The current challenges facing traditional colleges and universities, including higher tuition, budget cuts, and course shortages, have caused many students to search for alternatives. With nearly three million students currently enrolled in fully online degree programs and six million taking at least one online course as part of their degree program, online education has clearly become one of the most popular higher education alternatives. The continually improving reputation of online learning has also helped fuel its expansion, as initial skepticism has faltered in the face of evidence that shows that online learning can be just as effective as face-to-face education.
Below are 10 advantages to online learning.
- Variety of programs and courses: From traditional four-year universities to completely online career colleges, higher education today offers a variety of options for students. This means that no matter what students wish to study, from nursing to neuroscience, they can find online the courses or degree programs they need. They can also earn every academic degree online, all the way from a career certificate to a doctorate.
- Lower total costs: Online programs can be a more affordable option than traditional colleges. Though not all online degrees have less expensive net tuition prices than traditional colleges (link to OEDB article I wrote about college costs), associated costs are almost always less expensive. For example, there are no commuting costs, and sometimes there is also not any required course materials such as textbooks because those are often available for free online. In addition, many colleges and universities have begun to accept credits earned via free massive open online courses (MOOCs), the most recent advance in online education. Free online courses such as these can help students fulfill general education requirements at little to no cost.
- More comfortable learning environment: Commercials that featuring online students studying in the pajamas only skim the surface of one of the primary benefits of online education: there are no physical class sessions. Lectures and other materials are electronically sent to the student, who will then read them and complete assignments. Students will not have to fight traffic, find parking spaces, leave work early to go to class, or miss important family time.