Have you been thinking about enrolling in an online college instead of applying to a traditional brick-and-mortar university? Every year, thousands of students toy with the idea of enrolling in online programs, mainly because they sound less stringent and also less competitive. But are they really as idyllic as they sound? Will joining an online college work better for you than applying to a traditional institution?
Learning some more about the pros and cons of online colleges will help you make a more informed decision.
Pros of Enrolling in an Online College
Online colleges were introduced as a way to provide an education to students who are unable to attend a traditional college for various reasons. These programs are a boon for students who have physical, schedule, or geographical restrictions and those who have other commitments that make it impossible for them to attend full-time college programs.
With online programs, students can study from just about anywhere as long as they have a computer and a reliable internet connection.
The flexibility offered by online programs is unparalleled and almost impossible to obtain through any conventional college. Course materials are accessible 24/7 so you can download whatever you require and study at any time of the night or day enabling you to complete the coursework without compromising on your other commitments.
In most cases, you will be able to take as long as you want to complete the program or you can choose to complete the program in a shorter time so you can get into the workforce that much faster.
Potentially Lower Costs
Online college fees are not necessarily lower than their conventional counterparts. A lot depends on which online program you attend. The tuition fees that some of more established online colleges charge is equal to or even higher than some colleges. However, where you do save a lot is on other incidentals.
With an online program you do not have to factor in the cost of room, board or commuting. Some courses have a practical component that cannot be delivered from a distance, which means you may incur the cost of travel and staying once or twice a year but the total does not even come close to the cost of full-time college.
Cons of Enrolling in an Online College
Not All Programs Can Be Taught Online
While there are several subjects that lend themselves well to distance learning, those that have a hands-on component cannot be learnt in a virtual environment. Some examples include medicine, physiotherapy, and other healthcare and sports related subjects. Not only is it more challenging to learn these subjects online but in many cases, it can lower your employability too. Very few hospitals if any would readily hire a medical practitioner who has completed an online program.
Time Management Can Be a Struggle
Time management is the single biggest obstacle that online students face when completing assignments. Online colleges require an immense amount of discipline, self-motivation and time management, much more than students realize before they enroll in the program. With no in-person reminders from teachers and no accountability, some students simply keep letting things slide indefinitely till they reach a point where they are simply overwhelmed by the amount they need to get caught up with.
It is Not Completely ‘Schedule-Free’
Although there is a lot of flexibility with the classes and coursework, maintaining a schedule is strongly recommended to avoid missing deadlines and getting overwhelmed.
In addition, you may have to mark certain dates to attend group discussions and live lectures. To ensure that all students participate and contribute to these discussions meaningfully, many online programs require you to complete certain assignments within the stipulated deadline so that you are up to date on the material before the live event. This will involve a certain amount of scheduling on your part.
You Do Not Get To Participate In College Activities
Sports, debates, music, theater… in traditional college, there are numerous activities you can participate in and several teams and clubs that you can join. Being a part of any team or college is a huge part of college life and that school spirit stays with you long after you have graduated. Being a part of something bigger than yourself can be immensely satisfying.
The ‘college life’ something you will never get to experience when you enroll in an online college. For many students, even those who have the discipline and motivation required for online college, it is the isolation and lack of student engagement that is the biggest deterrent.
Lack of Networking Opportunities
Nothing beats face-to-face interactions when you are looking to build and grow your network. Getting to know students and faculty personally during your college years will help you make solid connections that can benefit you both personally as well as professionally years after you have graduated.
It can be challenging for online students to foster such relationships. In later years, the lack of a solid network can become limiting when looking for references or even when you want to look back and reminisce.
Is Online College For You?
Deciding whether or not to enroll in an online college is a highly personal decision, one that can only be made after factoring in finances, time constraints and the level of motivation and discipline required.
Enrolling in an online college is a cost-effective solution but the truth is, only those students who are highly motivated, disciplined and organized do well in online colleges, while those who do not have these attributes find themselves struggling to stay on track.