- Online classes are becoming more popular at colleges and universities – and among students.
- There are pros and cons of online classes that students need to consider before signing up for them, however.
- Some of the pros of online courses include the increased flexibility and individualized learning opportunities.
- However, online courses can also deliver less social interaction and require a higher degree of self-discipline.
Should you take an online course at your college? There are pros and cons of online classes that you need to consider, and with them becoming more popular than ever, students are regularly presented with this decision. In fact, according to studuco.com:
- The global e-learning market is anticipated to climb to nearly $1 trillion by 2028
- Since 2020, 98% of universities have moved their classes online.
- 42% of companies that use e-learning generate more income.
When you consider the benefits online classes offer, things like flexibility and affordability, it’s no surprise. Those benefits are awesome, but some students might miss the face-to-face interaction that you get with in-person learning.
If you are considering enrolling in virtual learning, understand the pros and cons of online classes that will help you make an informed decision.
|Pros of Online Learning
|Cons of Online Learning
|Less Social Interaction
|Limited Course Availability
|Requires High Degree of Self Discipline
|Course Options Increasing
|Access to Course Materials
|Requires Reliable Internet
The Pros of Online Classes
Pro: Increased Flexibility
This is one of the most common reasons why most people choose to enroll in an online program. You don’t have to show up in classes and attend lectures at a fixed time. You don’t even have to leave your bedroom. In the online learning environment, you can study when and how you want to and often set your class schedule. You can also study from anywhere in the world.
This flexibility is great for students who have other personal commitments. Some may have younger children to look after. Others may be juggling work and studies. Regardless of the specific reason, online classes fill a need that traditional classrooms cannot. Online platforms are offered for many associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs.
The flexible schedule doesn’t mean the workload is any less for students who enroll in online schools. The course material and workload are on par with traditional schools. The only difference is that online students have more flexibility in where, when, and how they study.
In addition, flexibility comes in another way – students don’t necessarily have to attend a school near them. If a student from Florida likes a college in New Hampshire, but doesn’t want to trade in warm beaches for frigid winters, they don’t necessarily have to. The student might be able to stay in their preferred location and attend online college thousands of miles away! In a way, this also brings higher accessibility into the mix.
Pro: More Affordable
Affordability is right up there with flexibility when it comes to the increasing popularity of online classes. Attending a brick-and-mortar university can be a fantastic experience, but that experience can come with a huge price tag. Most college students today have to take on huge loans to afford the ever-increasing college fees. By the time they graduate, they are thousands of dollars in debt, which can take years to pay off.
Students who enroll in online classes typically save money and don’t incur nearly as much debt as traditional students. Lower fees translate to thousands of dollars in savings by the time the student graduates. All you need is good internet access, some self-discipline, and a great attitude.
As an online student, you might also save on the cost of textbooks, accommodation, food, and transport. This translates to another few thousand dollars in savings per semester. Most students who study online don’t need to take any loans to cover these low fees.
When you consider all the savings, it adds up to a substantial amount.
Pro: Individualized Learning
Individualized learning means you get to study where, when, and how you want.
To start with, as an online student, you aren’t boxed into a one-size-fits-all learning approach. Being able to attend classes when, how, and where it suits you allows you to create a customized schedule that suits your learning style.
If you’re a fast learner, you don’t have to wait for the whole class to catch up. If you’re a slow learner, you can take as long as you need without feeling pressure to hurry up. Plus, you still get hands-on experience through virtual group work.
The biggest benefit of individualized learning is that it allows you to harness your strengths and downplay your weaknesses. This makes it more conducive to learning. It also boosts self-confidence and self-esteem. And, with online learning, you can take time to find the speed that works for you.
Pro: Ever-Increasing Catalog of Choices
With more and more colleges offering online classes and more students taking them, the breadth of class choices is ever-increasing. Courses that weren’t previously available online through a school may now be found in a college’s online catalog. This isn’t the case with all courses, but there certainly are more options compared to just four years ago.
This expansion is allowing some students to complete their entire, or at least most of, their degree online!
Pro: Easier Access to Course Materials
While some traditional class professors do upload course materials online for students to utilize, not all do. Only a few will actually upload videos of the class to the school portal. But online courses mean you have constant access to course materials, notes, and even a video of the class itself.
If you missed a class because you were sick, you don’t have to fret about the missed instruction. You can watch it whenever you’re ready right on your computer. This accessibility also makes it easier to research questions or study for exams.
Cons of Online Classes
Con: Lack of Social Interaction
Social interaction is a huge part of the whole university experience. This is the time and place to make new, lifelong friends and learn crucial social skills. Online programs cut out in-person group projects. These projects are often important in developing students’ ability to work together with others. Additionally, it makes it difficult to take part in classroom discussions and gain new perspectives.
Students not attending on campus can also lose out on campus benefits such as easy access to the library, gym, and other resources.
Con: Some Classes Can’t Be Offered Online
As online schools are becoming more mainstream, classes are still not available in all fields. You may be able to find plenty of virtual courses related to business, history, economics, and languages. But you may find it much more difficult to find courses in chemistry, biology, engineering and other similar subjects. Hands-on laboratory learning is a mandatory requirement in all these courses. This is not yet possible through online learning. If your preferred course requires hands-on learning, this may not be an option for you.
Con: Requires a High Degree of Self Discipline
The extra flexibility and lack of accountability leaves room for students to procrastinate. Some students struggle to stay motivated and on track with studying and completing their assignments. Self-discipline, time management, and organization are crucial skills for students taking online classes.
Con: Bad Reputation
Online classes have come a long way since they first started, with learning happening in multi-media formats. Yet, the unfavorable reputation they gained during their nascent years persists. Some organizations perceive applicants with an online education unfavorably as compared to students graduating from traditional universities. It is changing but slowly. This could be a drawback of online classes for a career-conscious student.
Con: A Reliable Internet Connection and Computer are Must-Haves
Although online courses can make some classes more accessible to some, it is restrictive to others. If the student doesn’t have consistent access to a reliable internet connection and a solid computer, attending courses may be impossible. For those who live in areas with poor internet or restrictive speeds, online classes are likely not a viable option. And some classes require you to download extensive software to complete the classwork – can the computer handle it?
Should You Take Online Classes?
There are both advantages and disadvantages to studying online. Your personality and learning style and the field you wish to major in are likely the biggest key in determining if online courses are right for you. Many schools also offer a mix. You might be able to take some courses on campus and others online!
But when you’re choosing a college, you might have to make a decision. Some schools only offer traditional courses OR online classes, not both. And some that offer online classes may not offer many. If you’re having trouble making the decision, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- How do I learn? What are my strengths or weaknesses?
- Where am I most comfortable learning?
- Do I mind missing out on some social aspects of the college experience?
- How reliable is my internet connection?
- Do I have a strong enough computer?
- What is the reputation of my school’s online program?
- Do I have the self-discipline to tackle the schoolwork on time and effectively?
And if you’re still not sure, you can always take a low-stakes online course to test it out, too! If it’s not right for you, you can always opt for traditional courses in the future.
Online classes definitely change the learning game, but whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing really depends on you! It’s absolutely a benefit for many students, but others struggle with the change or simply can’t access their courses reliably. Understanding the pros and cons of online courses, however, can help you make your decision going forward.