Why Online Classes?
If you’re in a hurry to advance your education and open the door to bigger and better opportunities, online classes may be for you!
There are more than 37,000 accredited online degree programs available at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and certificate levels. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, by 2029, total undergraduate enrollment is projected to increase to 17.0 million students.
But who are all these students, and why are they opting to complete their classes online?
We have answers to all of your questions about online classes. Read on!
Who should take online classes?
It used to be that online classes were a way for adults to get a quick refresher on technology as it advanced. But nowadays, millions of students – of all ages, and for all types of reasons – are pursuing higher education online.
Online classes are an especially good option for:
- Working adults looking to advance their careers (to earn a promotion or pay raise)
- Working adults looking to change their career field
- Parents who had children young and are now ready to pursue a career field
- People with dependents (for example, those caring for aging relatives)
- People who live in remote areas and/or are not near a college campus
- Disabled individuals who have difficulty getting to/around campus
- Individuals with chronic illnesses and/or who require regular hospitalization
- People who travel often
Still, there are students who do not fit the descriptions above but choose to enroll in online classes because of the many advantages they provide.
Top 10 Advantages to Taking Online Classes
It’s true there are many advantages to taking college-level classes online. Here are our top 10:
Online learning means you don’t have to put your existing commitments – your job, your family, etc. – on hold while you focus on your education. Instead, you can fit your education around everything else. With online classes, course material is always accessible online, so you can listen to lectures during your morning commute, or write a paper after your kids are in bed.
2. Lower Cost
At some colleges and universities, tuition for online programs is lower than it is for on-campus But even when tuition costs are the same, the additional expenses for online students are usually much lower. Online students can avoid paying for a dorm room, items to outfit the dorm room, parking fees and/or commuting costs, cafeteria meal plans, activity fees, textbooks, and so on. Online students only have to pay for their credits.
3. Career Advancement
Earning your degree online will show current or prospective employers that you are ambitious, self-motivated, and committed to continued education in your field of expertise. This may earn you a promotion or raise, or help you secure a position you have been eyeing.
Major obstacles such as traffic, lack of transportation, health issues, childcare conflicts, inconsistent work schedules, travel, and so on are non-issues when it comes to online learning. You can complete your course requirements at your convenience, wherever you are.
5. No Commute
In addition to avoiding the expense or hassle of a commute, online students avoid the hazards, too. Snowstorms, ice storms, and thunderstorms, as well as threats of tornados, hurricanes, and the like, can force students to choose between dangerous commutes or missing classes. Online students can always “attend” class from the safety of their home or workplace.
As an online learner, you can set your own pace. If you’re hoping to graduate quickly, you can opt for an accelerated program. If you have a lot going on in your life, you can enroll in just 3 credit hours. Likewise, if your Fridays are always jam-packed with obligations, you can commit to doing more studying on Saturdays.
7. Transfer Ability
As long as you are enrolled at an accredited college, your online classes should easily transfer to other accredited colleges. What’s more? Those credits will look just the same as credits earned while sitting in a classroom.
8. Fewer Distractions
In a traditional classroom, it can be tough to focus on. You may have classmates nearby playing on their phones, typing feverishly, whispering, drumming their pencils, eating lunch, chatting about parties, and so on. As an online learner, you won’t have to deal with those distractions. You will have control over your learning environment. If classical music helps you concentrate, you can crank it up. If you learn a best first thing in the morning, in your pajamas, that’s fine, too. You can determine what type of learning environment is ideal, and provide that for yourself.
9. Rolling Admission
While a traditional college student would need to begin at the designated start date of their school’s semester or trimester, many online programs allow you to start anytime, or at multiple start points throughout the year. This means you can enroll and begin your educational program at virtually any time!
10. More Classes and Degree Options
If you’re looking at degree programs or specific classes offered near your hometown or home state, your options might be pretty limited. Online learning can provide you access to classes and degree programs throughout the country!
Online learning has a lot of advantages, but it isn’t a one-size-fits-all option.
Top 6 Disadvantages to Taking Online Classes
Even with all of those advantages, there are still drawbacks to online learning. Here are some things you should take into consideration:
1. You will need certain personality traits…
Online learning requires you to be a different sort of student than you have been in the past. In order to be successful, you will need to:
- Be organized – No one will be constantly reminding you about classes, assignments, or exams; it will all rest on your shoulders. You will need to know what the expectations are and how you will meet them.
- Be self-motivated –With no scheduled class time, it’s easy to put things off. It’s up to you to prioritize your schoolwork and stay on top of it.
- Manage your time efficiently – Sometimes students get absorbed in the work for one class at the expense of others. You will need to manage your time wisely and find a good balance.
- Know yourself – It’s up to you to determine your course load, the pace you work at, and your ideal study environment.
- Be pro-active – Professors and advisors aren’t going to come to you, so you need to reach out when you’re struggling or need help deciding which classes to take.
If the above qualities don’t seem to describe you, you may need to make some adjustments in order to do well in online classes.
2. Not all degree programs are available online.
Some subjects simply don’t lend themselves to an online format. Those subjects may require hands-on training or the use of specialized equipment, neither of which can be adequately simulated for online students. If you are pursuing a field like this, chances are you will need to take at least some of your classes on campus.
