For a long time, it’s been possible to gain a college education without ever actually attending college. In fact, the first degrees via correspondence were offered more than 100 years ago – with student and professor communicating primarily via the postal service.
Despite this, moving away to study at a college in a faraway town has been considered the “norm” for generations.
However, thanks to the ever-accelerating progress made during the technological age, that picture is changing year-by-year. Over the past few years, the online degree has become a convenient alternative to studying on-campus, with an increasing number of students opting to sign up for internet-based studies.
Why are so many people forgoing the traditional on-campus college experience and choosing to study online instead?
Moving away to attend college in another town is not financially practical for many people. There’s the expense of student housing and of commuting to and from home during the holiday season – plus the various other fees and costs that come with studying on-campus.
With online degrees, many of those costs can be avoided. As you can study primarily from home (or wherever else you like), housing and travel costs are removed from the equation. Course fees also tend to be lower for online degrees compared to an on-campus equivalent. That makes studying online a win-win if you’re worried about the cost of a college education.
In the past, students may have opted to study at a nearby community college – mainly because that was the only real option. However, even compared with community college, online courses are preferable for many people as they remove the time and expense involved in commuting locally to classes.
Choice of subjects
In days gone by, making the decision to study close to home meant that you were limited to choosing a course offered by local institutions such as community colleges.
Since the advent of online education, however, that’s no longer the case. With a wealth of choice in the subjects that you can study online, you can now have the best of both worlds – gaining a qualification in your chosen field without having to move to a new town. That choice continues to grow, with thousands of courses now available, including bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctorates such as the online MPH degree offered by the University of Arizona.
It’s a useful option for prospective students who are not in a position to move due to commitments – such as a young family, a demanding day job, or both.
Online courses are delivered to a schedule that suits you. If you want to complete your course as quickly as possible, then you can often choose to accelerate it – meaning that a degree that would usually take years to complete can be done within a few months. Conversely, most online courses offer the flexibility to temporarily pare back your studies if you have to focus on other commitments such as work or family.
The same flexibility applies to the times at which course participants study. As there are few requirements – and in many cases, no requirements – to attend physical classes and assessments, you can tailor your study hours to your lifestyle.
Again, this is a great option for prospective students with young children as there’s no need to pay for expensive childcare or arrange for a sitter. Simply study wherever and whenever suits you – first thing in the morning, last thing at night, or even during nap time.
Online education is also a useful option if you’re pursuing a career change. In the past, this often meant having to give up your existing day job in order to study full-time. Thanks to the flexible pacing and “study when you like” nature of online learning, that’s no longer necessary; simply study around your working hours.
Entry requirements and learning style
In some cases – but not all – online courses have lower entry requirements compared with studying for the same qualification on campus. If your academic record has put you off applying for further education in the past, it’s time to reconsider.
Most online courses are designed with a wide audience and a range of different learning styles in mind. The majority of the work that you’ll undertake as part of your course will be self-directed – so you can research and develop skills in a way that’s natural to you. Even if you were not particularly engaged with study during high school, you may find an online course that’s suited to your way of learning.