Online College Courses for Senior Citizens

Online degrees have transformed the way that many people go to college. The idea that an online degree is not as good as a degree from a brick-and-mortar institution is quickly becoming a thing of the past because so many highly-regarded colleges and universities are offering very rigorous and reputable degree programs. If you’ve been considering college for seniors, now is the perfect time to take action.

You can get anything from an associate’s degree through to a doctorate online these days. Technology has drastically improved and transformed the way that students interact with each other and their professors online. Sharing ideas and having discussions has never been easier. You can easily master the software and hardware needed to get started in your online degree. Avoid thinking that you can’t do it or that the idea of returning to college is unreasonable. Online degrees for seniors are available from multiple institutions.

Why Return to College as a Senior?

1.) Follow Your Interests

So many options for learning more about your favorite topics are available now. You’re not restricted to just a few degrees in the core subjects, and there is a degree for just about every specialty you can imagine. Follow your passions and interests toward completing a degree or some courses that will teach you more about what you’ve been longing to learn. The time is right because online college courses for senior citizens are widely available.

If you want to start another career, open a business, volunteer in a new field, or just learn for the sake of learning, what better way to gain the knowledge you need is there than to take courses from the comfort of your home? There is plenty of interaction with other students and faculty members in online courses, and you don’t have to live in a city with a college with the degree program you want in order to benefit from the educational resources that are available from higher education institutions around the world.

2.) Boost Cognitive Function

Taking an active role in learning can help boost cognitive function, which can begin to decline as we age. Keep your mind as active as possible by sharing your experiences with your fellow classmates, and by learning from them and your professors. Online college courses for senior citizens are available, and you can take your pick of them to keep your mind healthy and strong.

The brain can keep developing new cells even late into adulthood, and a great way to make that happen is to go back to school, according to the Harvard Health Blog in an April 2016 article. Nearly 20 percent of adults over 35 years old are students at four-year colleges and universities, as well as at community colleges. You can improve working memory through puzzles and crosswords, but they don’t help you get better at other skills like reasoning and problem-solving. Learning something out of your comfort zone is critical to obtain the best results. Learning a complex skill is more likely to give you better results than doing puzzles.

3.) Increase Social Interaction

Before you say that staring at a screen at home is not going to increase your social interaction, think of it this way. In an online environment, you participate in discussions with people through forums, emails, and maybe an online class where you can interact with the professor and other students. You may do a group project in which you meet with your fellow classmates through an online platform like Zoom in which you can meet “face-to-face,” share documents, write on a whiteboard you can all see, and share your screen with other meeting participants.

Your social skills will sharpen as you take your online class, and you’re likely to have improved self-confidence. As people get older, it’s easier to become socially isolated. In an online environment, you have the chance to meet new people and engage in stimulating conversations, debates, and discussions, something that everyone needs, no matter their age.

Take advantage of all the online degrees for seniors and courses that are available in order to increase your social interaction in a different way.

4.) Exchange Knowledge

You’re not isolated in an online learning environment. You’re not left alone with your course materials to read and assignments to complete. Instead, you exchange knowledge in a variety of ways. The written word is one of the most important tools used to help people share ideas in online classes. For instance, you’ll likely need to post answers to discussion questions that your instructor puts in the online classroom that demonstrates your understanding of the material. Typically, you’ll be asked to respond to your classmates’ responses a certain number of times as well. Use these opportunities to share your ideas about what they said, to share your life and working experience, and to ask probing questions. This is the best way to get the most out of a written exchange.

Additionally, your professor may have you make videos, websites, slide presentations, or other projects that help you to share what you’ve learned and your ideas about what the material being covered in class. You can get creative with how you share your understanding, and you can learn a lot from your classmates’ projects as well by viewing them as they post them for the class to see. Making comments on them and taking the time to review what your classmates post will help you engage in robust knowledge exchange online.

How Does Online College for Seniors Work?

In an online class, you use your computer and the Internet to get your assignments and to turn them in. Your communication with your instructor and classmates happens sometimes through email, but most of it occurs in what is called an LMS or learning management system. Basically, you will go to a certain website that your university or college will tell you, and you will log in given the credentials that the institution provides (username and password). There, you will see a list of all your classes. You click on the class that you need to do work in, and you will be taken to a webpage that has a variety of options to choose from.

You’ll see updates from your instructor, a discussion forum, and places to view documents, videos, or links your teacher wants to share with you and to submit your work. The college or university will provide information on how to use the LMS, how to access your classes, and any other information you need to know about how to be successful in using the technology needed for them. Take advantage of all the video and text tutorials available to learn how to use the technology before the course starts. This will help you to be on top of things when the class begins.

What to Look for in an Online College

In the past, many colleges and universities that offered online degree programs were for-profit institutions that preyed on people by taking their money and offering poor educations. The second problem was that the degree programs were not preparing people for the jobs that they went to college for. The universities and colleges were basically diploma mills, offering degrees that didn’t provide a rigorous education. This still occurs, so it’s wise to choose your institution carefully.

The most important aspect of finding the right online college is seeing if it is accredited by a regional accreditation organization. Some of the regional accreditation organizations recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) include the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the Higher Learning Commission, Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the New English Commission of Higher Education, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Also, check the graduation and job placement rates of the colleges and universities that you’re considering. You can find a tool to search for this information on graduation rates and other university information on the U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard website. Each college also typically publishes their job placement rates in addition to other statistics that can help you make a wise choice.

