Online learning is quickly becoming the norm. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there were close to seven million students already enrolled in online college courses. Today, that number is higher, as more students are prioritizing their safety and health, and choosing to complete their degrees online.
However, this is not an easy decision for everyone. While there are clear perks to attending an online school, it can also come with many challenges. If you are debating whether to complete your degree online or in-person, keep reading. Below we outline the pros and cons of online classes.
Pros of Online School
1. Comfort and convenience.
The most obvious benefit of online school is that you can attend it right from the comfort of your own home. There is no worry about your commute, or even how you will juggle getting from work to class. Online classes can be completed at a time and place that works best for you, so long as you have internet access. This convenience gives you more time to study up on important subjects, or more time to spend with your family, and less time getting to and from campus.
Many students are also more comfortable at their own home, than they would be in a college classroom. This may be due to safety reasons, given the current pandemic, or simply due to their personality and learning style.
Online school is more accessible than on-campus classes, in terms of time and expense. Let’s start with time. Online classes are designed to work into your schedule, so that you can still manage to fulfill other obligations, like a career or childcare. For those with full-time jobs or full-time family commitments, a college degree may not be possible without an online option. Online learning is accessible to just about everyone with internet.
The materials and coursework are designed to be easy-to-access, 24 hours a day. You no longer have to worry about where you put your notes from class, or what the teacher said in that lecture. All of the material is available online, just clicks away in an online knowledge base. Going back to review the materials is always an option, no matter where you are or what time it is.
As mentioned above, online school is typically more accessible financially, as well. Online classes can cut the cost of learning in half. This is possible because online schools have fewer expenses and amenities than college campuses (such as food, dormitories, campus staff, and more). With online classes, you also cut expenses such as gas, parking, eating out, childcare, and other costs you may encounter when having to travel to campus.
4. Self-disciplinary skills.
Online classes are taken at the students’ pace, on a schedule that works for them. There is no professor telling them when they need to arrive at class, and when they need to put their phone down. Rather, students are in control of their own learning. There is more freedom and trust. While this may be challenging for some students, it can teach an invaluable skillset to those who put in the hard work.
Students in online degree programs often walk away with enhanced skills in time management, self-motivation, self-discipline, adaptability, and responsibility. They also learn how to organize their assignments, class schedule, and other obligations, and create a realistic work-life balance. These types of traits will carry over to an array of fields and occupations down the road.
5. Individualized attention.
In a traditional classroom setting, you may feel uncomfortable asking questions out loud. You may feel you are competing for your professor’s attention even as class concludes. Online courses can help eliminate this and provide you more of the individualized attention you crave. In an online learning environment, students can always email their professor directly. You can also set up one-to-one sessions with faculty, if needed, to get your questions answered live. Many schools are working to enhance online collaboration, and prioritizing the needs and success of students—especially now, as the coronavirus pandemic continues and distance learning is required in many areas nationwide.
Cons of Online School
1. Not all classes exist online.
Some classes and degrees cannot be earned totally online. Some fields require that in-person and hands-on experience that you simply cannot get in an online school. For example, aspiring nurses must complete a number of hours in a clinical setting. Science classes, whether in medicine or chemistry, often demand a practical component. Hands-on industries, such as manufacturing and machining, also need some level of in-person training on equipment. If you are interested in a career in healthcare, science, or a hands-on trade, on-campus courses may be the right choice for you.
2. There is less interpersonal connections.
Online schools do not typically offer the “campus experience” that many crave when they go to college. Some schools offer online classes live, in real-time, so you can still get face-to-face interaction with peers and professors. However, most will allow you to take online classes on your own time. Depending on your preferences and learning style, reduced social interaction can be seen as a pro or con.
The lack of social interaction is listed as a “con” because, for some people, peer interaction can be stimulating and engaging. It can fuel their learning experience, and help them establish more emotional bonds with professors and their peers. Without this interaction, some students may feel very isolated.
For others, however, social interaction can actually be very distracting or intimidating. This is why we also consider it a “pro.” Many students are introverted, and feel shy to speak up or engage in a class full of other students. These people typically thrive in an online, individual learning setting.
At Goodwin, we offer a hybrid format for many degree programs, so that students can benefit from the autonomy of online courses, while still gaining valuable collaboration time, via on-campus courses.
3. There are also more distractions.
Inevitably, you will find more distractions at home than you will in a classroom environment. Maybe your partner or roommate is constantly talking on the phone. Perhaps your kids always need to be entertained. Or, it may be that pile of laundry (or that new recipe you’ve been dying to try) calling your name. Those types of distractions go away with on-campus classes. To succeed in online classes, you need to be able to self-motivate, rid the distractions, and find a quiet, dedicated space and time to complete your coursework.
4. Online can be challenging.
Many people feel that online school is easier than traditional college. While they may be easy to access, online classes are not any “lighter” than on-campus courses. In fact, many online programs are more intensive, to accommodate for the flexibility of being at home. Just like any college or university, online schools recognize the importance of a degree and will ensure certain academic standards are met.
The autonomy that students receive in an online school can also be intimidating for those who lack self-motivation or time management skills. When pursuing an online degree, you will be pushed to review course materials, listen to lectures, and complete assignments at your own pace. While this can be a swimming moment for some, it can be sinking for those who may require more discipline.
Finally, the use of technology can pose a learning curve for some students. Students who do not have access to internet or a computer at home will find online learning challenging. Those who are not well-versed in modern technology, or students with special learning needs, may also feel held back in an online learning environment. While many online schools will have tech support in place to mitigate challenges, these students may feel more comfortable and at-ease in a traditional class format.
Finding the Right Path for You
Online education has its pros and cons, as we can see above. Ultimately, the type of program or institution to pursue will depend on your own personal needs. Do you require flexibility in your schedule? Do you desire an in-person, on-campus learning experience? Is peer collaboration important to you? Or do you feel accessibility and autonomy are more up your alley?
If you recognize both the pros and cons of online school, remember there are also hybrid programs available. These programs blend both online and on-campus learning together, so students can get the best of both worlds. At Goodwin University, you will find hybrid degree options that allow for flexibility, accessibility, and interpersonal connections in class.
Learn more by visiting us online today! Or, call 800-889-3282 to learn more about our online, on-campus, and hybrid degree programs.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.