In recent years, online learning has evolved from a stand-in to a mainstay in higher education. More college students are taking online courses than ever before. And even before the pandemic, the demand for online courses was growing. According to an analysis of new national statistics, more than half of postsecondary students in the United States took at least one fully online course during the 2019-2020 academic year—and this does not include courses that were moved online in a state of emergency. An estimated 5.8 million students, or 23% of all students, enrolled in an exclusively online program.
The growing demand for online learning is not surprising, as more students recognize its benefits. Online learning allows for flexibility, affordability, improved skillsets, and improved school-life balance. It allows college students to maintain their jobs, care for children, or simply prioritize self-care. And many students today require this. They have jobs, families, and other commitments that prevent them from going to school in-person. They need a program they can access anywhere, at any time.
Enter, online learning.
7 Advantages of Online Learning
1. Flexibility and Convenience
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of online learning is the flexibility and convenience it offers to students. You do not have to travel to campus to attend classes or take time off work to commit to a full-time course schedule. In a fully online program, you can continue to work your job while going to school. You do not need to relocate to attend college online. You can complete your courses at home or from anywhere that is comfortable and productive for you. In this way, the flexibility of online learning enables students to continue growing professionally, without sacrificing other priorities in their life.
2. Better School-Life Balance
In addition to added flexibility, online learning can create a better school-life balance for many college students. Taking classes from home enables you to stay close to other priorities in life, whether that be family, pets, or even your local gym. These comforts can help create balance in your daily schedule, as well as reduce your level of stress.
It’s important to know that online courses may be synchronous or asynchronous. Synchronous classes mean that you must attend them on time, whether that be a live lecture or discussion session. However, many online courses are asynchronous, meaning you can complete them at your own time and pace. This allows you to learn at your best time of day, whatever that may be, and leaves room for other priorities, like your health, family, career, and social life.
3. Self-Paced and Self-Directed Learning
As noted above, many online courses are asynchronous, meaning they require you to learn on your own time and at your own pace. For some students, this is a major advantage of the online learning format: you can take classes on your own schedule. You do not need to sacrifice your job, childcare responsibilities, or even family meals to attend class. You can learn at your own pace, at a time that’s convenient for you.
The self-paced nature of online learning requires self-direction, as well. This is another aspect that many students enjoy. Self-directed learning means taking control of the way you learn. You can revisit lectures and materials that are provided to you online. You can take time to master all of the topics covered in class. You can confidently reach out to your professor with questions, discussions, and ideas. In a traditional classroom setting, not all students feel comfortable asking questions or participating in class. Additionally, not all students in that class will learn at the same pace. An online environment allows you to learn doing what works best for you, but still provides resources and support systems when needed.
4. Self-Motivation and Time-Management Skills
With self-direction also comes two, highly-valued skills: self-motivation and time management. Online learning will teach you how to manage your time so that you can balance your classes with other aspects of your life. It will also teach you how to self-motivate and stay on top of your coursework. With asynchronous learning, you must always be able to find the time and the willingness to take classes, complete assignments, and get the most out of your college investment. Employers will recognize this, too, as you are applying for jobs after graduation.
5. Strong Virtual Collaboration Skills
Higher education is not the only industry that’s moved online. In fact, by the end of 2022, it’s estimated that 25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote. Over 15% of the highest paying jobs are currently remote opportunities, an uptick from just 4% in 2019. So, as you venture out into the workforce after graduation, know that remote work opportunities will be abundant and valuable to you. However, they will require a strong skill set in virtual collaboration and communication.
That said, one of the clear benefits of online learning is the level of experience you can gain in a virtual environment, collaborating and connecting with peers. Through your online college courses, you will participate in virtual discussion boards, workshops, presentations, and different software utilization. On top of this, you will become well-versed in email communications with professors and colleagues. These experiences will enable you to communicate clearly, concisely, and respectfully online. Additionally, you will come to understand which online communication formats and processes work best for you. You can get a sense of which conversations should be kept online, which should be discussed face-to-face, and which methods are most efficient for getting your message across. This experience can carry great weight as you enter the workforce and adopt virtual communication responsibilities.
On top of virtual communication skills, online learning also gives you the opportunity to communicate and network with a variety of peers. You may have classmates in different cities and states, with different knowledge and experiences, who can be great to network with as you develop your career.
6. Refined Technical Skills
Today, most students know their way around a computer and the internet. However, an online degree program can help take your technical skills to the next level, making you a more well-rounded job candidate. In an online program, you will utilize a range of digital learning materials, such as online discussion boards, collaboration platforms, project management tools, and content management systems. You may also be introduced to software and programs specific to your major and industry. As you apply for and enter jobs, you will likely find that a lot of the tools used in your college program – whether that be Zoom, Trello, Basecamp, Slack, Dropbox, Asana, or a combination – are also used in the workplace. Knowing your way around these programs can help you stand out to a potential employer.
7. Cost Savings
An added benefit of online learning programs is affordability. Research shows that online classes can cut the cost of higher education in half, as online programs do not require as many expenses or amenities as on-campus offerings. By pursuing an online degree, you can also cut down on expenses like gas, parking, eating out, childcare, and more. According to a survey (conducted pre-pandemic) over half of college students said that this level of affordability was the “most important factor” in their decision to enroll in an online school. With online learning under your belt, you can save more for other expenses and benefit from a higher return on investment after graduation.
Is Online Learning Right for You?
Online education has many benefits. However, it is not right for everyone. As you weigh your options between online classes and a traditional, on-campus program, think about your needs as a college student: What is your learning style? In which learning environment do you thrive? Are you motivated to succeed? How well do you manage your time?
Additionally, consider your needs outside of school. Do you need to work while going to school? Do you have obligations at home that you need to be there for? Does your mental health benefit more (or less) from being home? These are all questions to ask.
If you decide that online college is the right next step for you, or you prefer a hybrid online/on-campus model, know that you have options. At Goodwin University, we offer a range of online degree programs and hybrid offerings for students who need flexibility. You can tailor your schedule to your needs, as well. Many of our students work part- or full-time jobs, and their program is designed to accommodate their needs. You deserve a course schedule that works for you, not one you have to work around.