Q&A: Can Online Students Take Vacations?

Answer: It's common for students to take vacations, especially during typically observed school breaks in the winter, spring and summer. One of the attractions of online school is the ability to do your work anytime, from anywhere with Internet access. However, it's a student's responsibility to submit assignments and quizzes on time, as well as fully participate in the course (by posting in class discussion threads, attending live webinars, etc.) and communicate with the instructor when necessary.

Let's discuss the possibilities for vacationing or having a scheduled time away from class. Vacations are usually planned, especially if it's an annual or regular trip. As an online college teacher, my first suggestion is to take a break from classes during this time, if possible. It's better to enjoy your vacation, family and friends, rather than being worried about your class, grade or catching up when you return.

Another suggestion is to reschedule the vacation. Many schools do observe some holidays or typical school breaks, as noted above. See if your family is willing to change vacation dates. Families are supportive of education and you may be surprised what they are willing to do to keep you on track.

Before scheduling your vacation, you should contact the hotel where you'll be staying and inquire about their Internet services. Do they offer high-speed or wireless Internet? If so, is it located in your room or only in common areas such as the lobby? Is there a fee, and if so, is the charge per-minute, daily or included in the resort fee? Is there is a business center with computers at the facility you can use, or do you need to bring your own? Lastly, ask how reliable the connection is and how often it goes down. And if you're planning on staying with someone, ask your hosts about their Internet options.

Another idea is to try using your smartphone. Some online course sites can now be accessed from mobile devices. Additionally, my phone is considered a "hot spot" with the ability to "Internet share". The phone has its own Internet (as most phones do) and I can change the settings to share this connection my other devices. The phone gives me a pass code (just like at home) and I can input this information into my laptop or iPad and use the Internet. As long as there's a cell phone signal, I can connect to my phone in a secure manner. The catch to this is that it may be costly. Using the Internet on your phone usually deducts from your data package. Most cell phone carriers (unless you have unlimited data) charge overage fees. Before using your phone as a hot spot, make sure to contact your carrier for details about costs and coverage.

If none of the above suggestions work out, contact your instructor. He or she may be willing to work something out with you. You might be able to submit your work early or take a small deduction for submitting late. Everyone deserves a break and time with their families, so make sure to plan accordingly.

Dr. Beverley BrowningDr. Beverly A. Browning (Dr. Bev) has been a higher education adjunct faculty member for over 25 years. She has taught in the classroom and online for multiple colleges and universities including Spring Arbor College, Baker College of Flint, Mott Community College, and Rio Salado College. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, Spring Arbor College and Mott Community College. She is currently an online instructor for ed2go.com (Cengage Learning). In addition to founding and directing the Grant Writing Training Foundation, Dr. Bev is also Vice President of Grants Professional Services for eCivis, Inc. She is the author over over 37 grant-related publications and a frequent keynote speaker and workshop presenter for national and regional conferences. Dr. Bev is a product of lifelong learning and an advocate for online teaching and learning!