Gone are the days when college students have to roll out of bed, get dressed, drive or walk to a traditional college campus and sit through a lecture. Thanks to numerous online education options, that is no longer necessary.
Online education programs have become a popular alternative to attending class in person. In fact, more than 28 percent of students (about 5.8 million) now take at least one online education course, according to a 2015 study. As crazy as it sounds, most degrees that were at one time only available through a brick-and-mortar university can now be obtained entirely online.
Online Education vs. a Traditional College Education
You may be wondering what an online education is like, and how it differs from a traditional college degree. Here’s how these schools compare:
Traditional College Education
- Full-time traditional college students generally take about 12 or more credits (around five classes per semester), while part-time students take about six credits, which equates to three classes per semester.
- Classes are structured with an assigned classroom with a real professor.
- Deadlines are set in place for assignments, exams, labs, etc.
- Professors have office hours for students to address any concerns they may have with the class.
- Many professors require students to physically attend class regularly otherwise they could be dropped from the course or receive an “F”.
- Many traditional students have a part-time job and don’t obtain a full-time job until after they’ve graduated with their degree. Other students who have a full-time job attend night or weekend classes.
- Traditional colleges and universities also have campus activities, such as clubs and organizations, sports teams, and other fun social gatherings. Since students must attend class physically, they all live within a close distance of campus.
- Typically takes place entirely on the Internet, including assignments, professor lectures, and exams. Other online programs are hybrid, which means classes are partially online and partially in person.
- Some brick-and-mortar universities, such as North Carolina State University offer online degree programs, while other schools, such as Capella University, have programs entirely online.
- You can complete your degree online from anywhere, including from your home, work, library, or coffee shop, as long as you have a computer and internet access.
- Online classes may range from five to eight weeks in length, depending on the university program.
- Lectures by the instructor are often either pre-recorded for students to view at their own convenience or are in written form for students to read.
- Some professors will schedule a live video conference where students can engage with one another as well as with the professor and answer any questions.
- Most classes require students to participate in weekly forums and discussion posts on topics pertinent to the class.
- Most students taking classes online have full-time jobs during the day, and complete their coursework in the evenings, weekends, or during their lunch break.
- Students aren’t limited by a physical distance to a college campus. Instead, students are often from many different areas of the country.
- Though students aren’t able to participate in social activities a brick-and-mortar university may offer, many online programs, such as the Integrated Marketing Communications graduate program at West Virginia University, host annual conferences where students and alumni can meet, network, and enhance their skills.
5 Reasons Why You Should Consider an Online Education
From networking opportunities to keep your day job, there are many advantages to obtaining an online education. Here are five amazing benefits:
1. Wide variety of online programs
Thanks to an online education, you are no longer limited to the programs available at a traditional university closest to you.
An online education allows you to choose from a wide variety of online degrees from a large number of accredited universities and colleges across the country. For example, at Arizona State University, students can choose from more than 150 online undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates in areas, such as business, communication, health, engineering, technology, among others, all of which are 100 percent online.
Note: Accreditation ensures the program is of high quality. Online education programs are required to state which agencies they are accredited by. For example, Western Governor’s University is accredited by a number of organizations, such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education, and National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, among others.
2. Greater convenience and flexibility
With an online education, you are typically not required to attend class on specific days or times. Since your class content is available to you 24/7, an online education gives you flexibility in choosing when and where to study and complete your assignments as long as they’re submitted by the deadline. So, if you are going on a business trip or vacation, taking care of a sick relative, or can only study in the evenings after your kids go to bed, you can still keep up with your class.
3. Keeping your day job
There are many reasons why you may not be able to give up your full-time job and attend an on-campus university. These include being dependent on an income to pay the bills and not wanting to quit a job you love. With an online education, you don’t have to quit your job! Because an online education is so flexible, you can balance both at the same time. Those who are obtaining an online education commonly work during the day and work on their class assignments during their free time.
4. No commute
One of the best advantages of an online education is there is no commute. If you wanted to, you could stay in your pajamas as you complete your coursework and no one will ever know!
With an online education, you don’t have to worry about missing class or even being late to class. If there is a terrible storm or a bad wreck on the freeway, you won’t have to stress. Eliminating the commute also lets you save more time–and gas– in your day to study and get other things done.
5. Networking opportunities
An online education gives you the opportunity to network with professors and students in your courses. How? Since your class is online, your professor and class peers are likely to be from different backgrounds and live in different parts of the country. Many of them may be employed or at least have a contact at a company or organization they can connect you with to help you find a job you’re interested in.
Other Additional Benefits
There are several other benefits of an online education, including:
- If you are shy, have social anxiety, or have fear speaking up in class or asking your professor for help, an online education eliminates that, since you are communicating electronically
- If you need to email your professor a question, he or she will typically respond within 24 hours
- Some online education programs are less expensive than in-person programs
- Some online universities, like Kaplan University, let you do a 3-week, tuition-free trial period of a class to see if you like the online education experience
- Some online universities, such as University of Phoenix, provide services, such as one-on-one tutoring, educational workshops, finding a job, and resume and cover letter guidance
Questions to Ask Yourself
Here are a few questions you should ask yourself to know if an online education is right fit for you:
- Does a university offer an online degree I’m interested in?
- Is that program accredited?
- How much will the program cost?
- Can I afford to pay for the program on my own or will I need financial assistance?
- How much time will I need to commit to studying and completing assignments each week?
- How many classes do I want to take at once? How many classes am I allowed to take per semester?
- Will I be self-motivated enough to complete my degree online?
- How long will it take for me to complete my degree, if I go at my own pace?
- Does the program have a strong alumni network?
Get An Online Education
The best thing about an online education is it’s super convenient. As long as your online university is accredited, you can earn a certificate, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or doctorate degree that is as legitimate as a degree from an on-campus college. Plus, you can complete it on your own time, while also balancing work and family.
To get started, search for an online program you’re interested in, and keep track of when the application deadlines are. You’re well on your way to obtaining a degree right from your own home!
Online Education Resources
To help you prepare for an online education, check out the following resources to help you get started:
- Need help finding a degree program? Complete this form to find the right match.
- Use FAFSA.ed.gov to apply for financial assistance.
- Make sure the program you choose is accredited by a private, non-governmental organization, all of which are monitored by the U.S. Department of Education.
- Information on occupations by education level and projected growth.