An Introduction to Online Education

College educations come in all different shapes and sizes. One option that has grown in popularity in recent years is online education earning a degree from one of many entirely “online” universities or taking online classes through a traditional college. In fact, an annual study by the Sloan Consortium, an online education organization, showed nearly 20 percent of U.S. higher education students took at least one college course online in the fall of 2006.

What Is Online Education?

Signing up for an online college class or degree program usually means most of your communication with the instructor and other students will take place online, either through email, message boards, or chat room discussions. Some programs use pre-packaged software to deliver class materials and assignments to you, while others require occasional on-campus classroom time for exams or lab work. The college offering the courses may be located near you, or on the other side of the country.

Which College Degrees are Available Online?

Your options are nearly limitless in terms of what degrees you can pursue online you’ll just need to do some research to find the right program for you. Many online degree programs offer two-year associates degrees and certificates in specific career skills, especially those related to healthcare, business, or computer science. You’ll also find plenty of options if you want to work toward a bachelor’s or master’s degree, an MBA, or even a PhD.

What are the Benefits of Online Education?

  • Convenience. The ability to take classes when and where it’s convenient for you can be a huge bonus, particularly for adult students who work full time or have family obligations.
  • Scheduling flexibility. Most online degree programs allow you to take as little as one class at a time, meaning you can earn your degree on a timeline that works for you.
  • Cost. Not all online degree programs are less expensive than traditional college coursework, but many are. Likewise, you won’t have the expense of living on campus or commuting to and from classes.
  • Career-oriented degree programs. Many online degrees and courses focus on career-specific skills, which working students can apply on the job immediately.

What are the Drawbacks to an Online College Degree?

  • The College experience. If you’ve always wanted to experience traditional college life, complete with dorm living and football games on Saturday, an online degree might not be right for you.
  • Perception of online degrees. Many online universities are as respected as their “bricks-and-mortar” counterparts. That said, a handful of future employers might be less impressed by an online versus traditional degree.
  • Writing skills required. Since most of your communication with your teachers and fellow students is written, through emails or chat room postings, you might be at a disadvantage if you don’t have strong writing skills.
  • Independent learning. Many students thrive on the independent work that takes the place of physical classroom time in an online degree program, but others can struggle without in-person attention and reminders. Be sure you have the self discipline and initiative to be successful in this type of learning environment.

Is Online Education Right for Me?

Online education is just one of many options you should consider in your college search. Think about your goals, your personal situation and what kind of college experience you want. If you decide a virtual classroom is right for you, make sure you do your research to learn about the many options out there. Whether you’re a recent high school grad or a busy professional looking to further your career, there’s probably an online education program that’s a good fit for you. Cappex’s college roster includes many opportunities for those considering taking online classes.