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It’s no secret that a college education costs a lot these days. Nothing new there.
It’s also no secret that you still need to go to college in order to make a decent living. Unless you want to end up like living under a bridge, you need to get some higher learning.
With the cost of education rapidly increasing, educational institutions have been forced to develop new approaches to be able to provide education to students in a way that suits their changing needs. Many students don’t want to be shackled by mountains of debt after graduating and are looking for cheaper ways to get a degree.
As a solution, many universities and colleges now offer online education, providing more opportunity and flexibility to a larger variety of individuals.
It’s clearly beneficial to an educational institution as it lowers their overhead costs and allows them to reach students that normally would not be able to attend their institution, but is it right for you?
Before we can answer that question, we need to address the elephant in the room.
The majority of the public see online education in a positive way when it comes to accessibility, but some think it’s held to a lower standard than traditional universities, including less rigorous testing, less qualified instructors and less credit with employers.
In other words, people think the quality of online education is a bit on the sketchy side.
According to Gallup, one-third of Americans, 34%, rate such online programs as “excellent” or “good.” with more Americans calling them “fair” or “poor,” while the vast majority of Americans (68%) rate four year programs as “excellent” or “good.”
It seems that people think you can’t get the same learning experience on a computer that you can in a classroom.
Many years ago, there may have been a bit of truth to this, but not anymore.
When online courses were in their infancy, many Americans, including educators, were skeptical of the non-traditional approach to education. However, now that Americans are online more than ever, socially and professionally, it has gained widespread acceptance. After all, we do just about everything online now, from shopping to planning vacations to chatting with friends. Attending school online is now part of our internet economy.
Despite public opinion, there are a huge number of advantages to obtaining an education online for the right individual. Online education can be an option for a wide variety of types of education, including four year degree programs, career programs or certifications.
In fact, one in five students and 5% of adults are currently taking an online course, and we should expect that number to grow in the future, especially as internet speed increases and mobile technology improves.
So why is online education such a valuable commodity? Here are 4 reasons.
When you were young and free, time was never an issue. You could lay around all day listening to your favorite tunes and discussing the relative merits of the movie “Finding Nemo.”
But as you got older, time wasn’t on your side.
Obtaining an education online allows significantly more individuals to obtain an education, regardless of their circumstances. A traditional education, requiring a student to be present for a certain amount of hours per week at set times, generally doesn’t work for everyone.
Older students that already have a career but are looking to obtain more education to advance, likely have a work schedule that needs to be put first when scheduling courses.
Unless you have a generous boss, you probably can’t skip large portions of the work day to attend your Geography 101 class. With online education, that isn’t an issue and you can study in your own time.
As the Digital Marketing Institute put it:
In such a competitive and time-starved world, online learning provides people—from recent graduates to mid-level professionals—with the tools to add value to their current skill set and broaden their horizons without the constraints of time or place.
Additionally, older students may have a family with children. If you need to shuttle your kids around to school and/or their after school activities, it could be easier to manage your schedule when taking courses online at your own convenience.
Plus, will students really think you’re cool if you pull up in a minivan with “Dora The Explorer” blasting over the speakers?
If you’re interested in a certain program or degree, but live in a city where no school offers it, you can attend a school that is based much further away, but offers an online education.
This is the brilliance of the internet. Want to obtain a nursing degree or compliance certification, but live in a small town with no schools? No, problem! You can choose from any school that offers those programs online.
On the Internet, where everything is available, you have access to the best, most unique material from the world’s top scholars. That’s not true in a typical college—and that’s where an online education becomes more valuable than a typical college degree.
Do you typically work better in the mornings, or are you a late-night owl? Either way, online education allows you to work at your most productive times, when you have the most energy to focus on your studies. Rather than sucking down Red Bull and espresso just to stay awake in the morning, you can study at night when you’re feeling fresh.
If you’re low on cash but want to attend college, what are your options?
For those a bit tight on money, online education can be a much more affordable option. The associated costs with attending an online institution are significantly less than attending an institution in person. There are no costs for commuting, parking or even relocating cities to attend courses. You also don’t need to worry about meal plans. If you have access to a computer, you can attend a course right in your own home, eliminating all those costs.
For those that can only afford to take one or two credits at a time, online colleges are a smart choice as they usually allow a student to take as little credits as needed in order to fit their schedule and financial situation.
Money doesn’t have to be the reason you don’t get an education. In fact, money shouldn’t be the reason with the huge variety of options available these days.
As Bobby Scott said:
No one should be denied the opportunity to get an education and increase their earning potential based solely on their inability to pay for a college education.
Traditional in-person courses usually consist mostly of younger adults in their twenties, starting their education immediately after graduating high school. For most older students, attending classes can be slightly uncomfortable.
It could be harder to relate to other students in that situation when they are at different places in their lives.
Most online courses have individuals from a variety of backgrounds that can bring different perspectives and opinions to class discussions. Not only are those individuals located across the nation, but some may be based internationally as well. Having such a diverse background attending your course is extremely beneficial to the learning process.
If everyone in your class is the same age, it can create a bit of an echo chamber. Problems are almost always approached from a similar perspective and creativity flounders. When a classroom is diverse, problems are solved in new, even unorthodox ways.
Attending an institution online has a secondary benefit to it as well. While learning to navigate the internet, your computer and the learning management system, you’re also developing and improving your technical skills.
If you’re not especially internet savvy (“What is this Snapchat thing anyway?”), this can be hugely beneficial for your career.
Increased technical skills translate well to most jobs and careers, whether it’s knowing how to prepare presentations online, formatting documents, utilizing spreadsheets or sharing information online.
Online education probably isn’t right for everyone, but for certain people, it can be an absolute godsend. Despite popular opinion, getting a degree online has some huge advantages over a traditional college, and these days, the degree is just as valuable.
As more and more people enroll in online classes, popular opinion will most certainly shift on the value of online degrees. Until that time, however, you actually have a competitive advantage. While some people are racking up mountains of debt, you can get the same education for less.
Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Degrees through PGS offer the opportunity to learn anywhere and anytime—all on your schedule and specifically designed to help you succeed in whatever your personal or professional goals.
Trevor McCready serves as the director of online learning at Cornerstone University. His professional interests include instructional design, educational software and effectives use of media in education.