Published on 2012/01/30

Challenges For Non-Traditional Students

Challenges For Non-Traditional Students
School timetables and non-traditional student timetables often don't align. Photo by Howard Lake

Our country has been experiencing coarse times for the last few years and that economy is affecting many people in different ways. Therefore, there are more and more people who are returning back to school as non-traditional students. The problem that most people face is schedules for classes. Community colleges are not prepared to accept non-traditional students because many classes are still designed to fit only traditional students. In order to serve both there must be some changes made.

The majority of non-traditional students are full-time working adults. Therefore, they are mostly available to attend classes during late nights, weekends or by taking online classes. I myself returned to community college as a non-traditional student, fifteen years after last attending a class, and I must say it was extremely hard to register for classes because I had two jobs to fill most of my time. Classes that I needed were only provided in the morning or midday and there was no way I could attend them. Community college did provide some classes that would start at 6 p.m., but in order to be full time student you could not get all classes needed.

The majority of colleges do offer online classes and that is most preferred by non-traditional students who have no time to attend classes on campus. There are pros and cons for everything and online classes have them too. So many people seem to love the idea of online classes, but unfortunately they do not work for everyone.

Back in 2007 when I was still attending community college I had to take some online classes as well (even though that was not my preference) but I had no other choice. My experience with online classes are good and bad, just like any class it depends on how good and caring your professor is, and it depends on your learning style. The major benefits from online classes are that you can do everything at your own pace and at any time you wish as long as your assignments are turned in on the deadline there is nothing else you really need to worry about. However, what most students do not realize is that online courses require a lot more work and discipline. If you have no disciple then you’ll experience difficulties learning through online classes.

Online classes I took had a website that is called Blackboard where all students from the class can communicate and submit their work. It is a critical tool to communicate with your fellow students and also get some help if you came across some conflicts with your assignments. As a foreign student I came across many challenges with language barriers. Therefore, I spent a lot of my time posting my concerns and questions, asking for help from my classmates.  Sometimes professors will offer conference calls where you can express some concerns or questions that you may come across with the subject. There is also discussion board tab that is greatly used for sharing your work with fellow students or asking for help if you need something.

Looking back I am glad that I had an opportunity to experience in class and online classes. Without online classes I would have to spend a lot more years just to graduate with my AA degree. Right now I am at the Pfeiffer University and I am glad that they offer online classes as well – I am taking few just to be able to graduate in spring.

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Readers Comments

Yancy Oshita 2012/01/30 at 4:33 pm

Having completed my masters as a non-traditional student working full time, I can attest that scheduling AND flexibility are the biggest issue. The problem is many programs still operate with a traditional 18 – 23 y.o cohort approach vs the needs of working adults. Technology and pedagogy should help. Still, I ended up earning my degree with honors.

Asta 2012/03/23 at 6:06 pm


It is not an easy task for non-traditional students, but I do hope it will change in the future.


Christina 2014/07/31 at 11:59 pm

I am a non-traditional student that is finding it extremely difficult to attend a University and earn a Degree that is best suited for my success. I took some online courses and I really only liked one of them because the instructor was fully engaged with the students and the assignments were relative to the class. I find that online classes are a fluke. I think one of my classes was taught by a robot because the instructor was unresponsive, the instructions were vague, I had to hunt for my assignments, and 90% of the assignments were irrelevant. I learned nothing. Why should I be forced to take online classes or quit my job to attend school? Non-traditional students are the majority and we are being discriminated from higher education opportunities. A raise in minimum wage will not solve real economic problems. Allowing everyone the opportunity to earn a “quality” degree so that they may obtain higher paying careers is a real solution to poverty.

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