Thanks to technology, there are so many things you can do from your home computer, tablet, or smartphone – earn a living, shop, socialize, etc. Nearly one quarter of employed people work remotely, while a whopping 40 percent spend at least some time each week working from home.
In addition, 80 percent of Americans have made an online purchase in the last month, and 96 percent have shopped online at least once. And you don’t need statistics to comprehend the massive impact of online social interaction on sites and apps like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter, in addition to online dating services and other interactive yet virtual communities.
Like these online phenomenons, the option of learning from home is also growing in popularity. While the practice of teaching elementary and high school children at home has been around for centuries, new online alternatives for earning a college and post-graduate degree are giving a whole new meaning to the term “homeschooling.” Nearly one-third of higher education students are opting to pursue online degrees, and for good reason. Distance learning today is a far cry from your grandparents’ snail mail-based correspondence courses, as the following four advantages illustrate:
With more than six million students enrolled in at least one online course, virtual education program options are exploding. New online schools are being created, existing online colleges are expanding their class offerings, and traditional colleges are adding extensive online programs to their curriculums. For example, Faulkner University, which has four brick-and-mortar campuses, now offers 23 online liberal arts degree programs. Your options are virtually (pardon the pun) endless, as online degrees are available in specializations ranging from auctioneering to zoology. Finding a program that fits your higher education wants and needs gets easier every year – simply search “online degree programs” to explore the vast possibilities.
An online degree also looks just as prestigious on your resume as a traditional one, especially since more and more online schools are becoming accredited and earning recognition for the quality of the programs offered. Employers often verify that a degree was earned from an accredited institution to validate an applicant’s qualifications and readiness to work in his or her desired field. Accreditation is conferred by federally-reviewed independent agencies and is based upon peer reviews of the quality of education offered to students.
From an academic perspective, online courses often amplify class participation with virtual discussion boards, which can enhance written communication skills and help you gain a better understanding of the subject matter. Additionally, having long-term online access to learning resources can enhance knowledge retention and makes it much easier to reference later than a textbook that you would most likely trade in upon completion of the class.
Many students cite the online learning experience as great preparation for working in a global environment where business is often conducted exclusively via virtual means. Collaborating with other students and teachers online is also excellent practice for working with virtual-only teams, a practice being adopted by more and more tech companies, start-ups, and service industries.
Learn from home…or away
Like working remotely, many people prefer learning online because of the incredible convenience and flexibility offered by virtual classes. Just think – your classroom could be your beachfront accomodations in Hervey Bay, Queensland. Perhaps you could write a paper about the top 10 places to see on Florida’s Gulf Coast while you’re experiencing everything St. George’s Island has to offer. Or maybe you could do some homework in the ocean at Ohana as you surf Hawaii (did you know you actually can earn a degree in surf science?).
As long as you have Internet connection, you could work on your degree from anywhere in the world, not just your living room sofa. Home can have its advantages, however. Doing schoolwork in your pajamas, braless, barefoot, or in your favorite backyard lounge chair definitely could be more enjoyable than spending hours in a cramped desk. Working from the comfort of home is also a boon for introverts who prefer solitude over stadium seating and computer screens instead of crowded classrooms, or those who can simply concentrate more easily when working alone. And while multitasking isn’t always an optimum option, taking a break from the discussion board or instructor’s video recording to fold laundry, play with the kids, or start the dishwasher has definite advantages.
Time is on your side
In addition to having your choice of learning locations, online degree students can also choose when to work on a degree. Although some professors prefer to virtually interact with the entire class at a certain date and time through live video conferencing, most courses simply provide a deadline for assignments to be completed. If you work full-time, have an unusual schedule, or want to earn your degree around other obligations, this flexibility is one of the best reasons to check out online programs.
The pace at which you take online courses can be highly flexible. Some students, especially those with full-time careers, opt to take just one course at a time. Often, employers offer tuition reimbursement or supplement the costs of continuing education, and limit the number of hours an employee can pursue per semester or quarter. No matter your preferences or limitations, it’s worth a visit to the website of your preferred institution or an email to your college of choice to check out your minimum requirements for hours enrolled.
On the other hand, some schools offer an accelerated degree program to speed up the learning process and help students earn a degree at a faster pace. Schools streamline the pursuit of a degree by eliminating unnecessary components, offering course credit for real-life, hands-on work experience, condensing the length of the course, taking shorter breaks between courses, or making more classes available to students at one time – all without impacting the quality of the educational experience.
Online degrees are often more affordable than in-person classes. The biggest savings is often realized due to decreased or non-existent overhead expenses associated with online classes allows schools to offer these programs at lower tuition rates. In addition to the students, sometimes the staff and faculty of online programs also work remotely, drastically diminishing hard costs associated with maintaining facilities. A recent study found that these reduced costs allowed colleges to pass along savings to students in the form of three to 50 percent savings over traditional tuition.
Secondly, textbooks and course materials are usually available online at a reduced cost or at no charge, saving hundreds of dollars each semester, and online students don’t incur campus-related fees like parking, healthcare services, meal programs, or access to the university gym. Plus, eliminating a lengthy commute adds up to immense savings in time and transportation costs.
Like traditional on-campus students, online learners are also eligible for financial aid and scholarship consideration, which can go a long way to defray or delay college expenses. In fact, some scholarships are set aside specifically for online students.
Overall, the decision to pursue a degree on campus or online will depend upon your preferences, schedule, financial situation, and many other factors. For some learners, however, understanding and exploring your online options may create an opportunity that simply wouldn’t have been possible with a traditional degree program.