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Distance Learning or College at Home

A Question and Answer Session with Brad Voeller

June 3-6, 2002: The following is a question and answer session that appeared on's message boards. Brad Voeller, a young man who was homeschooled from age four, earned his "four-year, fully accredited college degree in less than six months, for less than $5,000." He is author of Accelerated Distance Learning. Make sure to see the review of his book.

Kysa: When is the best time to take the tests, and how do you recommend students prepare?

Brad Voeller: CLEP tests can be taken by students of any age. The only requirements are that you have a photo idea and pay the registration fee of about $50.00. The best time to take the test depends on what your student is currently studying. One strategy that I've seen work particularly well is to have your student take the exam right after completing the equivalent high school course. For Example, if a student just completed Algebra II for high school, go ahead and take the CLEP College Math exam.

The first step in preparing for CLEP exams is to get a copy of the College Board Official CLEP Study Guide. It's the best way to learn about the test. (Check my Web site for more details on the Study Guide.) Students can study for the CLEP by taking a course or by studying resources ready available from the library. If you're interested in courses check out our Web site. We've got a really neat program that allows students to take sample quizzes and exams right on their computer.

Mary Leggewie: Do CLEP test results expire?

Brad Voeller: CLEP tests will last for up to 15 years. That's why I recommend for high school students to start taking them during high school even before being enrolled in a college. The credits will bank with CLEP until the student is ready to enroll.

Anoma: Are there any major drawbacks to accelerated distance learning? And, some people I've talked to think I would be missing out on a great opportunity to mature by not attending college on-campus, what do you think?

Brad Voeller: Because Accelerated Distance Learning offers so much flexibility and can be custom tailored to the needs of the student, I don't believe there are drawbacks to this method.

CLW: What colleges are willing to work with families that acquire their Bachelor's degree in this manner? Also, do you know of anyone who desires to become a vet or doctor who has successfully done this?

Brad Voeller: The best schools are those that specialize in distance learning. I list several in the chapter in my book where I discuss choosing your school. I would start the search by taking a look at Thomas Edison, Charter Oak, and Excelsior. These colleges all have outstanding programs.

I haven't researched the options available to someone wanting to do this for vet school, but I am aware of students who are using this method to complete their bachelor's degree in order to get into med school. Typically students will enroll in a distance learning program that allows them to earn a degree in pre-med, biology, or botany. As long as these students maintain a high GPA and complete all prerequisite courses for med school within their undergraduate studies their chances for getting in to med school are very good.

Kysa: Is there a good resource that lists regionally accredited institutions that offer distance education courses by PRICE for OUT of state students?

Brad Voeller: The best resource is Peterson's Guide to Distance Learning Programs. It lists almost 1,000 schools and it also lists OUT of state and IN state tuition rates.

DMX: I'm curious to know how degrees earned through distance learning are viewed out in the 'real world'?

Brad Voeller: They're viewed as perfectly legitimate provided they are earned from an accredited college or university. In fact, this type of credential has a lot of selling points. It demonstrates a high level of responsibility and other important qualities. If the student has used the time savings resulting from this method for pursuing significant life experience - work, ministry, volunteer - he or she will have also gained other very important knowledge and skills.

Marcelyn: What about "special" degrees that don't lend themselves well to self-teaching or distance teaching? What is your advice concerning them, would you advise to pursue the basic college courses and transfer to a regular institution when they have been achieved? I am talking about degrees that require intense private instruction or classes that require personal contact in order to be effective like music and foreign language. Is it even possible to obtain these type of degrees through a distance type program?

Brad Voeller: Yes, some courses will still need to be completed through the classroom. However, anything that is currently taught in the classroom can be done through distance learning - it's just a matter of taking existing technology and making it more mainstream.

One of the best ways to complete hands-on type courses through distance learning is portfolio assessment. For example, if your daughters want to get college credit for vocal performance they could find a very talented instructor in your local area to give them voice instruction. Your daughters could then document their learning and compare it to its equivalent college course. A professor who normally teaches that course will then evaluate your daughters' work. If judged satisfactory, they will receive college credit for their studies outside the classroom.

Carol: What personality types do best with ADL (accelerated distance learning)?

