. 

Fortunately, there are solutions. Upgrading your internet service, replacing your router, or visiting the local library are options for connection problems. You should still expect other technology issues on occasion, such as server errors or computer glitches.

9. Distractions

On-campus classes are designed to eliminate distractions. Professors often require phones be shut off during class, the door is closed, and no one interrupts. At home, you may not have that kind of learning bubble.

Children, pets, and other members of your household can be disruptive to your learning, not to mention unexpected interruptions like mid-day deliveries. The responsibility falls on you to design a space free of distractions in your home. 

10. Must Be a Self-Starter

When it comes to online school vs. in-person pros and cons, being self-motivated is important for any college experience. College students are adults (or close to it), so professors only go so far with encouragement and motivation.

Online learning requires more self-motivation, however. Your professor won’t be checking in frequently to see how you’re progressing. It’s your responsibility to reach out if you have problems or questions.

11. Fewer Networking Opportunities 

Some institutions have a reputation for not only the quality of education but the networking opportunities. When you attend class in person, you have plenty of chances to connect with peers who may be an asset to your career future.

While online learning does offer some great networking opportunities, including virtual networking events and peer connections on social media like LinkedIn, it’s not quite as rich an opportunity as a campus community.

See the Online Learning Pros and Cons for Yourself

Whether you’re set on online learning or you’re on the fence, you can evaluate the pros and cons of online education for yourself on a trial basis with Sophia Learning. We offer a free trial with self-paced gen ed courses to get a jump on your degree. Start your free trial today! 

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11 Key Questions to Ask an Academic Advisor

When you’re attending college, your academic advisor is a key asset to navigate your institution and make a plan for your future. They act as guides to help you choose a major, stay on track to graduate, and maximize your experience.

Whether you’re a first-year student, a transfer student, or a senior looking toward graduation, there are many questions to ask an academic advisor to set yourself up for success – both in your academics and your future career.

Questions to Ask If You’re a First-Year Student

1. Should I Pursue a Minor Area of Study? 

Most colleges don’t require a minor to earn a bachelor’s degree, but the right combination of a minor and major in certain industries can help you stand out as a job candidate. Your advisor will be able to help you decide if a minor is important for your career, and if so, what minors are recommended.

2. Is an Internship Required for This Major?

In some industries, employers expect candidates to have some work experience coming into the role – and that may require an internship. Typically, you’ll see this with education and human development fields, technology, sciences, medical and veterinary fields, and architecture and applied engineering.

Your academic advisor is a valuable resource for your career planning. Because most advisors have knowledge of the area of study and the job market, they can help you determine if an internship is an important part of your career path. 

3. Are There Specific Courses I Should be Prepared For?

Some courses have a reputation for being challenging. They’re called “stumble courses.” Even the most gifted of students tend to struggle with some courses, and often the same ones. If it happens at the wrong time in your academic career – like in your senior year – it could delay your graduation.

Ask your advisor about any stumble courses you should anticipate and make a plan for when to schedule them. Then, if you do run into problems, you have time to retake the course without throwing off your anticipated graduation date.

4. Are There Opportunities Other Students Have Taken Advantage Of? 

Every college has resources for student success, whether they’re writing resources, tutoring, learning archives, or short courses that focus on academic success. Your advisor can help you learn about all the resources available to you and can share real-world recommendations from other students.

Some universities offer short courses to help first-year college students, which is a valuable networking opportunity. Students in these courses can build connections that will serve them later in their academic career, whether that’s applying for internships or getting into a graduate program. Be sure to discuss your options with your advisor.

5. Do You Suggest Taking Online Courses? Why or Why Not?

While some colleges and universities have their own online courses, others may accept credits from online learning institutions like Sophia Learning. You can tackle your general education courses at your own pace, and possibly save some money in the process. 

Ask your advisor if online courses are recommended and discuss your options to take general education courses at Sophia Learning to transfer for your degree program.

