LA PLATA, Md. - Organization and self-discipline are the two most important things students need to consider when attempting an online course, according to College of Southern Maryland graduate Melissa Milazzo. The 24-year-old Milazzo, who completed all of her CSM courses online to obtain an associate degree in business administration, is among a growing number of students who choose the flexibility of online education over the traditional classroom.
"I really liked the flexibility," said Milazzo, who began her studies at CSM in 2002. "The online classes enabled me to work full-time, participate at my church and have an active social life. I even got married and went on a week-long honeymoon in the middle of a semester. I didn't have to worry about missing classes because I could study around my schedule and tailor my learning to my needs."
Milazzo, who lives in Upper Marlboro and works for Safeway as a claim examiner, said that one concern about online learning is the temptation to fall behind in your coursework. "Online learning requires organization and self-discipline because there is no one else to remind you when something is due or if a test is coming up; you have to be responsible for yourself," she said.
For Milazzo, being responsible meant studying at least two hours every night after work and most Saturdays. She views her degree as "every bit as good" as one earned in a traditional class setting because not only did she earn the degree, she learned organization, self-discipline and self-reliance while developing a strong work ethic. "These are traits that stay with you and can be applied to other aspects of your professional and personal life," said Milazzo.
"I am surprised that there are not more people taking advantage of the online courses," said Milazzo, who is currently working to earn her associate degree in insurance claims through the Insurance Institute of America. "CSM is a very cost-effective alternative to a big university."
With regard to online education, Milazzo found success through staying focused and organized so you don't fall behind. "Planning is key, and understanding that just because a course is offered online, it doesn't mean it is easier," she said. "You still have to study to succeed."
CSM's distance learning program offers 123 Web-based courses and 44 Web-hybrid (online) courses in subjects as diverse as accounting, internet design and wellness and fitness. During the spring 2006 semester, there were over 5,000 registrations in CSM's Web-based (online), Web-hybrid (classes which combine on-campus and online instruction) and Web-enhanced (classes utilizing WebCT online tools such as email and bulletin boards to facilitate communication) courses.
For information on distance learning opportunities, call 301-934-2251 or 301-870-3008, Ext. 2251 for Charles County; 240-725-5499, Ext. 2251 for St. Mary's County or 443-550-6199, Ext. 2251 for Calvert County or visit http://www.csmd.edu/DistanceLearning/.