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Why Choose Online Education?

By Amber Hilton,
Staff Writer

A U.S. Department of Education study concludes students pursuing an online degree actually perform better.

Online learning isn't the best option for every student, but it does have plenty of advantages over attending a brick-and-mortar institution. The following are some potential answers to the much-asked question, "Why choose online education?"

Probably the most obvious reason to choose online education is flexibility. Online learning is generally a good choice for non-traditional students who have work and family responsibilities to juggle. Many online programs allow students to work at their own pace, which is convenient for those with a 40-hour workweek and/or family responsibilities. Such students can work toward an advanced degree while continuing to advance in their careers. Parents who put off a degree to rear children can go back to school without neglecting their family duties. Not only do online students generally have more control over their own schedules than traditional students do, they also save precious hours each day or week by eliminating a commute.

An online education affords students a much wider range of schools and programs from which to choose than a traditional education does. Rather than being limited to the schools in their area, students can select from programs across the country or even around the globe. They can attend any school-anywhere-as long as they are accepted and have a working Internet connection. Because of this aspect of online learning, students who choose an online education have opportunities to network with other students from all over the nation or even overseas. This can enhance the learning experience and open up job opportunities after graduation.

Some students choose online education in order to save money. Not only are online education programs generally less costly than programs at traditional brick-and-mortar colleges and universities, but students also save money on gas and parking. For individuals with careers in which time is money, the lack of a commute can also be added into the savings.

According to a 2009 study by the U.S. Department of Education, students pursuing an online education performed better than those in traditional classrooms. This means that online education is just as effective, if not more so, than traditional classroom learning, although the study also showed that blended programs-those that combine online learning plus face-to-face instruction-were the most effective. It is also true that every student learns in different ways, and thanks to the variety of online programs available, students are sure to find a method of learning and evaluation that allows them to succeed. Finally, students in an online program aren't limited to the professors at their given college, since many online programs feature guest lecturers from various countries.

These are just some of the many potential reasons to choose online education over a traditional classroom environment. Because online programs are often more flexible and self-paced than traditional learning, students who lack in self-discipline or thrive on personal interaction might not perform well in such an environment. However, most online programs do offer opportunities for student interaction via online message boards or instant messaging (IM). These are just a few things that students should weigh when considering an online education.

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