Questions to Ask If You’re a Transfer Student

6. How Are Transfer Credits Handled?

Each college has its own policy for transfer credits. Your college advisor can help you understand what credits transfer to your new school, what requirements they satisfy, and what you need to do to complete the process. You should also receive a personalized plan from your advisor. 

7. Will I Graduate on Time?

If you have a plan to graduate at a specific time after transferring, your advisor can tell you how many transfer credits you have and what you need to complete to graduate and earn your degree. You can go over your course requirements and timeline together, adjusting as needed to finish on time.

8. What Can I Expect at My New School?

Your college advisor is your touchpoint for your new school. During your first conversation, ask about what you can expect from the school and its culture. For example, is the environment really competitive or more laid-back? Because an advisor speaks with so many different students, they have a good idea of what the college experience is like at their school and how you can make the most of it. 

Questions to Ask If You’re a College Senior

9. Does My Current Plan Have Me on Track to Graduate on My Desired Date?

Your senior year is the final stretch, but the work isn’t over yet. It’s important to meet with your academic advisor early in your senior year to ensure that you’ve completed the requirements for your degree and that you’re on track to graduate on time.

If you’ve had courses you need to retake or incompletes that you haven’t resolved, they can impact your timeline and credit total for graduation. Ask your advisor if your projected courseload for your senior year will be sufficient to graduate. If it isn’t, see what you can do to stay on track for your anticipated date. 

10. Are There Accelerated Programs Leading to a Master’s Degree That I Can Take?

If you’re planning on pursuing a master’s degree, getting into an accelerated program allows you to start your coursework in your senior year while you’re completing your bachelor’s. Your academic advisor will know what options are available to you, the admission requirements, and how to set yourself up for success.

11. Are There Recommended Courses to Enhance My Resume for Employers?

Part of the college experience is preparing for your career. Some colleges and universities have opportunities for undergraduate students to apply for grants, conduct research, get published, and present findings at industry conferences. Having these experiences on your resume can make you a desirable candidate. Speaking with your advisor ensures that you can take advantage of any resume builders the school offers to help you on your career path. 

Your Advisor Is Your Key to Success

Your academic advisor is one of your greatest advantages in your college career – use them. They know what resources the school offers and how to support students at every stage of their academic experience, but you can’t get help if you don’t ask!

These questions are a guide to help you in your academic journey, and our Sophia Learning coaches are here to help our students as well. Reach out today or start a free trial!

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How Do Online Colleges Work? Our Guide

There’s not always a clear path to higher education that fits everyone’s situation. For some, balancing work and family life with school is a necessity. For others, the cost and barriers to attending a traditional on-campus college are limiting.

No matter the reason, online colleges offer a convenient, flexible solution for people who want to earn a degree – particularly adult learners.

If you’re considering starting or returning to school in an online format, you may be wondering “how do online colleges work?” There are some differences, so here’s all you need to know about online colleges and what to expect from the experience.

Can You Do College Online?

Yes! Online college is similar to a traditional learning experience – it just takes place virtually. You can find traditional college campuses that offer online courses, as well as fully online colleges that have no physical campus. Instead, students attend classes online and complete all the necessary coursework from their own computer.

Types of Online Courses

Online learning is a broad term that includes a variety of different course structures and types. The one commonality they all have is that they are taken online with your computer and internet connection.

Asynchronous Online Courses 

These types of courses don’t take place in real-time. You’re given content and assignments with a predetermined time frame to complete your assignments, including quizzes, discussions, written papers, and exams.

Typically, students interact through discussion boards, forums, or blogs. There are no assigned meeting times, just deadlines for initial posts and response posts. Students respond to each other as their schedule allows, offering a lot of flexibility for time constraints.

Synchronous Online Courses

These courses are taken online, but the instructor and all the students in the class interact simultaneously at designated times. Synchronous courses may use a webinar, video chat, audio chat, or text.

This type of learning experience mimics that of an on-campus, in-person course in a virtual environment. Students who thrive in real-time classrooms, synchronous courses allow participation for distance learners.

Hybrid Courses

Hybrid courses – also known as blended courses – are online classes that allow students to interact both in person and online. Students often attend classes together a few times during a semester while the rest is online with computer-based interaction.

