Theresa Robinson, 39, owns and runs an online jewelry business, does freelance writing, and is working towards her B.A. in English with a concentration in professional writing at Ellis College of New York Institute of Technology.
With two jobs, a husband, and a seven-year-old son, Theresa Robinson's hands are quite full, so going back to school seemed unlikely until she considered started looking at online degree programs.
"I've long wanted to go back to school, first to finish my B.A. and second, because I simply love learning," Theresa says. "Due to my husband's schedule and the fact that I have a seven-year-old son, I really couldn't figure a way to schedule classes in between the time constraints of everyone's day. Online seemed the perfect solution; I could work whenever I had time during the week and I didn't have to worry about finding childcare."
Theresa ultimately decided that Ellis College was the best choice for her schedule, her curriculum needs, and her chosen degree path. "There were many factors that went into my choice of Ellis but the bottom line was it felt right."
For Theresa, online learning turned out to be just the thing. She explains, "I can work at my own pace and never worry about missing a class due to a family commitment or a sick child or a bad day health-wise for myself." Simply put, she receives the benefits of a traditional college setting without dealing with "the tension of 'rushing' from here to there to get everything done."
Theresa says the only disadvantage to an online education is that many people do not view it as a "real education," and that it seems that in these people's eyes, a degree isn't legitimate if it didn't involve a blackboard, physical bodies, set schedules, and the eternal struggle to find a parking spot.
Online learning is just as effective - if not more so - than traditional learning in a classroom. "It's still thinking and reading and writing and putting everything together on your own, submitting work on time, and hoping you've done your very best," she says. "Whether in a 'regular' classroom or a cyber one, your education is primarily dependent on what you put into it."
Theresa's choice of the self-paced learning model makes even more sense when you look at her sources of income. Theresa owns and runs an online craft and jewelry business called TeaBee Designs, and she works as a freelance writer for The Brighter Writer. Both of these jobs require a self-starter who knows how to keep on top of tasks even when no one is standing there making sure things get done - a personality type which is also a good fit for online study. Since these jobs take up a lot of Theresa's day, she would not have nearly enough time to make both her work responsibilities and her educational goals possible if she was confined to a strict, traditional college schedule.
However, the fact that Theresa has found a balance between her education, business, and family life does not mean that her tasks are easy. On the contrary, her schedule is as jam-packed as any traditional student's schedule - she just has the ability to spread out her activities better than she could with a strict classroom schedule.
Theresa's secret to success? "I stay up late!" she quips. But she's also able to fit class work into just about any moment of her day that allows her to sit for a few minutes. "I can take the iBook to my son's karate studio and work while he's in class. I can take the computer to the town pool. I can work on the sofa while the family is watching a movie. The flexibility of my work allows me to schedule slots of time for studying and reading and doing my class work."
It is not always easy to keep up with so many things at once, but thankfully Theresa's family is supportive of her many endeavors. This is especially true when it comes to Theresa's young son. "My little boy loves it when I'm doing my homework; I think it's good for him to see me furthering my education because the best gift I can give him is the idea that learning never stops."
Theresa says of the value of her online learning experience, "I think it's given me a sense of being on the right track in my life and that makes everything feel easier. And much better."