Is Online Education Better?

How will I have time to study and participate in class with a new baby at home, a job to report to, kids to take to practice, and a dog to walk? Many adults have concerns about continuing their education.

Carlos Melgar, a civil engineering student had those concerns too. At the beginning of his program he and his wife had their first baby and times were hectic, but taking courses online allowed him to do his coursework in the little time he had.

Almost 7 million students are enrolled in online courses and find that the flexibility and support they receive from other students, professors, and the university make achieving their educational goals possible.

Julie, fearful that she would be alone in her educational pursuits, said this about her experience:

The staff at my university is open and helpful to online students. There have been multiple communications on what to expect, how to connect and be a part of a larger team with the same goals. I’m connecting with people I would never have the opportunity to meet otherwise.

Online education continues to offer innovative solutions if you are seeking a better way to earn a degree. Take into consideration your budget, costs, and how you can balance your life with your course work.

Save Money

When you take online classes, you can significantly reduce your overall costs because you won’t have to pay for room, board, or dining fees. Since you won’t have to drive to class every day, you’ll save money on gas, vehicle maintenance, and parking permits. Also, you’ll save time when you aren’t fighting traffic, the weather, or the clock to get to class – valuable hours you can put toward studying and family time.

Typically, online tuition is lower than traditional education and most universities don’t charge higher out-of-state tuition rates for online courses. Course materials often cost less also, as online instructors typically utilize web-based technology and fewer costly textbooks. Review comparisons of on-campus vs. online education at AffordableCollegesOnline.org.

When you add up all the savings, online education is frequently half the cost of a comparable on-campus education.

Looking for more ways to save? If you’re already in the workforce, you may be able to earn credits for work experience. Many scholarships and grants are also available for online students. Check out some of the most popular federal grant options for online education at geteducated.com and scholarships at scholarships.com.

Designed with working students in mind, online education programs allow you to continue earning money while obtaining a degree – a great bonus for online education. The Best Colleges, 2019 Online Education Trends Report states that “88% of students say they have seen or will see a positive return on investment with their online education.”

Set a budget, research expenses, and make sure to take all direct and indirect costs into account when determining if online education is better for you. Check out the Thinking Through Going Back to School Worksheet for additional guidance.

Enjoy Flexibility

Online education caters to a variety of learning environments and life situations. Whether you are a recent high school graduate looking to get ahead, a single mom trying to finish a degree you started years ago, currently in the military, or employed full-time with a family, online education will fit into your life.

Judy Ortiz, a student in the higher education leadership program at CSU found that she could fit her coursework in just about any situation.

When doing my online program – I was thinking about it – I have studied in this chair,” Judy said. “I have studied in my bed with my five year old. I’ve studied on a cardboard table in a construction zone. I’ve studied in my car while my child was at cheerleading practice. Because you can connect wirelessly, you can do it anywhere.

Judy Ortiz

Study on your own time, at your own pace, and complete your schoolwork when you do your best work. Don’t worry about working all day and taking a class at night when you’re tired and not focused, getting up early and listening to a lecture, writing a paper, or doing your homework. Online education allows you to schedule your schoolwork when it’s convenient and best fits into your life, without the distractions you have in a traditional classroom setting.

Traditional classes move at one speed. Online classes allow you to work ahead if you know the material well or take more time to process information when needed.

Online education can also benefit you if you’re an introvert and not as willing to answer questions in a traditional classroom setting.

According to Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking: “At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams.”

Introverts feel more comfortable helping other students online and providing feedback, they have time to process and respond. In turn, they get feedback from everyone in the class, not just a few who like to speak up.

My son is a college sophomore who takes a mix of online and traditional classes, he prefers the engagement in his online classes. Each week, every student submits a writing piece and the professor and students leave comments, providing helpful feedback and a variety of perspectives he wouldn’t get in a traditional class. TheBestSchools.org reviewed over 1,000 online student testimonials and found the second most cited advantage of online education (the first being flexibility) was “more positive and helpful interaction with classmates, and better access to their instructors than they experienced as traditional on-campus students.”

Engagement in online classes is as good or better than that of traditional classes with involvement from all students in chats and message boards. Instant messaging and immediate feedback from instructors can accelerate your course work. Enjoy the flexibility online education offers but make sure you have the motivation, discipline, and self-direction necessary to be successful.

Find a quality program

A 2018 study conducted by Learning House, Inc., showed 85% of students who had previously enrolled in both face-to-face and online courses felt their online experience was either the same or better than the classroom course. 

Online education can provide you with a better understanding of technology and help you develop skills that will accelerate your career. Enhance your time management skills as you determine your schedule each day and stick to it. Increase communication skills as you give and receive feedback to your peers and respond to professor and student feedback. Strengthen technology skills while working in virtual teams using online tools and software.

Seek out a quality program, one that offers you the same degree, the same expert faculty, and the same quality education you’d receive if you attended classes in person. Look for an accredited program that follows the Quality Matters framework, assuring it’s a well-designed, well-presented program that will enrich your experience. Interview professors who teach online classes to understand how they conduct courses. Find a program that provides access to all of the same resources and services provided to traditional students, such as: advising, financial aid guidance, tutoring, veteran services, career services, library services, and student success coaches.

Consider the future

More and more companies are moving to remote work forces, a trend that shows no signs of slowing down.

“Forty-six percent of organizations recently surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management said they use virtual teams. With that, the number of professionals who regularly work from home has increased 159 percent over the last decade, with more than 4.7 million employees working remotely at least half the time.” Source

Chances are, when you join the workforce, you will work remotely part- or full-time. Skills you develop taking online classes such as multi-tasking, setting priorities, and adapting to change will directly translate into advantages that will set you apart in your career.

Prepare yourself for the future with a quality online education. But most importantly, enjoy the learning journey.

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