Naturally, hybrid courses require you to be close to the campus location or willing to travel. It’s important to pay attention not any in-person requirements for your online learning program. 

Self-Paced Courses

Self-paced courses – also known as on-demand courses – are made up of content, lecture recordings, reading materials, and presentations that students can proceed through at their own pace.

Despite the name, self-paced courses may have a predetermined time frame or a final date in which all coursework must be completed. The rest of the assignment deadlines are often flexible, so you can complete them when you feel comfortable and prepared. It can be challenging to stay disciplined, however, so some courses have recommended assignment due dates to help you stay on track.

How Do Online Classes Work?

Now that you know some of the common setups for online colleges, here’s what you can expect for the day-to-day experience.

Logging In

As mentioned, the structure of online classes varies by type and institution. But in general, students log in to a learning management system or virtual portal to access the syllabus and course materials, view grades, monitor feedback, interact with classmates, and contact professors.

The learning platform and materials are provided, either as part of the tuition or for a separate fee, but you will need computer access, a reliable internet connection, and some common software, such as a word processor like Microsoft Word. Some courses are mobile compatible as well, so you can complete your work from anywhere with an internet connection. 

Learning Resources

Any course materials you need will be available for purchase in advance or provided for you through the learning platform. Different courses use different types of resources, including video lectures, audio recordings, presentations, a textbook, and articles. You’ll also learn through the experience of discussing the course concepts with classmates on discussion boards or forums.

Assignments

A lot of online courses have assignments with set due dates that you can submit online. They may be quizzes and exams – often timed – and writing assignments. For the latter, you will likely upload your written assignment from a word processor like Microsoft Word or Google Docs.

Student Interactions

Because students don’t spend time in the classroom for most online learning, a lot of online programs use discussion boards, forums, blogs, groups, or chats that facilitate interactions. There may be a prompt that covers the course concepts, giving you an opportunity to share your knowledge, and respond to the insights of others.

Grading

Like traditional college, the grading for online courses is either A to F or pass/fail. They may be based on a straightforward exam or quiz, such as multiple choice or true or false questions and answers. For short answers, discussions, and written assignments, there may be a rubric that you can use to guide your assignment and understand the professor’s expectations. 

What to Know About Online College

Now that you know how online college classes work, here are some things to expect:

It’s Challenging

Online college isn’t the “easy way out.” You have to put in the work, just like a traditional college, and you need strong time management skills.

It’s Flexible

Some students have a better learning experience with online classes that offer flexibility. It’s important to consider your options and choose the right online learning structure for your needs.

There’s Teamwork Involved

Just because a course is online doesn’t mean that you won’t interact with other students. Some courses have group assignments or pair assignments. You’ll also interact with other students in discussions and chats. 

Is Online College Right for You?

If you’ve ever wondered “How do online college classes work?” and whether they’re right for you, this guide has you covered. It’s always best to ask your academic advisor if online schooling is right for you. Our learning coaches at Sophia are here to help as well.

Ready to take the first step? Start a free trial at Sophia Learning or take a look at our online university partners.

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How to Earn College Credit Online in 2023

If you want to accelerate your learning experience and earn college credits, online learning is a great option. Many programs offer courses to gain college credits toward your degree, helping you finish your program faster and save money in the process.

Whether you’re in school and looking to earn college credit online, or you’re considering pursuing online schooling as an option, here are some ways to earn college credit online in 2023 and beyond – plus some tips to get started!

College Credit Online Courses and Options 

There are many ways to earn college credits at a faster pace and prepare for your future degree path.

AP Courses

Taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses in high school and passing the AP exam is the traditional way for students to earn college credits toward a future degree program. These courses are also available online, helping you prepare for your AP exams and get a head start on your college path.

