More and more students are turning to online learning. Many even pursue their bachelor’s and master’s degree online.
But why? What are the benefits of learning online -- or obtaining an online degree?
As a remote instructor myself, I have all the answers you need. Let’s take a look at the advantages in depth.
Why Choose Online Courses Over Traditional Classes?
There are many differences between online and traditional classes. It’s precisely these differences that make learning online so attractive to modern students:
|Online Education||Traditional Education|
|Learning from home||Learning in a physical classroom|
|Versatile online programs||Limited number and types of courses|
|Learn at your own pace||Follow the pace of the class|
|Make your own schedule||Have the schedule done for you|
There are some other benefits of online education that I’ll discuss in length below.
For now, know that you should choose online courses if:
- You prefer working alone
- You don’t care for the usual college experience
- You’ve developed both self-motivation and self-discipline
- You want to attend a class that isn’t available on on-campus programs
What Are the Benefits of Online Learning?
Being an online class teacher myself, I might be biased but I believe online learning is infinitely more beneficial than traditional learning.
I’ll try to explain why by discussing the eight key benefits of online learning below that will help you understand how does an online course work.
1. You’ll Get More Freedom
You know what they say: with more freedom comes more responsibility.
I won’t negate this.
In fact, I think that’s something to celebrate.
On the one hand, you’ll get to learn at your own pace and take online classes whenever it fits your other obligations.
But you’ll also have to develop solid time-management skills and learn to be self-disciplined.
Online students are usually better at organization than on-campus students.
While sticking to your online learning schedule might be tricky in the beginning, you’ll have to do it to achieve success. Eventually, it will become a habit of yours -- and a good one, may I add.
2. It Doesn’t Matter Where You Are
Online learning eliminated geographical restrictions. You can attend online classes held by, say, German instructors even if you’re in the U.S., U.K., or Taiwan.
Physical classrooms are replaced by an online learning environment open to all.
Besides that, you can take online classes right from the comfort of your home. You won’t waste time on long, useless commutes anymore.
3. It Also Doesn’t Matter Who You Are
We already said that online education connects students from around the world. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your socioeconomic background is.
If you sign up for an online class, you can expect it to be filled with a diverse group of people you wouldn’t have met otherwise.
What I particularly like about online classes is that there’s no room for prejudice or cultural stereotypes. Everyone is welcome, regardless of their race or social status.
4. You Get to Be Really Comfortable
You can pursue online learning from a comfortable learning environment -- your bed, desk, or even your floor. It really doesn’t matter.
I know quite a few students who get anxious in classroom space. In fact, they become more productive when they study at home because it’s a safe environment.
Also, you can attend online classes in your jammies or sweatpants. Besides the fact that sweatpants are oh-so-comfortable, you’ll also save some time you’d spend on getting ready for in-person courses.
5. There Are no Limits to Online Education
Virtual platforms offer students infinitely more opportunities than on-campus colleges.
You can choose between thousands of different courses and find the ones that suit you the best.
You’re not bound by what the college nearest to you offers.
For example, you might want to obtain a master’s degree in Spanish, but there might be no colleges that teach it near you.
That’s not a problem anymore.
Just replace traditional lecture halls with a virtual classroom -- you’ll surely find the right fit online.
Let’s take it a step further: once you find a course you like, you can check if another school offers it too.
That way, you might find identical or similar courses at much cheaper prices.
6. You’ll Save Money
I’ve already mentioned that learning online means you won’t waste time on commutes -- but it also means you won’t spend money on gas or bus tickets.
Besides that, online courses are usually much cheaper than traditional ones.
This is because schools, academic programs, and course creators don’t need to spend money on:
- Renting a classroom
- Paying a huge staff (e.g. to manage the buildings)
Online learners also save money they’d spend on:
- Buying food during lunch break or expensive drinks at a coffee shop
- Renting a room and board on a campus
- Buying paper books (these are usually replaced by free e-books in online classes)
Note that a school may offer financial aid to students who need help with paying tuition fees. Make sure you check your school’s eligibility criteria for financial aid before you pay.
7. Employers Will Like You More
Taking online classes will show your potential employees that you care about education and career advancement.
Besides that, you’ll also show them that you’re good at meeting deadlines, even if there’s no one supervising you all the time.
Taking online courses can also make you irreplaceable at your workplace.
The trick is in choosing courses that will teach you the technical skills you’ll need in your career.
Because online courses are easier and faster to make than traditional ones, many of them can teach you new skills that contemporary employers want.
Colleges cannot keep up and only start teaching “new” skills when they’re already outdated.
