Court Reporting Programs Online

You can earn a degree or certificate online for a court reporting careerWith the ever-improving development of technology, online education programs are no longer viewed by employers as inadequate forms of training.  Reputable educational institutions from all over the country now offer high-quality options for students who are unable to participate in traditional classroom settings.  The busy schedules and family obligations of today’s potential students have driven many learning facilities to come up with creative alternatives for motivated people to get the educational training they need to advance.  Like many other fields, training to become a court reporter through online programs is gaining more and more popularity and respect.

How Online Training Programs Work:
In the same way certain variables differ with programs offered at physical campus locations, online court reporting programs have varying durations, courses, tuition costs, and training methods.  The primary focus for these programs, however, is generally the same.  They are specifically developed and intended for people who are unable to attend a college campus, such as older students who are currently working and are interested in a change in their careers, people facing loss of employment due to layoffs, single parents with unpredictable schedules, or individuals who are encumbered by distance from a training location.

Your particular situation will help determine the type of program you need to consider.  Some online programs run on quarters, while others are based on the student’s performance in determining the duration of the training.  Many programs are set up in a typical 16-week semester fashion.  That is usually the case for programs being offered by schools which also offer the training program on their campuses.  These types of programs are similar in structure to their physical campus counterparts, but they offer the student the convenience of making an in-person appearance unnecessary.  For programs like these, virtual attendance and performance requirements are the same as those for the campus student.  The courses offered are delivered on regular schedules and during certain semesters, just as though the student had opted to attend classes at the campus location.  

Many of the online programs have orientation sessions which review school policies and procedures.  Students are introduced to the various resources that are available to them, just like their physical campus classmates.  They receive advice and tips for succeeding in the program, as well as instruction on how to interact in an online environment.  Counseling and guidance support services, as well as job search help and assistance with resume writing, are provided to online students at no charge by most educational institutions.

Prerequisite Skills:
If you are a person who hyperventilates at the thought of online banking or if the words “wireless mouse” make you think of cat toys, an online court reporter training program is probably not your best option in education.  However, if you are proficient in communicating through electronic means, such as email, forums, and social media, you should have no problem communicating with instructors and classmates.  Other computer functions you should be familiar with are downloading, saving, and locating files; sending and receiving email attachments; and utilizing search engines for research.

After enrolling in a program, students will register for various courses and then be directed to log in to a virtual classroom.  Generally a student will be greeted with a page containing announcements and links to assignment folders.  Depending on the program, these folders may contain daily or weekly assignments, or possibly a large block of interactive lessons that must be mastered before the next set of lessons is released.

For most online programs, students participate regularly with instructors and classmates in discussion board forums.  Instructors can be easily accessible for individual assistance through the course site.  There are also opportunities for students to have realtime chat sessions with guest speakers.  Professional court reporters, communication access realtime translation (CART) providers, and broadcast captioners can remotely interact with online students and provide significant insight into the professions available to people with court reporter training.  The majority of online programs have a technical staff which is available 24 hours a day to assist students with issues not related to their coursework.

Attendance requirements vary among online court reporting programs.  For some training facilities, scheduled virtual classroom attendance during the week is mandatory.  These program sessions may also include required elements such as forum participation, weekly assignments, and regular examinations.  Failure to attend the scheduled classes and other online activities can result in an absence for that session.  Just as a failing grade can be given for skipping classes for courses taken on a physical campus, not meeting the attendance requirement for online courses can result in no credit being given for that class.  

There are some court reporting programs which offer a hybrid-type approach to training.  These educational facilities offer online courses through virtual classrooms, but they also require completion of some of the class sessions to be done on site at a campus.  Generally multiple session dates and times are posted for these necessary on-site visits, thereby allowing online students to have several opportunities to attend a particular class.

Some online training programs do not require the student to attend a regularly scheduled virtual class meeting.  Though these programs do not necessitate formal attendance of a class, the student’s participation in forum discussions, as well as the completion of assignments and examinations, is required.  The student has full online access to homework assignments, practice exercises, and other general class information.  Through the virtual classroom, a student can post completed assignments, chat with classmates, and take required exams.  Access is available anytime, and the student does not have to be logged into the classroom at any particular time during the week.  However, the weekly assignments posted in the virtual classroom will have specific due dates, and those assignments must be submitted on time.

For students who are unable to participate in a training program requiring any type of time structure, programs developed to be delivered on a class-by-class basis are an available option.  These programs require no formal attendance and generally have no time limitations as to when the course material must be completed.  Rather, completion of each class session is done at the convenience of the student and at the student’s own pace.  Programs of this nature are usually provided through video presentations online, DVDs, and even VHS tapes.  Because of their informal nature, these types of courses are generally not closely monitored by an instructor.  The successful completion of a program such as this is usually determined by the student’s passing of a state or national certification examination.