Several focus areas are available, including art history, biology, chemistry, calculus, music theory, psychology, and English language and composition. A high school coordinator or guidance counselor can help you find the appropriate courses and register for the exams through the College Board

Accelerated Online Courses

If you want to earn college credits online quickly, you can take an accelerated online class instead of spending 16 weeks in a classroom. Accelerated college classes are often available for online degrees and have a compressed schedule, so you can fit more credits into your academic year.

Registering for accelerated courses is similar to registering for traditional or online courses, but they may have differing start dates that could impact your total credits and your financial aid eligibility. Our policy and guide is to always speak to your advisor or school registrar to see if accelerated courses are appropriate for you.

CLEP 

The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) is a way to earn college credit for the information you already know, at a fraction of the cost of a full course. Like AP, CLEP offers credit by examination to get three or more credits at qualifying educational institutions.

The College Board offers 24 exams on topics like chemistry, psychology, marketing, human growth and development, macroeconomics, business law, American government, and sociology.

The exams cover the topics that would be included in introductory courses on a college level, and there are over 2,000 testing locations. There are also online resources to prepare for the CLEP exam and exams with remote proctoring if you don’t have a convenient location near you. Military service members are eligible to take the CLEP exams at no cost, complete with free prep books.

Before you take CLEP exams, however, make sure the college or university where you’re enrolled or planning to apply to accepts credit for CLEP exams. Your institution’s website or the registrar’s office should offer information on CLEP exam credits. 

DSST

Similar to CLEP, the Defense Subject Standardized Test (DSST) offers credits that are widely accepted across many educational institutions. There are numerous choices, including finances, public speaking, and astronomy, and testing centers across the country.

You can practice for the test using online resources, and you may take up to three full-length tests online. But as with the CLEP, be sure to check with your registrar’s office to ensure the credits transfer to your degree program.

CPL 

Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) is a versatile credit that you can earn for work or life experiences and on-the-job training that’s similar to what you would gain in the classroom. For example, a stay-at-home mom may have transferable skills in management and organization that would count as credit toward a college degree.

Always check if your college or university awards credit for prior learning, how much CPL you’re eligible for, and whether you can submit your materials online. Most schools allow around 15 hours, but some offer as many as 30 credits.

Your advisor will offer guidance for your CPL portfolio, which requires you to write about your life experiences and the competencies you’ve gained from them. It’s important to demonstrate how you’ve covered the material that you’d get from a course. Earning CPL is hard work, but it’s worth it for the credits you can earn.

Individual Online College Courses 

Whether you want to earn college credits online, want to see if online courses are right for you, or you have a demanding schedule, taking individual online courses can help you earn college credits without long-term commitment – and at a lower cost.

Depending on the institution you choose, college credits can be transferred to a degree program at a college or university. For example, platforms like Sophia Learning offer self-paced gen ed courses that transfer to partner colleges. Be sure to check with your school’s registrar to ensure your course credits will transfer.

GRE Subject Tests

The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) Subject Tests assess your understanding of chemistry, physics, mathematics, or psychology. These exams may be part of an admissions process for a graduate program or for fellowship applications. 

You can register for GRE Subject Tests online or through the mail. There are testing periods in September, October, and April, and you must take the test in person. Each candidate for the test receives practice content to prepare.

University Challenge Exams

If you’re familiar with a subject, you can “test out” of a course by passing a university challenge exam. Though not all universities and colleges allow challenge exams, online or otherwise, some offer them for general education studies like arts and humanities, health sciences, legal studies, math, and sciences.

These tests are pass/fail. If you fail, you can retake it after a certain period of time, but you’ll have to pay the exam fee again. Check with your college or university to see if challenge exams are available and learn how to register. 

Start Your College Degree Path with Online Credits

Online learning is a rewarding way to continue your education and get your degree. If you want to accelerate the process, you can take online courses with Sophia Learning that are built to transfer toward your degree. Start a free trial today to see if our online learning platform can help you reach your education goals in 2023!

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13 Big Benefits of Taking Online Classes for Credit

If you’re considering pursuing your degree, you have options beyond traditional classroom learning. Online learning is increasingly popular, helping busy adults pursue their degrees and upskill in their industries while balancing the responsibilities of day-to-day life. 

