Online learning is growing in popularity among the glitterati. If you look around, you'll find famous online alumni among actors, actresses and super athletes. That’s right, your favorite stars are sneaking around and - gasp - attending college online. Scrutinize the back row of online college lecture halls and you’ll spot a handful of celebs in shades scribbling furiously just like the rest of us. But non-traditional learning is nothing new for the "who's who" of society. Even before the internet came into being, a handful of famous hot, brainy homeschooled dudes were gettin' their learn on with the help of correspondence degree courses. Why would famous people go to college online? Well, think about it - celebs can’t exactly stroll into algebra class, plop down in the back row, and expect no one to notice. Being a college student is hard if you’re famous. Successful people have hectic lives. Super athletes, for example, travel around like ping pong balls. As a result, few super stars can reliably make it to accounting class every Tuesday night at 6 PM. It’s difficult for the famous to fit their lives into a five hundred square foot classroom. Thank God they no longer have to. I’ve been asked to name names, so here it is, the official Get Educated list of the top 3 “Online Learning Glitterati,” famous online alumni who've used distance learning to further their careers.
Tennis great and clothing designer, Venus Williams, selected an old-fashioned public Ivy -- Indiana University -- when it came time for her to learn how to manage her merchandising empire. After scooping up seven Grand Slam titles, the tennis star enrolled in a business bachelors through online learning from Indiana University-East. IU Chancellor Nasser Paydar likes to downplay the celebrity’s enrollment. “She’s one of 3,600-whatever students this semester,” remarked Chancellor Paydar in an interview with the Indianapolis Star in 2010. “She’s just one student. Every student is as important as the other one.” Er, maybe, Chancellor Paydar, but we at Get Educated think it would jazz up an online accounting class to have either of those bad-assed Williams sisters as a virtual study buddy...
Marcia Cross is undoubtedly the most famous desperate housewife to use online learning to make a mid-life career change. Cross, who played Bree Van de Kamp on the hit TV series “Desperate Housewives,” attended the low-residency masters in psychology program at Antioch College in Los Angeles. Earning her graduate degree between TV takes with “Seinfeld,” “Melrose Place,” “Spin City,” and “CSI,” in a yawning stretch between 1997 and 2003, Cross snagged her lead role in the "Housewives" series in 2004 with a newly minted psych degree on the mantle. Guess that psych degree was part of her back up plan– in case her acting career dreams didn’t pan out. In case you wondered, Cross’s bachelors degree was earned the old-fashioned way, at Juilliard, a school befitting Bree, her acting alter ego.
We’ll update this list as the names of new online learning glitterati roll in.
About the Author: Vicky Phillips was cited in 2009 by US News & World Report as "for 20 years the leading consumer advocate for online college students." In 1989 she designed America's first online counseling center for distance learners on AOL. In 1998 she authored the first print guide to online graduate degrees - Best Distance Learning Graduate Schools put out by the Princeton Review. In 2001 she authored Never Too Late to Learn the Adult Student's Guide to College.
Image Credits (in order of appearance):
Francisco Diez / flickr
Edwin Martinez (flickr)
satin_shirt / flickr
Keith Allison / flickr
Bob Bekian (flickr)