Learning for the long haul
Online learning can actually provide more opportunities for students and teachers to interact. Patterson, who graduated with honors from Kaplan’s associate’s program, recommends taking online seminar classes, which are like a chat room.
“If there’s something you don’t understand, you can talk to the teachers and other students,” Patterson says. “I hadn’t been in school for 30 years, so when algebra came up, I was kinda lost. I picked up how to do it through talking to the professor and e-mailing her back and forth. I passed it with a B+. I was real proud of myself.”
At InCab U, students travel through the coursework in groups, so they can develop relationships with their fellow students.
“You rely heavily on relationships you form with your classmates online,” Ricketts says. “You’re not being thrown in with different people.”
The students also have e-mail access to their professors, and they can post questions on a discussion board, so other students can provide feedback.
“You do rely a lot more on your individual ability to gather information and process information, but the cool thing about these online programs is you’ve got all these resources at your fingertips,” Ricketts says.
According the 2006 Truckers News Reader Survey, about 62 percent of truckers use the Internet, and laptops are growing more popular.
“More and more drivers are carrying laptops,” Cerra says. “I’ve got a mobile satellite on my truck, but a lot of drivers are using the WiFi at truckstops. It’s becoming a lot more friendly for drivers.”
Education for the long haul
Education isn’t strictly a route to leaving the truck behind. Cerra thinks of his future pharmacy degree as a back-up plan.
“I enjoy my career, but this will allow me to fall back on something if I need to,” he says. “If we have kids, and my life changes, I’ll have something to look forward to. It’s a phenomenal living, but it’s hard to do your whole life.”
If you’re planning to stay behind the wheel for the long haul, furthering your education – whether through a college or professional program – can improve your career.
“The better educated a driver is, the more it helps their job,” Cerra says. “Having a degree in something like accounting can make or break a person’s career. The industry is getting more technical, and you have to know a lot more than you did 10 years ago.”