Online education has a baby-history compared to traditional-on campus education, but one thing is sure. It’s here to stay and will continue to grow. This is confirmed by a number of recent studies that look at online education developments every year.
For example, a 2018 Mirasee world survey on online education providers reveals that online education enrolments have remained quite steady since 2016. Plus, almost half of online students achieved their learning objectives “to a great extent” and about 30% say they got their desired results “to a great extent.”
Another 2018 study on online education conducted by Learning House and Aslanian Market Research confirms the hype about online degree is very real – at least in the USA.
According to the study, 86% of online learners considered the value of their degree equal to or greater than the cost they paid to pursue it. Among those who have attended on-campus and online courses, 85% said that online learning is as good as or better than attending courses on campus. In fact, two-thirds of online college students reported that they'd achieved the original goal that motivated them to enrol in their program. Graduate students were more likely than undergraduates to feel that way (76 percent vs. 62 percent).
Okay, so it’s clear that online education is quite popular and has some benefits. But what exactly are some of the pros and cons of online education presently?
So what are 5 main pros for taking an online degree?
1. Online courses are very flexible
Since distance learning programs don't require you to be physically present in a classroom or follow a predefined timetable, you are free to set your own schedule. Distance education provides you the flexibility to complete your coursework from anywhere, at any time, and at your own pace. You have an important chore to run in the morning? No problem - log in to complete your schoolwork that afternoon or later that night. Some universities with flexible online degrees are:
- The Open University UK
- Walden University
- University of Bath Online
- Nottingham Trent University Online
- University of Birmingham Online
- University of Glasgow
2. You can learn and earn
Many students who take online classes are full-time professionals looking to get ahead in their careers. Even if you're not currently working full-time, distance learning courses offer you a flexible schedule that allows you to learn and work at the same time, and pay your way through college.
3. Forget about geographical boundaries!
Since you can complete a distance-learning course from anywhere, you are not bound by geography. You can choose any school that offers the program you want, no matter where it's located anywhere in the country, or even internationally. Plus, if you ever relocate, you don't have to worry about transferring to another school. Check out online universities all over the world, such as:
- James Cook University, from Australia
- York University, from Canada
- University of Essex Online, from the UK
- Kettering University Online, from the USA
4. Get educated even with a tight budget
Online education helps you to save on costs like fuel, parking, books, child care, and more. And since so many of these programs are self-paced, they can offer you the opportunity to graduate in less time than a traditional program. Less time spent in college equals lower educational costs. Plus, many online degrees have lower tuition fees.
5. Online courses help you become tech-savvy
Distance-learning programs make use of sophisticated technology to provide education. By accessing study material electronically, submitting assignments via websites, and participating on online forums to interact with professors and classmates on a day-to-day basis, you can become more technologically savvy than your classroom counterparts.
Now, what would be 5 cons for taking an online degree?
1. Questioning quality
Despite its popularity and growth, some people may question the quality and validity of distance education. The biggest reason for this prejudice against distance learning is the presence of online "diploma mills" that hand out fake degrees. The only way to beat this bias is to make sure you earn your online degree from a properly accredited institution. Additionally, surveyed online students also tend to argue that some courses are too basic and not practical or applicable.
2. Not enough student accountability
The temptation to procrastinate can be immense when it comes to online education, as you are on a self-imposed schedule. Therefore, you need to stay focused, disciplined, and motivated to complete a distance learning program.
3. Being overwhelmed by the material
Distance learning is primarily self-directed. This may not work very well for you if you need more attention from your professors, particularly for the more complex parts of coursework. Self-directed learning can make you an independent learner, but it's not for everyone. The trade-off is that online degrees deliver the essential knowledge and tools to form a specific skill set for your career development.
4. Lack of individual attention and feedback
Many students consider the lack of interaction with students and professor the biggest disadvantage of distance learning. Online classes can make you feel isolated. Nevertheless, many professionals are enrolling in online degrees from their workplace, joining their workmates in online classes. Also, there are many blended courses which combine distance learning with classroom teaching, to give you that classroom vibe from time to time.
5. Missing out on-campus life?
By taking classes online, you might feel you miss out on the activities associated with campus life. From cultural events to inter-college games, from prom nights to graduation. But you can look at it as a small price to pay for getting the quality education that may have otherwise been beyond your reach.
The future of online learning
The study on online education conducted by and Learning House and Aslanian Market Research also has some insights about what will make the difference in online education in the future.
- Mobile-friendly content is going to be essential. Nowadays most students use their mobile devices not only to look for an online degree, but also to do course work. This means that optimizing course content and websites for mobile is what will make more students opt for a distance learning programme.
- Online students need career advice. Most online college students pursue a degree for professional reasons. As such, careers counselling is what they both need and look for. If universities offer you online access to such services, they are a keeper.
- Online programs are becoming more diversified. Degrees Business and Education are probably some of the most popular ones among online students. However, more and more students are also considering other fields of study, such as computers and IT, health & medicine, and STEM. As such we can expect Institutions to diversify their online offerings may be able to take advantage of new segments of students they could not access previously.
Undoubtedly, with the even wider spread of technology online education’s potential to become complementary – or in some cases alternatives – to traditional education cannot be overlooked. If you think it’s for you, go for it!