There are plenty of additional advantages of online courses. Find out more about what you can expect to gain from taking online classes for credit to see if this pursuit is right for you. 

What Are the Benefits of Taking Online Courses? 

1. Flexible Learning 

Online courses are often asynchronous, giving you flexibility in when, where, and how you pursue your studies. Some online learning institutions offer self-paced learning to tailor the education experience to your needs. You can move quickly through the course to complete it quickly, or take a break when life gets too busy for your studies. When you’re ready, you can pick up where you left off. 

2. Time Savings 

In addition to flexibility with how much time you spend on your studies, one of the benefits of online courses is that you can save time in the process. Because you’re learning from the comfort of your own home, you don’t have to spend time on long commutes in busy traffic, rearrange your schedule to attend classes at a certain time, or waste valuable minutes waiting for your class to start. 

3. Cost Savings 

Though it may not always be the case, online learning can come with some cost savings. You won’t have to pay extra fees for parking or for gas to get to your classes like you would at a traditional college or university. In some instances, your textbooks may be available in digital formats, which are often cheaper than physical textbooks. 

4. More Free Time 

Whether you learn in person or online, you have to devote time to your coursework. But if you’re taking classes online, you don’t have to stick to a schedule of classes at specific – and often inconvenient – times. You can also tackle multiple courses without worrying about schedule conflicts you might run into with in-person classes. 

5. More Course Variety 

There’s a wealth of courses available across different colleges and universities, but often, online courses offer more variety than traditional options. You can enroll in the courses you want to take without worrying about scheduling or convenience. There are many different degree programs and courses of study with online learning, including certificates, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees. 

6. Minimal Life Disruption

If you have to choose between working to pay your bills and attending school to further your career, it’s possible for school to be on hold indefinitely. Traditional classrooms have scheduled times, making it difficult to stick to a work schedule while working toward your degree. Virtual learning gives you the flexibility to continue working while pursuing your degree and advancing your career. 

7. Improved Time Management Skills 

When you take online classes for college credit, you have to be good at managing your time and maintaining your focus. Without a professor to check up on you and make sure you’re on track, you need to hold yourself accountable and manage your time wisely. In doing so, you could gain valuable time management skills that will help you in virtually any career you pursue. 

8. Personalized Learning Experience

If you feel that a traditional learning environment is too restrictive for you, online classes may be just the experience you need. Online students have opportunities to participate in online discussions or forums in a way that may be less intimidating than participating in a live, crowded classroom. You also have the option to work where you’re most comfortable and engage with your coursework at the times of day that are best for you. 

9. More Individual Attention

Sooner or later, every student encounters a concept or assignment that may be challenging. And some people don’t feel comfortable or secure enough to ask questions in front of the class, whether it’s because of anxiety or shyness. With online learning, you have direct access to your professor for questions, feedback, or clarity on your coursework. 

10. Diverse Student Experiences

Any college experience exposes you to people with different backgrounds and from other areas, but in a large university, you may not have an opportunity to get to know them well. Online courses facilitate interactions with other students through forums, discussion boards, and chat rooms, so you get the type of interaction with your peers that may not be practical in an on-campus environment. 

11. More Professional Skills 

Aside from the skills you gain that are directly related to your career, you could gain indispensable skills that might apply to your workplace. With more hybrid and remote work opportunities becoming available, the skills you might gain from learning online could transfer to a remote workplace, such as engaging with others remotely, collaborating with a team online, and improving written communication. 

12. More Independence 

If you’re an independent learner, the freedom of online learning could be the key to your success. While some students thrive with frequent check-ins from a professor, many thrive with the freedom to manage their time and complete their work as they please. If that fits you, online courses are a great option. 

13. Better Learning Experiences 

Online courses encourage independent learning more than traditional classrooms. While you will have guidance from a professor, you’re responsible for finding your own path to learning and staying disciplined. Your professors are there to help if you get stuck, but beyond that, you can learn a lot about your own learning style and how you can best comprehend and retain the information in your course. As you navigate the experience, you could gain useful insights that you can use to enhance your learning in the future, whether in a class, at work, or in life. 

