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What are the Pros and Cons of Online Education?

By Amber Hilton,
Staff Writer

Students find online classes can be much more flexible and affordable than traditional campus learning.

Given that it is accredited by a reputable agency, an online school can have many benefits over a campus school. While online learning might not be a good fit for every student, for most, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Some of the benefits of an online school vs. a campus school include:

1. Variety of degrees, programs and learning formats. Because you aren't limited to the schools or programs in your area, an online school really opens up your options when it comes to the types of degrees and areas of study you can pursue. Many different types of degrees can be earned online, including an associate's or a bachelor's degree for an undergraduate student and graduate degrees like a Master of Business Administration (MBA), Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Juris Doctorate (J.D.). While some areas of study, including those that require many studio or lab courses, don't translate well to an online learning environment, you can often find hybrid programs that allow you to complete some courses on campus while still taking some online classes.

2. Flexibility. Another major benefit of an online school is the flexibility it allows. Many online schools permit you to work at your own pace, which means you can earn your degree while continuing to work or take care of family responsibilities. You'll save precious time by avoiding a commute and can view lectures, complete assignments and even take tests without ever having to step foot into a physical classroom. An online classroom is generally available to you any time of day or night, so you can set your own schedule and work around your other commitments. You also never have to worry about canceled classes or adverse weather conditions with an online program.

3. Lower cost. Although this is not always the case, you generally can save some money by going to an online school. Not only will you save on gas and parking, but some online schools are actually less expensive to attend than a campus school, which requires a lot more money to operate.

4. Effectiveness. In the past, some have suggested that online learning might not be as effective as that in a traditional classroom setting. However, a 2009 U.S. Department of Education study suggests otherwise, finding that students in online courses actually performed better than those in a traditional campus program. Also, because so many different online programs are available across the nation, you can be sure to find a learning format and evaluation process that works for your learning style.

These benefits make online schools attractive to many students, but there are some potential drawbacks as well. Among them is a lack of face-to-face interaction with instructors and fellow students. Also, if you aren't good at motivating yourself, you might struggle with the more flexible, self-paced nature of this type of education. Even so, most students find that the benefits of an online school outweigh the drawbacks.

Last edited: October 31, 2011, 5:31 pm EST
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