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What About College?

As Christians in an increasingly complex world, we recognize the crucial role that higher education plays in preparing us for our calling in God's plan of dominion. For most people, higher education necessarily means at least a four-year degree from an accredited college.

  • Caleb Dahl,
  • Doug Dahl,
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Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (Gen. 1:28)

As Christians in an increasingly complex world, we recognize the crucial role that higher education plays in preparing us for our calling in God's plan of dominion. For most people, higher education necessarily means at least a four-year degree from an accredited college.

For two generations, parents have assumed that their children would continue their education after high school by enrolling in a four-year residency college. Recently, however, many Christian parents have begun to question that path because of its expense, its perilous social environment, and the institutional enmity of so many traditional colleges toward the Christian faith. In addition, when parents enroll their children in a college, they surrender much of their God-given authority over those children to the institution. Their ability to direct their children's education, or even to know how it's progressing, is severely diminished.

Christian parents, particularly those who have home-educated their children into high school, are seeking alternatives to the standard institutional campus. One effective alternative is accelerated distance learning (ADL).

Accelerated Distance Learning
In his book, Accelerated Distance Learning: The New Way to Earn Your College Degree in the 21st Century, Brad Voeller, founder and president of Global Learning Strategies, describes the dangers of the traditional college route, the accelerated learning methods students use to increase their study proficiency, and the process students would use to earn credit and enroll in a distance-learning school. Voeller also describes his personal experience of how he leveraged his previous informal training and ministry experience into a four-year degree in six months. The principal methods he used to earn college credits were:

  • Credit by examination — Using the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) to earn credit for study done at home.
  • Portfolio assessment — Receiving credit for learning acquired through life experience.
  • Correspondence courses — Completing college-level coursework from home.
  • Independent studies — Working one-on-one with a college professor.

Voeller lists several resources for applying the Internet as a tool to aid students in their degree plan. In the book, he describes how to get connected to Web-based educational sources, develop on-line relationships with teachers and other distance learners, communicate via e-mail, and otherwise receive a college education in cyberspace. The book introduces distance learners to the vast repository of knowledge and course-work materials on the Internet.

He also describes how to overcome an employer's prejudices against distance learning by emphasizing qualities demonstrated by earning a distance degree, such as self-motivation, an appreciation of lifelong learning, and a continuing desire for self-improvement. The book also contains a helpful chapter that describes the benefits of internships and lists helpful resources for finding them.

The book explains how to pull together the disparate elements of a distance-learning program into a collection that reflects a standard college-level educational path. Voeller details how to earn credit, enroll in classes, complete the requirements, take tests, and record the results. In chapter 15, "Scholarships and Grants," he addresses the issue of paying for what students learn, which will generally be a pleasant surprise to parents who blanch at the $20-30,000 annual bills they might be facing at an upscale traditional university. The chapter also provides a helpful chart for calculating the total cost of a degree.

The book contains a helpful appendix section which lists several degrees that can be earned through distance learning, as well as Internet resources, and provides degree planning work sheets, and more.

College in a Box
In addition to providing the book on ADL, Global Learning Strategies offers several valuable resources on distance learning and the skills that will help distance learners be successful. GLS products include programs on independent study methods, speed-reading, advanced memorization and information retention, college-level writing, and test-taking skills. GLS has packaged several of its resources together in a program called "College in a Box," which is an invaluable resource for anyone considering the ADL option.

ADL is not simply a defensive educational strategy, designed to overcome the shortcomings of residency colleges. ADL offers many advantages to degree seekers, including the opportunity to combine education and work more easily, leverage resources and experience you already have into course credit, begin credit earning while still in high school, and speed up the process by as much as three years. That last benefit, the "accelerated" part of ADL, is the one that's likely to drive ADL into the forefront of future educational programs.

One of the realities of the standard residency college path is that the majority of students take more than four years to complete their four-year degree. Students who are convinced at the age of 18 that they want to be archeologists frequently decide by age 20 that they would prefer to be zoologists. Generally that means they have to flush several credits down the drain in a change of majors, and plan to add another year to their on-campus matriculation. For the ADL student, a change in major emphasis may mean a couple of months of additional study, rather than an entire year. This is possible because students using this method can apply the memory, speed-reading, and writing skills to earn the newly required credits faster. And if students decide they want to be an archeologist and a zoologist, the path to the double major is much quicker.

Accelerated Distance Learning is not going to replace residency campuses any time in the near future. However, for a growing number of people who want higher education but cannot, or prefer not, to go the residency campus route, ADL is an attractive option. As the Internet continues to expand, improve, and just plain get faster, ADL will become all the more viable for a larger number of degree-seeking students, not only at the undergraduate level, but at the post-graduate level as well. Global Learning Strategies, with its College in a Box, is on the cutting edge of a powerful trend that Christian parents should investigate carefully as they prepare to send their children off to college.

If ADL intrigues you, you can learn more on the GLS Web site: Note: That's org, not com.

  • Caleb Dahl

Doug Dahl is a homeschooling father of six. His son, Caleb, is pursuing his college degree via Advanced Distance Learning.

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