Is Online Learning Right for You? 

If the benefits of online classes seem like the right fit for you, there’s no better time to start than right now. Sophia Learning offers a range of self-paced courses focusing on general education, so you can take online classes designed to transfer toward your degree. Start a free trial at Sophia.org, or reach out to our learning coaches to see if Sophia is right for you! 

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7 tips for going back to school as an adult

If you’re an adult returning to college, you have many factors to take into consideration. From picking a school that best meets your needs to discussing your options with colleagues, family and friends, there are several choices to make. 

It’s also worth figuring out how many semesters it will take to finish your degree. If you’re looking for ways to complete your program fast, Sophia may be able to help you knock our your gen ed requirements.

Once enrolled in your program, you’ll need to look for ways to fit coursework into your daily schedule while also focusing on your long-term goals. These tips are designed to help make this process easier. 

1. Pick a school that meets your needs 

The first step in going back to school is to figure out which one has the academic programs you’re interested in. Which ones will help support your career goals? What areas of study are you most excited to explore? Does the school accept transfer credits from previous courses you’ve taken? 

Because there are so many schools to choose from, it’s also helpful to take into account financial aid and how much enrolling will actually cost you. Finally, look into whether coursework is offered online in a flexible format that lets you learn when you have the time. Schools like Sophia offer content on your phone, tablet or laptop – on demand so you can learn when it’s easiest. 

2. Discuss your options with colleagues, family and friends 

Check with your social circles to see if those closest to you have any insights. It’s possible some of them have been considering their own educational goals and have even started to take steps toward enrolling in a program. Comparing notes with them can be a huge help. 

Some of your peers may have even completed degrees of their own. If so, they’ll be able to help you understand how day-to-day coursework has gone for them. In understanding their experiences, you might learn that pursuing a degree can be easier than you initially thought. 

3. Talk to your supervisor

If you’re currently employed, it’s helpful to talk to your supervisor or manager about your plans. There may be financial support available. Many organizations have partnerships with colleges and universities that offer ways to save, including tuition discounts and scholarships. Your supervisor can explain what you’re eligible for or help you get in touch with HR specialists who can provide that information. 

Your supervisor may also be able to offer advice on how you can fit school into your current schedule. By working together, you can come up with a plan for how you’ll go back to school in a way that won’t interfere with your job responsibilities. 

4. Reach out to an academic advisor/learning coach 

When weighing your options, it can help to talk to someone who works for the school you’re interested in. These advisors can help walk you through the process of enrolling and answer any questions you have.

If you’re concerned about how going back to school will work with your current schedule and responsibilities, advisors can help. They can show you how it’s possible to work, study and also have a life outside of your job and academic program. 

At Sophia, for example, there’s a dedicated team of learning coaches who you can contact via phone, email or chat. They’re always on hand to provide information and help. 

5. Look for ways to fit coursework into your daily schedule 

After you’ve chosen your school and enrolled, it’s time to focus on your coursework. This can be a challenge, depending on the other things going on in your life. If you’re employed, you have the daily demands of your job. If you have dependents living with you, they may require attention throughout the week. 

It can be helpful to figure out when you have blocks of time to dedicate to your program. Are you able to get up a bit earlier than usual in order to study? Can you learn during your lunch break? Is there time on the weekends to fit in some reading and assignments? It’s possible there are places in your schedule that can accommodate some of this work. 

6. Take time to recharge 

As with any undertaking, you’ll need to step back from your studies from time to time. Mental health breaks can help clear away stress and feelings of being overwhelmed. To unwind, take a walk, listen to your favorite music or podcast, get coffee with friends or watch a movie or TV show. Anything that shifts your attention from your studies to something that’s more relaxing can help you maintain energy and focus. 

As you relax, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Your degree program is a process and you’re undertaking it to get closer to achieving your career goals. Keeping this in mind can help you stay motivated. 

