Not too long ago I wrote about why I chose a distance dietetics program in my journey to becoming a registered dietitian nutritionist. This kind of remote learning means that all of my courses are online, I never set foot in a classroom, discussions are kind of like chat rooms and I Skype with my teachers for office hours. If you've ever daydreamed about escaping from a classroom, this may sound amazing, but there are challenges.
Your Schedule Is Really Flexible
This really is the best benefit! I love that if I have some extra time, I can work ahead. Or, if I have my work completed and I've turned in my assignments, I don't have to just "go to class anyway" because that's what my course schedule says I have to do. There is no attendance requirement, and I basically can do my schoolwork in my jammies. This flexibility has allowed me to go to school while also working part time, volunteering for organizations outside of school, participating in a singing group, continuing blogging, teaching group fitness and traveling. The flexibility also has allowed many of my classmates to maintain full-time jobs and raise children while working to become RDNs.
You Don't Have to Worry about Packing Lunch
This may seem like a weird benefit, but when I was in the working world I almost always ate breakfast and lunch (and sometimes even dinner) at my desk, in a meeting or on the run. Now, I really enjoy preparing what I want for a meal and eating it at my own table
It Can Feel Lonely and Isolating
While I completely love my journey to becoming an RDN, I'd be lying if I didn't tell you about the tough times. There are many days when it feels like "I'm the only one out there." This feeling creeps in when things get really busy, such as before a test or when a lot of projects are due at the same time. It's difficult not being able to commiserate with classmates, meet for study groups and discuss what we are learning. Luckily, I have a few reasons to leave the house: I nanny in the afternoons, take my dog for walks, go to the gym and meet up with friends.
You Are Your Own Teacher
Well, kind of. With each course you take, there is a professor assigned to you. Some are really great and respond to your questions right away (I've been known to be quite the question-asker), offer office hours, will meet with you in person if you live in the same area, and will really help you master the material. However, other professors (and my experience with this has mostly been in prerequisite classes, not nutrition classes) simply provide a syllabus, a PowerPoint and a list of assignments and tests. The class ends up consisting of a lot of reading, searching for videos that give a deeper explanation of the topic and chatting with other students who are just as confused as you are.
You Must Be Self-Motivated
If you are the type of person who does not work well on your own, needs constant support from others and must be pushed in order to succeed, then being a distance student may not be the best choice for you. Classes are not in real-time. They mostly are presented as PowerPoints that occasionally have audio and sometimes video. You have to complete reading assignments on your own. Most classes have a discussion board, and students are required to post thoughtful responses to prompts and responding to peers is mandatory.
You Have a Chance to Differentiate Yourself
The good thing is, I have been told by professionals in the nutrition field (and others) that completing a non-traditional program can be a plus. This kind of learning requires individuals to piece together several parts of the puzzle on their own, and truly demonstrates something outstanding that will set them apart when applying for internships and jobs down the road.