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Stay-at-Home Moms Turn to Online Learning

by Jared Newnam
August 12, 2010

Many moms who choose to stay at home with young children know that someday, they want to return to the workforce. To help make themselves more marketable when that time comes, more stay-at-home moms than ever are turning to online education.

Taking courses while the kids nap or are on play dates allows moms to pursue higher learning without interfering with family time. It’s proving to be a win-win situation for moms and universities alike.

“Online classes can be such an effective option for moms,” asserts Dr. Lina Liken-Paske, associate professor of General Education at South University Online Programs. 

She adds that online learning provides moms with the flexibility to attend classes, work on assignments, and still take an active role in their children’s lives.

Mom Care Not Daycare

This means they don’t have to make a choice between class and their child’s soccer game. Liken-Paske notes that many moms see this as the main benefit of online learning.

“With the online asynchronous process, instructors and students are not obligated to be in the virtual classroom at the same time,” Liken-Paske says. 

This allows students to decide when it’s most convenient for them to attend class and check in with instructors. Like any collegiate work, there are assignments that must be submitted in a timely manner, but students are given deadlines in advance so that they can work them into their busy schedules.

The flexibility allows me to be with my kids when they’re awake and after school.

Liken-Paske also mentions that online learning breaks down geographical barriers, opening up a world of degree options. If a mom in Cleveland wants to take an online course offered through a university in Chicago, she can easily do so, building her knowledge base and résumé.

“A degree can increase marketability,” Liken-Paske adds. “The value of having accomplished the degree itself speaks to being able to set and meet goals, while living in real life. The power of having completed a degree encompasses much more than acquiring pertinent professional information. It attests to character.”

Mom bloggers agree that the value of an education can only make a mom more productive. A recent string of postings on the website Diaper Swappers started with a blogger asking about other moms’ experiences with online learning. Responses included comments such as “It worked out great for me because I was able to still work, and not have to worry about [child care for my daughter].” Another blogger mentions that “Flexible scheduling, especially with a newborn/toddler was priceless. So was writing papers in comfy jammies.”

Office Hours

Alicia Wilkes, a stay-at-home mom who teaches online courses, has a unique perspective on maintaining the balance between family life and the pursuit of education. As an associate faculty member at Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia, she’s seen an increase in the number of moms turning to online education. Like other online moms, she touts the flexibility of learning on a personalized schedule.

“You can do the work at various times during the day. In addition, it allows you to complete your work and to interact with your classmates from your home, which is extremely helpful for moms,” she says.

Wilkes often teaches classes during her children’s naptimes or at night after the kids have gone to sleep.

“The flexibility allows me to be with my kids when they’re awake and after school,” she says.

Wilkes adds that the moms she instructs know they’re expected to log in daily and keep up with assignments — like all other students. Most online courses require students to log in and post comments on assignments at least twice a week, helping moms to build communication skills and broaden interaction with the outside world.

Back to School

While the concept of online learning is not new, many moms are only now willing to give it a try. Wilkes notes that the perception of online learning is changing — people are now viewing it as a positive and valuable educational resource.

“Stay-at-home moms can educate themselves in their career of choice easily through online courses, keeping their skills fresh and relevant,” Wilkes states.

In addition to the obvious benefits of earning a degree, online learning for moms offers marketability, knowledge, and a sense of accomplishment. South University’s Liken-Paske believes that there is one more unexpected benefit to moms getting online degrees — a new level of respect from their kids.

“One interesting point that has come up repeatedly about moms who have school-aged children is that the children love doing homework with mom,” Liken-Paske says. “Not only does this build respect for moms as learners, but also respect for the need for an education.”

by Jared Newnam
August 12, 2010
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