When Jodi Mansfield decided to go back to school, she was worried that she had been away for too long.
"I thought I was too old when I started, but it just comes back to you, and you're never too old," Mansfield said of returning to school in her forties.
Clarion University's online program made it easy for Mansfield, who has a family and career, to choose her own schedule to complete her class work. Clarion Online's classes run Sunday through Saturday meaning you can complete your week's course work anytime within that week-long timeframe.
"The timeframe was great for me," Mansfield said. "They gave you the freedom to choose what fits your lifestyle."
When she returned to college, Mansfield had her own daycare and wanted to pursue a career with Headstart, which is a preschool for 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds in lower income families. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Community and Family Services and has achieved that goal by now working for Clarion Jefferson Headstart of Rimersburg.
Mansfield believes the online education she received at Clarion was the same as any education students receive in a traditional classroom and it helped her land a job with Headstart.
According to Clarion Online Director Lynne Lander Fleisher, an online student is guaranteed the same faculty, same accreditations and the same curriculum outcomes as any traditional student.
"It's just the modality that's different," Fleisher said.
In other words, the information is delivered differently than in a traditional classroom. For example, students should expect more reading in an online setting, although some professors may use videos and other software packages to further the learning objectives, Fleisher said.
Returning adult students also may find being online makes them less self-conscious because fellow students are less likely to notice their age in that setting.
Mansfield said the online version of the classes did give her the confidence to continue her schooling without feeling self-conscious. She also had the support of her daughter, Erica, who was taking the same online classes at the same time with her mom. They even graduated together last May.
Some returning adults may not want to be noticed, but they often get noticed because the experience they bring is valuable and relevant to online discussions and chats.
Ning Chen, Ph.D., an instructor in the department of management and marketing who also teaches online, said she enjoys online teaching, in part, because of the diverse types of students it brings together.
"For nontraditional students, they generally can share their experience in the real business world. That interaction with my online students actually improves the discussion of my class," Chen said.
Chen requires that everyone posts in online discussion boards and she believes it is a benefit to shy students as it provides a safe place for class participation.
Mansfield said she would encourage others to return to school if they are considering it. She said she returned to a school routine very quickly and it gave her what she needed to get ahead in her career.