7. Look ahead to additional courses/next steps 

As you complete a few courses, it’s important to look ahead to what your next steps will be. What are the next courses you’ll take? Which ones do you need to complete your degree? By approaching your education with a mindset that asks, “what’s next?” you can stay on task throughout your program. 

As you get close to completing your degree, it’s helpful to reassess your career goals. Look for positions that you’ll be qualified for and apply when possible. Consider if you want to continue with your education: going from a bachelor’s degree program to a master’s, for example. 

One of the best things about getting an education is that it can open up more possibilities for professional and personal growth. Exploring these possibilities is part of the process of going back to school, continuing with your program and even finishing it. 

Ready to go back to school? Join Sophia to save on gen ed courses today.

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Online vs. In-Person Education: A Q&A

At Sophia Learning, we believe online education can help students learn in a more flexible and affordable way. And thanks to advancements in technology, online learning has become more accessible than ever before. But there are many benefits to an in-person education too. What are some of the key differences, and which mode of learning may be right for you?

We connected with our chief learning officer, Nick White, for more insights. Here’s what he had to share: 

 

Q: First off, what is a “chief learning officer”—and what does your role with Sophia look like? 

A: The role of Chief Learning Officer varies across organizations but the connecting thread is the understanding of how important learning is to all of us to be successful in our roles and realize our potential. In practice that means optimizing the learning function by making sure that the right learning is offered in the most effective and efficient way.  

My career has been focused on creating and improving high quality online and competency-based courses and programs. That involves research on what works for    students, integrating the best design practices and software, creating great learning content using various media, and designing the operations to deliver all of that for students.  

So at Sophia, I support our very talented academic team to continue to improve what we provide to students. That includes new approaches to the learning experience, enhancements to our quality assurance processes, and examining data to generate new insights on how to keep improving. 

And one of the most rewarding things I have the privilege of doing is conducting research on the outcomes of our students and sharing those results and stories with the world. We see great outcomes for Sophia students that we’ll be able to publish soon.  

 

Q: Aside from modality, what do you think are the most important differences between online and in-person education? 

A: Well the biggest difference is obviously that the students and professor are not in the same place. That can but doesn’t always lead to other differences. In online courses, people start to question the value of the in-person synchronous lecture. Why spend the time that way when it can be recorded? And that can lead to questioning the lecture. Why is that a better way to learn than text or other media? Ultimately, this tends to lead to a move away from passive lectures and toward more active learning in which the student is at the center instead of the professor.  

 

Q: What are the top three pros to online learning? 

A: The biggest benefits to online learning for most students are time, flexibility, and transparency. Students benefit from the lack of need for travel to and from a campus including time, transportation, parking, and so forth. With asynchronous online courses, students benefit from greater flexibility, they can work on the course at the times that are most convenient for them rather than a scheduled time. And because online courses need to contain all the necessary information, you can’t rely on discussion in the classroom, online courses tend to be more transparent about all of the expectations around what is needed to succeed and how the student will be evaluated.  

 

Q: What does it take to be a successful online learner? 

A: A successful online learner understands they are in charge of their own success. Because they have greater convenience, flexibility, and transparency, the students need to manage themselves to reach their goals. They do that by engaging at the beginning of the course to understand what they will need to do to succeed, creating a schedule for when they will do their coursework, and keeping to the commitments they have made to themselves. It also requires being proactive and seeking help if they run into any obstacles. Just like so many other endeavors in life, succeeding in an online course both requires confidence to get started and it builds confidence as the student moves through the course successfully.   

 

Q: What are the challenges of online learning? 

A: The challenges of online learning are essentially the flipside of the benefits. The flexibility and convenience can be a challenge for students that lack confidence or are reliant on weekly face-to-face classes to keep them on track. For some students, the social environment of a face-to-face classroom is important to their success. However, with our experience during the pandemic, nearly all students have experience with some type of online education so now most students are familiar with online and remote.  

 

Q: Why might someone prefer taking courses with Sophia rather than in-person courses at a college or university? 

