Online schools have increased in popularity in the last decade. When distance learning first became available, it offered a few online classes here and there, whereas today more and more schools are offering online degree programs. According to a 2010 Sloan Survey of Online Learning, there has been a 21% growth rate in online enrollment, a rate substantially higher than the 2% growth with higher education student population overall. Is an on-campus degree better than an online degree? Why are so many students choosing to pursue an online education? Below are the most common pros and cons of an online education.
Pros of an Online Education
- Flexible schedule – While online students may occasionally be required to be online at a specific time for a class or interaction with an instructor, this is rare. Students can log onto the course material at their convenience, making it possible for them to keep up with other responsibilities. According to U.S. News & World Report, online education offers excellent options for veterans because it allows them to work and study at unconventional times, which they’re used to in their line of work.
- Availability of programs –More schools are offering online programs, increasing the available options and allowing students to search until they find one that meets their needs.
- Access to courses 24/7 – Online courses are available round-the-clock to any student with a computer and Internet access, unlike on-campus courses that require students to be in class at certain times.
- No travel involved – Online students can study right from their homes, saving time, gas, and vehicle wear and tear. It also eliminates having to drive in inclement weather.
- Multi-media format – Online students learn through a variety of ways, including Web cams, CD/DVDs, animation and virtual classrooms.
- Variety of courses/programs – Students today can choose to study almost any program online. With no commuting required, they can find a school that offers what they want.
- Self-motivation – Students can log into their programs at their convenience and learn at their own pace. If they’re having difficulty with a course, they can take more time to study it.
- Reputation – Although online education was once not viewed in the same light as on-campus programs, that is changing more every year.
Cons of an Online Education
- Social interaction – Online students don’t have the social interaction with fellow students, which can be helpful for study purposes.
- Student/Instructor interaction – Online students have limited interaction with instructors and may have to wait for hours for reply to questions.
- Technology problems – As great as technology is, it also has us at its mercy at times. Online students with computer or Internet problems will be unable to complete their assignments or exams as required.
- Motivation – Some students need the push to get to class. Online students who know they can do it at “their own pace” may procrastinate.
- Transferring credits – Some schools still do not acknowledge online schools in the same light as on-campus schools, making it difficult to transfer credits to an on-site college.
- Financial aid – Financial aid is not available at all online schools so students may be required to find other financing or find a school that does offer financial aid.
How Do I Find Online Programs?
The increasing popularity and availability of online programs has made it possible for many individuals to obtain an education despite having to work and/or raise a family. Often, the biggest dilemma is finding a school that actually offers online programs. Doing an Internet search can become very time-consuming, particularly for those looking for specific programs or schools in a specific geographic location. An excellent option is the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). NCES allows students to filter programs based on distance learning options, education fields and geographic location.