College education takes all sorts of shapes these days, as students more often choose nontraditional routes to a degree. Many people of different ages, backgrounds, and career goals are now looking to online education programs. Here's why one person chose an online degree.
Bridget Baldwin has had quite the relationship with Champlain College, a small, private school in Vermont. She graduated high school, and then earned her associate degree in retailing and fashion merchandising at Champlain in 1992. After a few jobs, she circled back to her alma mater, where she's worked for the last dozen years, first in alumni affairs, and then in the Division of Continuing Professional Studies, where she is now the director of enrollment management.
About a decade ago, Baldwin began working toward a bachelor's degree from Champlain, by taking part-time evening classes when she could. Though Baldwin spent a lot of time at her job in the Division of Continuing Professional Studies talking adult learners into taking online classes, Baldwin admits that she was skeptical of the idea. She finally gave in and figured she ought to try the learning method she promotes, so, six years ago, Baldwin started taking online classes from Champlain and hasn't looked back. She says that if she hadn't switched from on-campus to online learning, she probably wouldn't have completed her degree.
Online program: Champlain College
Degree pursuing and graduation year: B.S. in business management, expected May 2012 (20 years to the day after earning her associate degree)
Why an online degree: "It really came down to time management around my family and quality time with them," says Baldwin. She was already spending more than 40 hours per week on campus for work, Baldwin says, and she didn't want to spend any more time away from her two children and husband. Instead of attending class on campus for three hours around dinner time, Baldwin says she now studies early in the morning before her kids awake, and late at night after they go to bed.
Degree impact: Baldwin has just been promoted in her job at Champlain College because of her nearing degree completion. She says, too, that she has more "drive" to learn than ever before, thanks to fighting negative thoughts. "As an adult learner, I think there can be a lot of things in life that tell you can't: not enough time, not enough money, not enough confidence," says Baldwin. "But you get that confidence as you learn." She adds that, "you start to become part of this community of adult learners that is really engaging and motivating."
Biggest challenge of earning an online degree: Baldwin, who spent a decade earning her degree (the first four years on campus, and the last six online), cites time as her most daunting struggle. "That's a big commitment, not just by me, but by my family."
Advice for future online students: "Be open to online [education]," says Baldwin. "You can do it. There are ways to manage everything in life and make that commitment to yourself."
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