A: For many students, the prospect of completing an undergraduate degree can be overwhelming in terms of both cost and time. Sophia provides an alternative that allows most motivated students the ability to save both time and money and to start their education with much greater momentum. In 2020 CAEL and WICHE published The PLA Boost, which is great research that shows that students that start college with significant credits from prior learning assessment, succeed in college at much higher rates.  

 

Q: What questions should people ask themselves to determine if online learning is right for them? 

A: There are some obvious questions about whether you have a reliable computer and internet connection and are comfortable using computers. But beyond that here are a    few: 

  • Do you need face-to-face classes with a professor and other students to stay motivated to do the work?  
  • Are you committed to getting your degree? If you can make that commitment, you can create the structures and habits that will make you successful. 
  • Do you know how you will create the structures you need to be successful? How will you schedule your time? How will you stay motivated? How will you reward yourself when you achieve goals along the way? 
  • Will you seek help when you need it? You can’t let yourself get stuck because you’re not in a classroom, there are people whose job it is to help you be successful, it just requires you to reach out to resolve whatever confusion or challenge has arisen.  

 

Q: How does Sophia support students remotely? 

A: The most important thing Sophia does to support students is to make the courses and platform easy to use and navigate. Students generally don’t need support because of the great design. For cases where students do need support, we have a dedicated learning coach team that supports students through chat, email and phone to solve whatever issue they may be having.  

 

Q: What is your favorite part about working for Sophia learning? 

A: The most fun part is definitely the research on student outcomes, it’s wonderful to see how Sophia helps students be more successful and save time and money in the process.  

In the world of education research, it’s surprisingly hard to find solutions that increase student success. But sometimes the solution is simple, if you create beautiful courses, remove barriers, and put control in the hands of the students, they can leap forward.  

Learn more about Sophia.

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ACE Recommendation vs. Accreditation: What You Need to Know

Sophia’s courses have been accepted for credit at hundreds of colleges and universities, thanks to our ACE recommendation. Yet Sophia’s courses are not accredited.

So what is the difference between an ACE recommendation and accreditation, and how does this affect your ability to transfer credits from Sophia to your college or university? 

The Importance of ACE Recommended Courses

The American Council on Education (“ACE”) is the major coordinating body for two- and four-year degree-granting colleges and universities in the United States. Courses and programs that receive an ACE recommendation have been evaluated by a team of subject matter experts and determined to provide a learning outcome at the collegiate level. After this review, ACE makes recommendations about the course subject, level of learning, and number of credit hours to help guide colleges and universities in their acceptance of transfer credits.

ACE may recommend any number of courses and experiences for credit. This could include workforce training, military training, missionary work, and—of course—nontraditional learning online with groups like Sophia. 

Why Accreditation Matters

We recommend students consider the accreditation status when seeking a college or university. Institutional accreditation means the school is accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Individual programs at institutions may also be programmatically accredited.

Employers, other institutions (such as graduate schools), certification programs, financial lenders, and any other organization with an interest in your undergraduate degree may expect you to have attended an accredited school because this means you have received an education that meets certain quality standards.

You can check the Council for Higher Education Accreditation website for more information on your school’s accreditation status. 

So, Will Your College Accept Transfer Credits from Sophia?

Because Sophia does not offer degree programs, we are not accredited. Instead, our focus is on offering convenient, affordable, online courses that accredited colleges and universities may accept as transfer credits to help you earn your degree. 

In addition to receiving ACE recommendation, our courses are all also recommended by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), an organization that evaluates distance-learning programs.

We have made every effort to ensure that your college or university may accept your Sophia courses for general education credit. However, before taking a Sophia course, it is important to check with your school registrar or advisor to confirm whether your successfully completed Sophia coursework will transfer to your school. 

If your school is one of Sophia’s 40 college and university partners, your Sophia courses will transfer automatically to your school once you’ve completed a course. You can also check to see whether your school has previously reviewed Sophia coursework for transfer on our website, though it doesn’t guarantee that they will accept credit in the future.

Learn more about Sophia and our mission to provide affordable online courses for college-level credit. 

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