What are the Best Degrees for Older Adults?

You can earn a variety of degrees. One of them is your associate degree, which is a two-year degree and the first step toward a bachelor’s degree. You’ll typically need to finish 60 credit hours to get an associate degree, and this is about half the number you’ll need for a bachelor’s degree. An associate degree is one of the best degrees for older adults because it is a great way to get your feet wet if you haven’t been to college before or you want to train for a new career. Here are some ideas of programs you can study to earn your associate degree:

• Bookkeeper and tax preparer/accounting
• Child development
• Paralegal
• Psychology and counseling
• Real estate
• Editing/proofreading
• Museum technician

You will probably find around 125 different subject areas for an associate’s in your search, so have fun exploring!

If you already have a degree, and you want to advance to the next level, you might consider getting a bachelor’s, a master’s or a doctorate. Here are some of the best degrees for older adults at the bachelor’s level:

• Accounting
• Business
• Engineering
• Medical Billing
• Psychology

This is just a small sampling of what is available, so search for just the right program to suit your interests. For example, if you want to start your own business, a degree in business may help you to become an entrepreneur. You may have several years of experience in the field you want to start a business in, but a business degree can help you fill the gaps in knowing how to properly operate a small business.

If you’re ready to get a graduate degree, there are plenty of online degree programs for seniors that are available. Some popular master’s degree programs for seniors include:

• Accounting
• Business Administration
• Public Health
• Nursing/Nurse Practitioners

Consider these for Ph.D. programs:

• Biology
• Botany
• Conservation
• History
• Law
• Literature and Writing

You have the option to choose from a wide range of classes and degrees, so be creative, and have fun with selecting your program!

One of the top institutions known for having great programs for seniors is Southern New Hampshire University, which bills itself as offering affordable and flexible programs. It provides over 200 programs focused on careers and that are designed to accommodate busy schedules. Another is Purdue Global. This program is affiliated with Purdue University, and it provides personalized learning online that is geared toward working adults. Strayer University also provides online education to seniors and offers flexible degree programs to working adults and military veterans.

A word about choosing the right program: spend some time communicating with different universities to see which ones offer the right combination of programs and support for seniors. Make sure that you talk to current and former students at each college or university you’re considering to see what their experience has been. Think about the goals of the people you talk to compared to your own: are they at the university to start a new career, or are they there to enrich their knowledge without earning a degree? Their goals and experiences should inform your own, but think about your needs and aims as you take their suggestions and comments into consideration.

Free Online College Courses for Seniors?

Yes, there are free online courses for seniors. Many of these take the form of MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, and are available from top universities around the country. Two of the best places to find these classes are here and here. These classes are not for college credit, but they provide you college-level education in an online environment and help you to learn new skills.

Some of the best free online courses for retirees include “Food, Nutrition, and Your Health” on the Open2Study platform, and the “Learning How to Learn: Powerful Mental Tools to Help You Master Tough Subjects” available on Coursera. Another is “Web Development: How to Build a Blog” on Udacity, and one more is “Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies: The First Step in Entrepreneurship” from the University of Maryland via Coursera. Also, consider “Work smarter, Not Harder: Time Management for Personal and Professional Productivity” from the University of California on Coursera. A course focused on literature you might enjoy is “Modern and Contemporary American Poetry” through the University of Pennsylvania on Coursera. A Yale Course taught on Coursera that is very popular is “Financial Markets.” “Intro to Artificial Intelligence” is another popular course from Stanford on Udacity.

OpenCourseWare is another option. This helps bring free courses to people around the world. Top universities, like MIT and the Open Education Consortium, bring these courses to people who have an interest and an Internet connection.

It may be a bit hard to find free online college degrees for senior citizens, but you can find scholarships, grants, and discounts available to seniors. You may find free online courses for seniors available through a university or college. Discounts on courses for seniors are often available as well. You’ll typically have to be 55 or 60 to take advantage of them, and some might base your eligibility for free/discounted courses on your Social Security income.

Start with schools in your own state or that you are already interested in enrolling in to begin your search. Even if you must pay standard tuition rates, loans and grants from the government are available, and scholarships for senior citizens returning to college are available as well. You can probably find other scholarships you’re eligible for through talking with the financial aid departments of the colleges you want to attend most.

Going Back to College After 50?

The world of education is no longer just for those under a certain age with money to attend. It is open to everyone, no matter their situation in life. Be encouraged that colleges and universities want senior citizens to enroll, and they often have resources, support, and financial aid help for those over 50 years old who want to start a new career or just explore a topic that interests them. You have several options to gain the knowledge that you want, and getting a degree or taking a course online are two of the best ways to attain your educational and career goals.

Universities want engaged learners, and they sometimes offer free tuition to seniors for certain classes to get that. Another important note: your life and career experience will often qualify you to get college credit for certain classes if you’re looking for an online college degree. For example, if you worked for 20 years in accounting, universities will often consider your work experience as equivalent to having taken some of the required classes the university offers. This reduces the amount of time that you spend in school, helps you to avoid taking classes that are redundant and boring for you, and reduces your overall tuition costs. College for seniors is attainable, no matter which route you take!

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