I have lied to my husband and kids about being sick while I have sat in my locked master bathroom perched on a closed toilet with the lid down while typing up college papers. It’s not that my family is terrible about not giving me space to do my work, I was encumbered and forced into the bathroom because there was a science project on the dining room table and my kids were doing classes on the home PC and my husband was doing a computer network experiment in our bedroom. My bathroom became my inner sanctum. I stashed my books with the towels and had a chocolate stash that even my six year olds never found. My daughters worried that they’d hit their late 30’s and wind up with a constant headache or female problems like I was claiming, all so I could write papers.
For parents wanting to do something this fall but who are limited on time and money, there are quite a few options. Years ago, I tried to resume my degree online and it was a huge flop due to too many kids still at home and not enough space in my house to get away from everything and store my stuff. Leaving my 12 year old at the house with a few siblings for a half hour before my husband came home was OK, but not when one of my children was throwing up or bleeding and my commitment to the class had to come second to my highest calling.
I discovered along the way that while there are lots of classes offered through the University of Alaska and its different colleges, but that classes may or may not be compatible with each other within the degree programs, even if they have the same identification numbers and same names and teach essentially the same courses. It is up to the individual students to not only speak to their advisors about this but to get it in print that classes are transferable for degree credit. If you are lacking elective credits and have money to spend, treat their online classes like your personal smorgasbord and have at it and take classes for your personal enrichment or to quench your curiosity. I will warn you that I took several classes 2 years ago through UAF and I did not like their online courses because I basically read, sent in documents and got feedback with one English lit professor deleting student’s attempts at discussion. I took similar classes through University of Alaska Southeast and loved it because they encouraged their students to interact.
The pros and cons of taking classes in person at the school or online are evils that you have to consider. If your spouse of kids will not leave you alone and you can turn off your cell phone for an hour and a half a couple times a week, you might do well in a classroom setting, but this being said, finding the four hours per credit to study might not be easy. For a three credit class, that means that in addition to going to class you will need to find at least 12 hours to study during the week. At UAA and Mat-Su college, a lot of their main classes for certain degrees seem geared at a population that only likes to be active during the week day, so if you have kids in school and can’t drive in to Anchorage by 10AM and get home before 3:30PM, you are really cutting it close. If you live in Mat-Su and the roads are slick and your kids start school at 9AM, chances are you will be parking half way across Anchorage and trudging late into a 10AM class.
It was surprisingly easy for me taking a drawing class at Mat-Su college because my kids under the age of 21 (all 9 of them) loved finding bizarre poses and holding them for 30 seconds to an hour while I sketched them for my homework. (This did not go well for the statistics class!) Classes that are offered online are wonderful, but some require you to be online at a certain time for online instruction while others just let you log on any time and watch a lecture. All formats have their advantages and disadvantages and it is up to the student to assess what is realistic vs. what they wish they could do.
Does paying mandatory fees for things that you may or may not use at the U of A system turn you off? One of the best schools (in my opinion) with similar prices to UAA is Brigham Young University’s Independent Study . I am not Mormon and I found that they don’t make anyone take classes in religion if they just want a class. It is the student’s responsibility to see what classes can transfer, but it is worth looking in to. (Their high school classes are great for homeschoolers, too-- and affordable!)
Sometimes it is just not possible to commit to a college class. At some online universities, classes often range in price from $500 on up past $1,500 per credit be you there or not. Add on to this that people often have to pay extra fees for parking, student fees for facility use that they may or may not use, gas, wear & tear on cars, anxiety if your spouse (or other family member) needs to use your vehicle to get to the job that pays for your life, and the prices go higher. Do you have the money to pay for your computer to get fixed immediately if your class is online?
If you don’t need the college credit but you want to have the intellectual experience of doing something, some free and low cost ideas are to check out free and open classes through MIT with their OpenCourseWare. If you have the money, consider Gotham Writer’s Workshops because you can travel to workshops if you are interested or you may take online classes. There are often short one credit classes offered at local colleges in Anchorage and Mat-Su, particularly in the spring. At Mat-Su College you don't need a parking permit no matter when you take classes, and the parking lots are easy to navigate.