Virtual Classroom/Forum Etiquette:
Except for the incredibly uncomfortable desks and the potential for contracting communicable diseases, most online classrooms are very similar in function to those of a physical classroom.  Many court reporter training programs offer live evening classes through these virtual classrooms.  They are designed to provide students with the same type of interaction they would experience in a campus location.  Students can easily participate in class discussions, ask questions, and really get to know their peers.

While unkempt Jane Doe sneezing into the back of your head may not be an issue you have to face as an online student, you are expected to conduct yourself as though the dean of the college is sitting on the couch with you.  Abusive, obscene, and insulting language is not tolerated any more in an online environment than it would be in the four walls of a campus classroom.  When communicating and participating in online class discussions and forums, students must be mindful that everything they are “saying” is being delivered to all of their virtual classmates.  Inappropriate behavior in an online educational setting is unacceptable and constitutes grounds for termination from the program.

Tuition and Equipment Costs:
The most widely accepted methods of court reporter training are machine writing and voice writing.  Except for the training courses in the actual technique used for taking down the record, the remaining program courses are generally the same.  The reason for this is, regardless of the method used, the primary duties of a court reporter, captioner, or CART provider do not differ.

For an online education, obviously the most significant piece of equipment you should have access to is a reliable computer.  Another crucial element for online classes is a highspeed Internet connection.  Though requirements may differ depending on the program, some training facilities will not accept 3G and 4G wireless hotspot connections for their online courses.

Specific equipment and tuition costs vary based on the court reporting method chosen and the educational institution offering the program.  Generally machine shorthand writers are required to have a student realtime-capable machine writer and at least a student version of the educational institution’s preferred CAT (computer-aided transcription) software.  The cost of this equipment and software is approximately $2,500.  Students training to become voice writers are required to obtain a stenomask, Dragon voice recognition software, and CAT software.  The cost of this equipment and software is approximately $1,000.  Other equipment, such as a digital voice recorder, transcription foot pedal, and headphones may also be required for certain online programs.

Tuition, fees, and expenses for textbooks for online programs for machine writers can range from $14,000 to over $20,000 per year.  These programs routinely are completed in about two years.  The tuition for online training for voice writing can be comparable to that of machine writing, especially for programs available from institutions offering both methods of training.  However, online voice writing programs that are completed at the student’s own pace generally range from about $2,400 to $6,625 and can theoretically be completed in less than a year.

Like programs offered at physical campuses, online programs are eligible for student financial aid.  Private and public organizations and foundations help online students with their educational expenses.  Some entities, such as the National Court Reporters Association Foundation, provide financial assistance specifically for court reporting students.  The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is available to seek assistance at almost all educational institutions.

Matters to Consider Before Enrolling in an Online Program:
It goes without saying that there are aspects of online training that differ significantly from programs taken by attending classes on a physical campus.  Online programs are definitely not for everybody.  They take intense personal commitment and self-motivation.  If you are a student who lacks these two vital traits, court reporter training online will likely be a waste of your time and money.  You must have the ability to set priorities and meet deadlines.

An online program also requires that a student be comfortable working with different types of technology.  There will be lots of downloading and uploading and retrieving of attached files from emails.  If these sorts of activities present a challenge for you, online court reporter training may not be your best educational option.  

Online programs by their very nature limit a student’s personal interaction with instructors and classmates.  For some people, this is a perfect fit.  However, personal interaction is very important to other people.  Without it, they do not excel as well as they would have by experiencing the comradery of classmates.  Though some people are quite content to progress independently and handle isolation and virtual relationships very well, others find that chat rooms and faceless friends are just not enough.  For those students, many programs offer the alternative of having a mix of online and physical classroom time.

Whether attending a physical campus or an online program, another consideration any potential court reporting student should address is the specific educational requirements for his or her resident state.  Some states will allow court reporters who have successfully completed an NCRA- or NVRA-approved program to begin practicing under a temporary license.  These licenses are usually good for one year, in order to allow sufficient time for the student to register and pass the examination for either the RPR or CVR.  In some states, however, court reporters must successfully pass the state-approved examination, regardless of where or how you received your training.  Becoming aware of your particular state’s requirements prior to beginning any court reporting program is a prudent thing to do.

Is Online Training a Good Fit for You?
The decision to begin an online program is not one to be taken lightly.  You are the only person who can determine if this type of program is something that can work out for you.  Introspection is required, and you only hurt yourself if you are not honest about the realities of your personality and character.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with admitting that an online program may not be your best training alternative.  If it is not, there are certainly many other options available to match your particular learning needs.  However, if you have the necessary traits to be successful in an online educational environment, these types of programs can be the life-changing answer to the dilemma of being unable to attend regular classes.  Many quality options exist to help you reach your goal of becoming a court reporter, captioner, or CART provider.

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Written by , CCR on 5/17/2013 Suzanne has been a court reporter and worked in legal communities for over 18 years. 

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