One of the beautiful things about the advances the internet has made over the last 10 years is that it democratized higher education to a large degree. An online degree may have been considered “less than” a decade or two ago, but those days are long gone. Nowadays, online degrees are just as respected as their on-campus counterparts and they offer a lot of benefits that the traditional college classroom can’t. Let’s take a look at a few of the big advantages of an online degree.
1. Online Degrees Are More Accessible
In the old days, someone with a job or family responsibilities — kids, significant others, elderly parents, family members with special needs — hardly could have considered devoting an extra 20-30 hours per week to get a traditional college degree. Now, anyone with a computer and an internet connection can log in from anywhere in the world to access course materials, attend lectures, engage in discussions with fellow students, turn in assignments and take tests. Online training providers like Simplilearn have further made things easy for learners by offering blended learning, interactive quizzes, industry-oriented projects as well as integrated practical labs.
This accessibility is paramount in making higher education more attainable for low-income, disadvantaged populations, too. Without the same support system as more advantaged students, members of this group often struggle to cope with the challenges of college, both emotionally and financially. Online classes alleviate a lot of these stressors, giving underprivileged students a shot where there might not have been one before.
2. Online Degrees Are More Flexible
While some schools use a synchronous online course model, in which students log in a specific time for classes and interact with professors and fellow students in a virtual classroom, more and more schools are opting for an asynchronous model, meaning students never have to “attend” a class. Instead, they absorb the materials at their pace and complete assignments at times that are most convenient for them. That freedom allows many busy students to use their study time wisely, whether it’s in the wee hours of the morning, during a lunch break or late at night when the kids have gone to bed.
Also, online degrees eliminate the need for a commute. Popping open the computer and logging into a learning portal might take 30 seconds, while driving to campus, parking, getting to class and making the return trip home could add up to several extra hours per week. Over the course of an academic year or, worse, an entire degree program, that’s hundreds and hundreds of hours you can use more efficiently by working, studying or being with your family.
3. Online Degrees Can Be Cheaper
This isn’t always the case, but online degrees are typically cheaper than a conventional, on-campus degree. In mounting online courses, colleges typically have fewer overhead costs (classroom space, physical materials, on-campus support personnel) and many are passing those savings along to students. For instance, according to U.S. News and World Report, Georgia Tech dropped the price of their prestigious Master’s in Computer Science program to under $7,000. That’s a whopping $35,000 less than completing the same degree on campus. With student debt burdening recent grads more and more, that’s nothing to scoff at. Other universities, like the University of the People, are going with a completely tuition-free model for online students, offering degrees in business, education and computer science for next-to-nothing (there are minimal course fees for each course).
It’s not just tuition that’s cheaper either. Without having to pay for a dorm room or buy into the meal plan, online students can save thousands per semester. And, not having to commute can save gas and wear and tear on the car, plus countless meals, coffees and snacks you might be prone to pay for as a traditional student.
4. Online Degrees Teach Self Discipline
It’s true that successfully completing an online degree program requires solid time management skills and no small amount of self-motivation. Some people list this the “con” column for online degrees but it’s actually an advantage. Without someone staying on top of you to complete assignments, you’ll need to learn to manage your time wisely and get yourself motivated to do the work. You know who values skills like these? Employers.
So rather than seeing these as an impediment to getting your degree, look at them as an added value. Instead of just learning geometry and literature, you’ll be learning, geometry, literature and skills that will ultimately help you be a success in your chosen career.
5. Online Degrees Offer More Choice
With an on-campus degree, you might be geographically limited. Let’s say you have an intense desire to study the evolution of marine mammals and you live in Kansas. You might have three schools to choose from and none offer your course of study. In the past, you’d have to incur the expense of permanently moving your life to another part of the country. For many, that means leaving a support system of friends and family behind, which can be a deal-breaker.
Online degrees give you greater choice. Suddenly, with virtual classrooms and self-paced learning, schools and programs from around the country are a possibility. And, with fewer overhead expenses, many schools feel they can add more specialized programs and concentrations, giving students even more choice.
These five advantages — accessibility, flexibility, self-discipline, affordability and greater choice — can make all the difference when it comes to completing a degree. It’s important to note that there are a few disadvantages to online education, too.
Some students report that the impersonal nature of online courses makes it a little harder to connect with classmates, engage in lively discussions and have direct, easy access to professors. An online degree can mean missing out on the “college experience” of living in a dorm, finding a circle of great friends and learning to live independently. This is a dealbreaker for some students.
That said, the advantages of an online degree may far outweigh these disadvantages for many students. Ultimately, it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons and decide if an online degree program is a right route for you.