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10 Ways to Tell if Open Education Is Right for You

If the traditional college experience doesn't totally fulfill you, or it's unavailable to you at the current time, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy a well-rounded college-level education. You have options! Open educational resources (OER) are free college-level course materials available to anyone who wants to access them. Under what circumstances, then, should you consider OER as a supplement to - or even in place of - your regular education?

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By Laura Allan

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For over a decade, OER has been changing the way lifelong learners can get a college education. Thanks to the open access afforded by the Internet, some of the world's top educational institutions, like Yale and MIT, have made their lectures and other course materials available online for any curious parties. While currently almost no OER outlets offer college credits, some have begun to put such options in place. Perhaps you can work out a deal with your college professors or advisors to complete OER courses in exchange for their credit. Even if you don't receive immediate tangible rewards, though, OER courses can be a great educational opportunity, and here's why:

You Like to Make Your Own Schedule

Sometimes it's just hard to get up in the morning. Not all students are morning people, and some can't concentrate if they have classes before or after lunch. If that sounds like you, you should consider taking advantage of OER. You'll be able to make your own schedule, which means getting up when you want, studying when you want and eating when you want. It's all up to you.

You Have a Job

Having a job while you're a student usually means finding something that you can schedule around your classes. When you use OER, that's not the case. Because you can study online whenever you want, you'll be able to schedule your classes around your job instead. You'll be able to work more convenient days and hours, which means more money in your pocket and less time spent stressing.

You Have Children

Any parent will tell you that their kids come first. If you're able to take classes and take care of your kids, way to go! If you find yourself short on time, maybe online classes should be an option. You don't have to sit for an extended period of time for each class, so if Junior starts crying you can put the lesson on hold and go do the parent thing.

Your Classes Are All Full

Sometimes classes that you need fill up so fast it makes your head spin. If that's the case, contact your advisor and see if online courses and textbooks are an option. You'll be able to get gen eds and major requirements done, even if the regular classes are full. You'll also be able to get it done in your own dorm, which means relaxing a little more rather than stressing in a crowded class.

You're Behind in Your Major

Sometimes for whatever reason students get behind on completing their major. Playing catch-up can be hard, especially when most classes are already full to bursting. If you're able to take the classes you need on your computer, you'll have a better chance of making up lost ground. If you're really diligent, you might even be able to get ahead.

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You Have Trouble With a Particular Subject

Maybe a class is going way too fast for you or you're having trouble understanding how to do something the way a teacher explains it. By taking a digital class, you'll be able to slow things down. You won't have to worry about jotting down notes in class without understanding a lesson. If you don't grasp one particular concept, you can go back and reread the material at your own pace.

You're a Transfer Student

Often times when you transfer into a new school some of your credits don't transfer with you. No need to worry, though. If your advisor will allow it, you can make up the missed classes and gen eds online. You won't end up a semester or even a year behind that way, and you'll review concepts that you might need for higher level major courses. Saylor.org in particular has a wide selection of online classes to pick from.

You Have to Miss School for Health Reasons

Sometimes people get sick at college. Sometimes family members get sick too. While school should be the last thing on your mind in that situation, incidents like that can often lead to students being held back a year or dropping out altogether. OER can be used from any treatment center or hospital bed, so whenever you have any time you'll be able to keep on top of your studies. It also won't interfere with you being there for your own health or your family's.

You're a 'Bad Test Taker'

There are some people in this world who just can't take tests. They sweat, fidget, second-guess their answers and just generally panic. Most open education tests are multiple choice, and you can attempt them any time you feel ready. You'll be able to give yourself a comfortable environment, even do it in bed it if helps you. It can be the least stressful situation and very best chance for success.

You're in High School and Want to Get Ahead

Open education resources are often available to everyone, even high school students. Even if you can't take them for college credit yet, and sometimes you can, you'll still be able to use it to prepare. You'll come in to later classes more knowledgeable on subjects than other students. You might even be able to test out of certain classes and go for more interesting higher-level courses.

Having trouble with your busy schedule? Figure it all out with these time management tips for college students.

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