When people think of “higher education,” they usually conjure visions of ivy colored buildings and sprawling university campuses packed with students studying or socializing. Classes mean sitting in a packed room with others, listening to a professor standing at the front of the group imparting information and giving assignments. Research is a trip to the library; hours spent slogging through bookshelves, publications, or internet-based directories. If a student lives on or off campus, there is the extra expense of housing and food, neither of which is necessarily top notch. In some areas of the country, all of this happens in all variations of weather — especially inconvenient for the commuter student.
College tuition is expensive and growing more so every year, presenting a financial burden many prospective non-traditional students can’t bear. It can also be challenging, especially for a person with a full time job, home, or family to be taken care of, to take time out for travel or class time. Yet a college education is more necessary than ever to build or advance a career or procure a rewarding position with decent pay.
Fortunately, the digital revolution brought by computers and the internet has opened a whole new world that has changed the face of high education forever: online education. Obtaining college credits or even entire undergraduate or graduates degree on the Internet from accredited universities have become the fastest growing way for many professionals and students to gain formal instruction who may not have been able to do so in the days of strictly physical halls of education.
Benefits of Online Education
Degrees offered entirely online are created for non-traditional students — although increasing number of high school graduates are taking advantage of this format as well — and offer helpful benefits that conventional brick-and-mortar institutions don’t.
1. Selection: Online education offers students more possibilities for number and type of schools to select from without restriction to geography.
2. Setting: Students may not have the time to travel to a university or spend time in a classroom, due to job, family, or other responsibilities, may not live near a university that offers the specific area of study they’re looking for, or may not have a convenient institution nearby at all. Online learning permits study of a chosen field wherever convenient for the student.
3. Scheduling: Many people simply don’t have the time in a very busy schedule to attend classes or take the time for a commute. Online students are usually permitted to complete assignments and study whenever they have free time.
4. Financial Aid: Increasing numbers of online schools and already established universities now offering online education allow the flexibility of convenience of home learning while still providing the opportunity for tuition assistance. Often, the cost of online schools and classes may be lower than in traditional settings.
5. Pacing: Online programs allow students to progress at their own pace, rather than within a time limit as many traditional schools do. If a person works full time, they can complete the number of courses they desire within their own time frame while still completing their degree.
6. Networking: Education online provides a special opportunity for students to interact with others business contacts that may be helpful as they develop careers.
7. Diverse Students and Faculty: Online universities often have a much more varied range of international students and faculty than traditional institutions. The opportunity to meet and work with people in a students’ area of study or business from around the world is invaluable.
8. Student-centered Environment: Traditional classrooms often produce a ratio of faculty to students that can discourage interaction. Office hours are overscheduled, and it can be difficult to find the individual attention a student may need. With virtual communication like email, forums, or chat rooms, the student can have their concerns and questions addressed more easily. Class sizes also tend to be smaller.
Competition in a weak job market is more fierce than ever, and a college education can provide an edge that makes the difference between getting the job and remaining unemployed. Online education provides more opportunities for a greater range of individuals than ever before to obtain important knowledge and credentials to get that edge.
Joe Johnson is an avid blogger who contributes to a number of publications on a range of topics from researching, study habits, and career development. Click here to learn more about specific career development and MBA programs.