3. Not all schools are accredited.
Unfortunately, there are phony online schools out there, so it’s important to do your research to ensure the program you choose is legitimate. Check the school’s website to see that it is accredited and by which agency, and then verify that by visiting the accrediting agency’s website.
4. There is interaction, but it’s not quite the same.
There’s something to be said for face-to-face interaction. In a traditional classroom setting, you can read your professor’s mannerisms and tone, which can help you understand and later recall the material. You are also able to have casual conversations with classmates – which, if on topic, can be valuable learning experiences. Online classes do encourage you to interact with professors and classmates in the online environment, but you may miss out on some of the nuances of in-person interaction.
5. It may be harder to “network.”
When you attend class on campus, you are constantly surrounded by professors, faculty, guest lecturers, and other students who share the passion for the field you’re in. You can even join campus organizations that can connect you to real-life professionals. These connections can be very valuable in shaping your future, and could even lead to a job offer one day.
This networking opportunity isn’t quite the same online, so you may need to be more resourceful by making connections at work or through professional organizations.
6. You will need the proper equipment and the ability to use it.
Online students need a reliable, up-to-date computer and fast internet connection. You may also need other related items, such as a printer, webcam, and headset, flash drive, or other software or tools related to your field of study. Your school’s website should list these requirements.
Overall there are more advantages than disadvantages when it comes to taking college classes online, but it’s important to understand the key differences between the two formats.
Why online classes are better than in classroom classes. What’s the difference?
Obviously, online classes are taken at home (or work, or a coffee shop, or wherever you choose) while traditional classes are taken in an on-campus classroom, but let’s dig deeper.
What do the two have in common, and how do they differ?
|Traditional Classes||Online Classes|
|Interaction with other students||Yes||Yes|
|Access to professors/faculty||Yes||Yes|
|Access to Academic Advisors||Yes||Yes|
|Coursework (assignments, papers, projects, exams)||Yes||Yes|
|Feedback / Grades||Yes||Yes|
There are quite a few similarities between the two. But one important difference that many need to consider is the cost.
Why are online classes more expensive?
They usually aren’t!
Most reputable colleges and universities charge the exact same tuition rate for online students and traditional students. They may also offer a special tuition rate that waives the “out-of-state fees” for online learners.
Occasionally a school will tack on a technology fee at their discretion, but not always.
Why are online classes cheaper?
In most cases, reputable, accredited colleges and universities charge the same tuition rate for online classes as they charge for classes held in on-campus classrooms.
But there are two additional factors that may make online classes more affordable:
- As mentioned above, if you are attending from out of state, some universities will waive that increased fee for online students. You may instead pay the in-state tuition rate or a drastically lower price than what you’d pay as an out-of-state student studying on campus.
- Additional fees. Online classes often don’t require textbooks or course materials, and there is no cost to commute.
These “minor” savings can really add up when you consider the overall cost of college!
Why are Online Classes Easier Than Traditional On-Campus Programs?
This is subjective.
Online and on-campus classes are usually taught by the same professors, using the same syllabus. Online and on-campus students complete the same or very similar coursework – papers, projects, presentations, quizzes, and exams – and both have strict deadlines they must meet. Thus, the level of difficulty is the same.
The only difference is in how the material is being presented, and whether that is easier or harder for you depends on your own learning style. If you are a motivated self-starter, online classes may be easier for you.
Why are online classes harder?
Again, this is subjective. Online classes operate just like traditional classrooms. You will follow a syllabus and be given assignments, research papers, and exams. The question is: How will you handle that?
Generally speaking, you should expect to commit 3 hours of study time per week per credit, which means that for a 3 credit course you should devote about 9 hours per week. How this time is spent will depend on the course and the instructor, but it will be up to you to ensure you meet those expectations. If you are not the type of person who can keep your classwork organized, get up and going each day, and make sure you’re doing everything necessary for each class, then you may find online classes harder than traditional classes.
How Do Online College Classes Work?
A lot of people are intimidated by online classes because the concept is so foreign to them. But online classes really aren’t much different from traditional classes.
Here’s what you can expect:
- Software—Most colleges use the web-based platform Blackboard, or something very similar, for their online programs. This can be set up differently based on each professor’s preferences, but inside each “virtual classroom” you will usually have access to your syllabus and course materials, recent lectures, a discussion board, grades and feedback, and of course a way to contact your professor.
- Lectures — Just as in traditional college classes, there are usually lectures daily or weekly that explain new concepts. Online students may listen to or watch the lectures on their computers, or there may be an option to read it instead.
- Assignments and Exams — Depending on the course, you may have required reading, short assignments, papers, and/or exams to complete. There will be strict deadlines, and your completed coursework will have to be uploaded or emailed by a certain day and time.
- Discussion — In a traditional classroom, a professor can gauge a students’ understanding of the material by his or her involvement in classroom discussions. In online classes, those discussions take place in internet forums. You may have a specific prompt you have to respond to, or you may have to introduce a discussion topic of your own.
The virtual classroom is designed to mimic the traditional classroom that most students are familiar with, so it is likely to feel very natural and familiar to you.
Online classes may not be a good fit for everyone, but for most people, they are the perfect solution.
Online classes can work around busy schedules, commitments, and obstacles, and make it possible for students to earn advanced degrees quickly.