For Online Students, is Thanksgiving Break an Oasis or a Mirage?

Posted by Debi Teter

college-student-fall-thanksgiving-breakAh, the holidays. Those blissful four days of relative freedom near the end of November offer college students the chance to go home, take a break from projects and papers, travel to see family and friends, and catch up on much-needed rest.

Traditional students might think that the online student spends most of the semester enjoying that kind of freedom. After all, they don’t have to fight for a coveted commuter parking spot and hoof it across a cold campus sidewalk to get to class every day.

Online students do enjoy the freedom of doing coursework on their own schedule, and it’s a huge benefit, but it would be a little short sighted to say the online student doesn’t need a holiday break. Who wouldn’t want a chance to spend time at home, take a break from projects and papers, visit friends and family and get some “me” time?  But is that what the Thanksgiving Break really is for online students?

It’s time to take a closer look at whether Thanksgiving break for online students is actually a “break” at all. Here’s an examination of the holiday benefits students look forward to versus the average online student’s world.

Holiday bliss: There’s no place like home

Online student reality: Well, sort of. Since the online student’s classroom is their home, it might be a little hard to get pumped up about that short walk from the computer into the other room. However, there’s always the option to travel to see family – more on that in a minute.

Holiday bliss: Putting School Projects on Pause

Online student reality: More than half of all online students work full time. Twenty percent of them work part time. For these folks, even if they have time off from work for the holiday it doesn’t make much sense to take a break from their study routine or projects. Once you get behind in class, getting caught up can be an enormous undertaking.

Holiday bliss: Adventures in Travel

Online student reality: When planning travel for the holidays, they have plenty of preparations to make:  taking time off work, boarding pets, purchasing airfare, train tickets or just filling up the car requires saving money, contributing to the holiday meal requires planning, and if children are involved there’s often extra packing and preparation associated with getting them road-ready.

Those who want to get ahead – or stay afloat- in their classwork have an extra layer of planning. If they usually use a desktop computer but are traveling with a laptop, they’ll want to make sure their laptops have their school’s virtual learning platform software installed. Plus, if they’re staying with Great-Aunt Suzy, it might be worthwhile to see if she knows what her internet security passcode is so they can log on as a guest. Otherwise, studying might involve a late-night trip to Starbucks for a latte and free Wi-Fi.

Holiday bliss: A Dream Called Rest

Online student reality: It’s important to remember that when the online student has a holiday break, all the other students in their house are out of school too. Which means if our online student has to work or study, they’ll have to find a child care solution if family isn’t available to pitch in. Since it’s the holidays, child care providers are often hard to come by. If there are some child care providers available, their services are priced at a premium.

And the holidays themselves, as joyous as they are, can be kind of stressful. Shopping, cooking, decorating, entertaining, hosting, traveling – all these activities are the opposite of what busy students would enjoy most: peace and quiet.


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