For example, you could previously only learn social media marketing through online courses because brick-and-mortar colleges simply didn’t teach it.
8. It’s Good for the Environment
One research focused on the environmental benefits of online learning. The research found that taking online courses can help reduce CO2 emissions tremendously because students no longer have to commute to campuses :
“The results indicate that offering a lower-division class of 100 students with an online format leads to reduced CO2 emissions of 5-10 tons per semester, and knowledge of such an environmental benefit leads to enhanced (..) satisfaction with distance learning.”
- J. Elliott Campbell and David E. Campbell, University of California & Humboldt State University
So, not only does the absence of commutes help you save both money and time, but it’s also good for the environment.
What’s more, online learners are actually more satisfied because they feel like they contribute to a positive change.
Why Do People Prefer Online Learning?
I could go on and on about the advantages of online learning but it wouldn’t be as powerful as hearing about it from other students, would it?
Here’s how one student described his online learning experience :
“I feel great relief because this [online] program does not require physical presence. (...) It also makes me happy that I can study in my own space; whatever time I want, I can also take a break and spend time with my children. That way I can better combine student and family life.”
- Anonymous student
Attending online classes helped him attain a balance between his studies and family commitments.
Another student mentions convenience as one of the main advantages of online classes :
“I find online learning to be extremely convenient. All I need is my laptop and books. It also keeps me productive, as I’m less exhausted than when I’m actually at school, and I’m no longer distracted by the people around me.”
- Kristie Chan Wing-hei, 15, Sha Tin College
Obtaining an online degree seems much easier and more convenient, especially for those who are already employed or have a family.
What Can I Gain From an Online Course?
We’ve seen that there are many benefits of taking a digital course -- or even attending an online college.
Still, some students wonder if they’ll be able to gain the same knowledge, skills, and qualifications they’d get in a regular classroom. The answer is yes.
Here’s what you can gain:
- Really, really good education. Online courses give you the opportunity to gain new knowledge from world-renowned professors and experts. This might not be an option if you were attending a regular college.
- New life skills. Remote students acquire new skills related to time management, organization, and self-discipline that they wouldn’t necessarily develop in a traditional classroom.
- A degree or certificate. Lastly, a high-quality online school offers its students a paper -- be it a college degree or a course certificate -- that helps them land better jobs and make them more attractive to potential employers.
5 Characteristics of a High-Quality Course
Now that you’re convinced that attending an online college or course won’t be a waste of your time, let’s see how you can identify high-quality courses.
(Lord knows there’s no shortage of scammy courses out there.)
Check if your chosen course has these 5 characteristics before you slide your credit card:
- Positive reviews. Good programs usually receive lots of positive reviews from their ex-students. Of course, there are always some students that won’t be satisfied. That’s why you should look at the ratio of positive vs. negative reviews.
- Timely feedback. The best classes involve timely feedback to all students coming directly from the instructor.
- Office hours. You should be able to reach your professor in case you have any questions about the coursework. If a program doesn’t offer you this, run.
- Mixed coursework. High-quality classes combine individual assignments with working with your peers on at least one group project. They should also offer you versatile study materials.
- Offers online degrees or certificates. You’ll know you found a good program if the course creators offer you a paper that confirms your newly acquired skills.
Should You Choose Online Courses? (A Short Questionnaire)
I never tell prospective students if they should or shouldn’t take online courses. This highly depends on their personality, learning style, and whether the benefits of online courses are even enticing to them.
But if you’re looking to earn your college degree or a masters’ degree, then I suggest you at least consider online programs.
I’ve developed a short questionnaire that could help you make your decision on whether you should pursue an online degree:
|Do you have effective learning management systems in place?||Yes/No|
|Do you work well in a virtual environment?||Yes/No|
|Do you have a computer?||Yes/No|
|Do you have a reliable Internet connection?||Yes/No|
|Do you need/want a flexible schedule?||Yes/No|
|Will you submit assignments and complete work on time, even if your teacher isn’t nagging at you?||Yes/No|
|Are you an independent person?||Yes/No|
There are seven questions in total. If you’ve answered at least four questions with a resounding yes, then you should definitely consider taking online college courses.
Are Online Courses Worth It?
Many schools -- universities included -- are moving to a digital environment. This is because online courses proved to be extremely successful at delivering both quality and more flexibility to students.
What’s more, many students might not have a chance to obtain their desired degree if it weren’t for online classes. Now, they can get a degree no matter where they are in the world, as long as they own a computer.
Overall, online courses are a terrific product of the 21st century that more and more colleges and employers will recognize as valid. If you’re considering an online course, I suggest you go for it.