Brad Voeller: I have seen more outgoing and more reserved types both do well with ADL. Success with this method is more dependent on character than personality. Qualities like initiative, responsibility, creativity, determination, organization are all critical to a students success. Some students respond by saying "I don't have those qualities", or "I'm not an organized type of person". This might be true right now, but these qualities can and should be developed. After all, if you don't learn and use them now for academics, what will your student do after finishing school and discovering that the real world also demands these qualities?

Elizabeth: I'm a homeschooling mom who would like to complete my degree along with my daughters. How can I find the best way to transfer my hours, begin CLEP testing, and receive credit for life experience, (travel, business ownership, and homeschooling parent)? My twelve year old daughter will begin Algebra I this fall, so for example, can we both CLEP it after course completion, and proceed from there?

Brad Voeller: Just imagine college being a family project! I think you and your daughter would have a great time pursuing college studies together. You've already got the right idea. Go with a college that accepts a larger number of transfer credits, transfer in your existing credit, and start taking CLEP exams with your daughter for those introductory courses like College Algebra. Later, you can take online or correspondence courses for the upper level courses you need to complete your degree. The specific answers you will need as you move forward with this are all found in my book and on Thomas Edison College's Web site.

Dale: I homeschool also and have been wanting to complete my bachelors. I've already completed my AA and have been taking classes from IUS for the Bachelors of General Studies. (This is the only degree they offer through distance learning.) Do you have any suggestions concerning schools offering specific degrees (not general studies)?

Brad Voeller: There are many other degrees available through distance learning. Check out Excelsior College for a sampling of what's available. If you want to search through almost 1,000 schools you can take a look at Peterson's Guide to On-line Learning.

Judy: Have you heard of the Great Books Academy program, where you can simultaneously graduate with a high school diploma and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree?

Brad Voeller: I've heard of students who have done portfolios based on what they learned through the Great Books course and then used the credit towards earning a degree from another accredited college. I personally haven't evaluated the program though.

Chris: Would it still be necessary for me to put together a high school transcript for each child for admission to, say, Thomas Edison State College, or would the CLEP credits he'd earn be sufficient?

Brad Voeller: You've got the idea. Just have him complete the five general CLEP exams. Later when he enrolls in the distance learning program the school won't be concerned about a high school transcript because he already has acquired significant college credit.

Lisa S.: What is the best way to get started with distance learning, and how can we set up my senior daughter's schedule in a "dual credit" format for her last year? I believe that she will probably attend a state university the following year. Do I have to check with them to see if she would receive credit for each course?

Brad Voeller: One way to do this in a very flexible and cost-effective manner is to have her start by taking CLEP exams. You could have her final high school courses focused on preparing for the CLEP. Once she's done with the course you've designed for her she will take the corresponding CLEP exam. For example you could have her study the Apologia Biology materials and take a few sample CLEP exams. When she feels prepared enough, she'll take the CLEP Biology. If your plan is for her to attend college at the local state college, you will want to check and make sure that they accept the CLEP credits.

Marcelyn: I understand the advantage of being able to develop a portfolio and gain credit for life experience but if student does not have the experiences for this type of credit what is the advantage to using one of these type colleges over a state university that has distance education, such as Texas Tech or University of Indiana?

Brad Voeller: One advantage is cost. If you don't live in Texas or Indiana, you'll find those schools to be quite a bit more expensive than a school like Thomas Edison or Charter Oak. However, Texas and Indiana have very good distance learning programs. If they offer the degree your interested in, I would seriously consider their programs too.

Joanne: Is a grade given for CLEP tests or simply a credit?

Brad Voeller: This depends on the school you transfer the CLEP credit to. Some Schools will give you a letter grade and others will just list it as pass-fail. CLEP will give you a certain percentile score. The colleges typically use it to determine the grade you receive.

Allie: Are there any strategies or skills I can help my young students acquire to help them in the future, for this kind of learning?

Kysa: Developing independent learning skills will be the most important thing. This goes for children attending traditional colleges as well as the correspondence/test out option. Being able to do the work on your own is a VERY important skill. And it is one that we parents have to LET the children learn. This often means letting them fall on their faces a few times.

Many thanks to Brad Voeller for sharing his thoughts with us here at!

Related Resources

Review of Accelerated Distance Learning's High School Resource Section's Beyond High School Resource Section