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Mother of two finds success with an IT degree

Maria Hanson is a 37-year-old mother of two living in Clarksville, Tenn. She earned an online associate degree in computer technology and information management in May 2010. The experience went so well that she is now working on an online bachelor of business administration degree.

Q: Why did you opt for an online associate degree in technology rather than the on-campus experience?

I did attend a couple of campus-based classes. However, I found that online learning just worked better for me. Having an existing family life, I was only interested in the actual learning part of college, not the experience as a whole, making online learning even more appealing. I am able to do my classwork and attend class around my schedule without sacrificing my family and other obligations, unlike campus-based classes. That is what I needed.

I chose these degrees because I wanted something that would give a broader array of opportunities in multiple fields. In today's society, technology is ever-growing.

Q: How did online learning fit in with your schedule?

A: Online learning allows me to complete work during feasible hours without sacrificing my other responsibilities, enabling me to be there for my kids and at the same time work towards a better future, a better me. When your world is already in full speed, there is no slowing down. You have to go with the flow, and with online learning, you can.

Q: What were the challenges of earning an IT degree online?

The biggest challenge was keeping the momentum going. With online learning, you don't have someone forcing you to sit, to listen, to do your work. You have to be that person, and it's easy to slack off. Add an existing life, responsibilities and such, and it becomes even easier to slack off. There are days you are just tired, that light at the end of the tunnel seems too far off, and it is up to you to keep yourself going, to stay focused and remember why you are doing what you are doing.

Q: What were the benefits?

I did not have to sacrifice my responsibilities. I can be where and who I need to be and do something for me, for our future, all at the same time. There is no set time to be in class, no worrying about gas money, traffic or finding a parking space. I simply sit at my computer when I am able and ready and go to work.

Q:. Was online learning what you expected it to be?

I wasn't exactly sure how it would be. I was a little concerned with whether it would be a positive learning experience. Would I learn as much on my own versus traditional? However, I found it rather equal, if not a better experience. I enjoy being given my assignments and then working through them and knowing at any time, I can turn to the teacher for help or guidance through emails or face-to-face contact. With someone my age, where I am at in life, online learning is a great way to gain the knowledge minus all the other stuff.

Q: What was the most surprising thing about the online learning experience?

I was surprised at how well it integrates with my existing routine and responsibilities without taking away from the actual learning experience.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about how your program was structured? What was your typical school day or school week like?

The first week of the eight weeks of class, you are given a weekly schedule of what to do and when it needs to be turned in. Most teachers will post assignments as the weeks go by. Generally, you have six to seven days to complete that week's assignments. Normally I try to work somewhere between 8:00 am and 2:00 pm, but there have been times I have been online late at night as well.

Q: Did you miss the face-to-face interactions with your fellow students and professors?

Not really. I'm not there for the whole college experience. As for the college professors, they are available for face-to-face [meetings] if one is desired. However, I found written communication to be just as satisfying in many instances.

Q: How did your associate degree help your career?

After obtaining my degree, I chose to go back to school and continue my education. I am looking to put my skills to work with a friend in an upcoming business, which hopefully leads to great success.