An introduction to self-paced enroll anytime courses

The University of North Dakota has a great online and distance learning program that offers semester-based courses; what many students don’t know is that UND online also offers self-paced enroll anytime (SPEA) courses. My name is Kate Blalock, and I’m a senior in the Communication Program at UND. I’m about to take an enroll anytime course, and I invite you along to share my online learning experience.

online college courseFirst, a little about me. I live in Maine with my husband and son; we are also expecting a daughter in March. I am a veteran of the US Coast Guard with 11 years of active duty service. I’m a homemaker, but I also mange my own blog and collaborate on a second blog with my sister. We’re a military family; my husband is still on active duty and is currently deployed. Needless to say, I have a lot on my plate and absolutely love the flexibility that UND online offers. I doubt I could have made it this far into my degree without the flexibility.

My journey in higher education began when I was still on active duty in the Coast Guard. The military has great educational benefits and my Commanding Officer really pushed everyone to take advantage of them. I never considered obtaining a degree online and was excited at the possibilities. When I started taking online courses, distance degree programs were just starting to take off. I tried a couple of online colleges, taking one or two classes at a time, just to get the feel of an online college atmosphere. Honestly, I was not impressed by the experiences — I felt I wasn’t really getting my time or money’s worth.

After earning an Associate’s Degree in General Studies, I decided to get serious and choose a major at a highly respected school. In the service I was a Machinery Technician; it seemed only natural to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering. The University of North Dakota’s distance engineering program stood out as one of the nation’s best and I was excited to learn classes were offered in a formal, semester-based setting. I was accepted and enrolled in 2012.

UND was a perfect fit for me. I felt challenged, empowered, and taken seriously as a student for the first time. I worked during my freshman year, taking only one or two classes at a time, as I was still on active duty. In 2014, I left active duty to start a family with my husband. It’s important to us that our children have a parent at home; it also provided the perfect opportunity to focus on my degree.

Kate BlalockOur son was born in 2015, and as many first-time parents can attest, my whole life changed. I soon realized that I wanted to remain a stay-at-home parent and find a career that allowed me to work from home. Mechanical Engineering was not that career. After a lot of soul searching, I decided on a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication. I’d always considered myself a strong writer, and had recently been bitten by the “blogging bug” after my sister asked me to collaborate on her website.

UND’s online Communication program was everything I had hoped it would be. By late 2015, I was taking a full load of semester-based classes. I was also glad the program was held to the same high standards I had experienced with UND’s engineering program. School is important to me, but I’m a mother and homemaker first — UND allows me to have that flexibility. I do most of my homework while my son naps during the day and late at night (I find I work better with complete silence). Exams have never been a problem, especially once UND partnered with ProctorU, a company that proctors exams remotely. I’ve had the experience of working on team projects via Skype and watching lectures and class discussions on Tegrity (an online recording of classes on campus). There is no way I would have been able to accomplish this degree without the flexibility of online learning.

I’m now in my final year and getting ready to take an enroll-anytime course. I’m taking Management 300, which isn’t part of the Communication program, but it qualifies as a 300-level elective. SPEA courses are classes you register for at any time and are allowed up to nine months to complete. As the name states, courses are self-paced and coursework is monitored and graded with feedback by a UND professor. SPEA courses are the ultimate in convenience and flexibility, and I’m looking forward to the experience. Online registration for these classes is done via UND.edu/online instead of Campus Connection, and enrolling was extremely easy. Once enrolled, I received my course confirmation number, which doubles as my identification number in the class. The courses are conducted through Blackboard, which any online student should be familiar with.

Over the next few months, I will be sharing my experiences in the class and the program itself, along with my study habits and tips, and the challenges and outcome of taking an enroll anytime course. I’m sure you are just as busy as I am, and who knows, perhaps a SPEA course could be the perfect fit for you. I hope you will join me as I take Management 300 and share my experience with the self-paced enroll anytime program.

– Kate

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