Distance learning, also known as online learning, has been rapidly evolving throughout the years. So much so that states are now offering free online public schooling for students K-12. Colleges and universities are not only offering online bachelor degrees, but masters degrees as well. This means that if a student wanted to, they could attend school online for their entire lives and get a masters degree. Your overall learning experience would be through a computer or tablet, never having to attend an actual class in the traditional sense.
Some online classes do have a real classroom setting but this is normally once a month or workshops to obtain some hands on experience. The questions that arise are whether this form of education is right for you and is there a depreciating value comparing online degrees versus degrees obtained in the traditional physical classroom setting?
The common first step in research for people that have never attended an online class would be a guide to online colleges which help outline the basics of what to expect. Depending on what level of education you are already at will determine what type of online setting you prefer and if its right for you at all. I will be directing my tone towards online graduate degrees as examples of online programs to help you determine if this is the route that will benefit you the most.
Online v Traditional
The tide has begun to change. Online schooling was at first seen as a lower value degree than getting a traditional degree, but with multiple schools from all grade levels now offering an online option, the value has shifted towards an even balance.
This 30 year research project by the U.S. Department of Education outlines and proves that there is no significant difference in learning outcomes when comparing online students versus traditional students.
Benefits of Online
Now that we know that online students are just as smart as traditional students, let us take a look at the benefits of online. The first and most obvious benefit is time. With online courses being delivered directly to your computer, there is normally no set time that you have to attend “class”. This allows you to fit school into your busy work schedule and home life, giving you time to focus on what’s truly important each day.
The amount of resources that online classes is expansive. It’s like having the book example come to life. The problems and examples tend to be interactive giving you a nice hands on experience. If you happen to get stuck, you can quickly message the teacher, ask a classmate or have the program walk you through a similar but different problem. For me, this is a huge benefit because I am very much a visual learner and seeing how the core of the problem works helps me understand quickly and efficiently.
The last big benefit of online courses is cost. For many that lead busy lives, it’s inconvenient to have to work less in order to be able to attend a traditional class setting. Online course works around your schedule allowing you to work full time and go to school full time and the best part is that online cost significantly less, depending on your chosen field.
Full Online v Partial Online
The last important aspect of online learning to take into consideration is whether it is completely 100% online, or if some class time is required. Some class time usually means getting together monthly, while others require hands on experience but allow you to get that experience wherever you reside. Ohio University Master of Health Administration and the University of New England Masters of Social Work are prime examples of courses that allow you to get your degree without ever having to set foot in an actual classroom from start to finish.
The type of degree you’re working towards will determine whether the course will be 100% online. For example, the University of Cincinnati Master of Science in Nursing Program is completely online, except for the clinical part of the program. They allow you to complete the hands on clinical aspect wherever you live.
Some programs offer mixed programs, meaning that you have some online courses and some courses that you do have to physically attend, depending on where you live. Boston University Master of Science in Computer Information Systems allows you to attend a mixed program, but only if you happen to live in the Boston area.