“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”—Benjamin Franklin
The trend of earning a degree online is on the rise according to the Department of Education, bringing with it an exciting new potential for the future of education. Yet earning an online degree can seem daunting. If you’re a potential student, you might have a lot of questions. What is it like to earn an online degree? Is my program affordable? Will I have enough time to complete my degree? Can I succeed in a digital learning environment? Luckily, there is plenty of available information for anyone who wants to learn more about the online education format.
How does online college work?
When you earn a degree online, it resembles earning one through a traditional setting in many ways. Online degrees are usually offered by colleges and universities with an on-ground presence. These programs must meet the same rigorous academic standards as their campus counterparts, and often include similar instructional materials. Additionally, online programs are taught by instructors who are knowledgeable about their subjects and passionate about teaching in the online environment.
However, online degree programs are also unique. Course delivery options, for example, are much wider in scope. They can be offered in both synchronous (real-time instruction) and asynchronous (self-paced) formats.
Other online courses may be offered in hybrid form, meaning they have both online and on-ground components. Online elements of hybrid courses may be either synchronous or asynchronous. Their real-world components often entail activities that are difficult to complete digitally, such as working with patients, teaching children, or participating in an internship. Common programs of study with these types of requirements include nursing, education, business, and social work.
|Students must be online at the same time as instructors
|Students go online to access course materials on their own schedule
|Live chat, audio and video conferencing, telephone
|Email, thread discussions, social networking
|Potential instructional tools
|Shared whiteboard, online slideshows, file attachments, bulletin boards, virtual libraries
|Instant feedback, feelings of involvement, easier transition from traditional schooling format
|Allows more time for reflection, increased schedule flexibility
Online degree programs also have technical requirements. Common items you might need access to as an online student include:
- Up-to-date computer operating systems
- High-speed internet access
- Speakers or headphones
- Word processing software
- CD/DVD drive
The process of earning a degree online involves using a website called a learning management system (LMS). Common LMS products include Moodle, Blackboard, and Canvas, which vary in services and features. An LMS hosts course materials, discussion forums, class calendars, assignments, and any other items that may be required to complete a certain class. Although this learning format may be different, you still must read course materials and submit assignments according to deadlines set by the instructor.
If your courses are synchronous, you are required to log on at certain time of day to hear a lecture or communicate with fellow students. If courses are asynchronous, your attendance is often counted through participation in online class forums. As in traditional programs, you are encouraged to communicate with your instructors and fellow classmates for academic support and supplementary knowledge.
Examinations for online courses are treated differently than those in the traditional classroom. Sometimes they will be completely absent from your course. Other times, you will be able to take exams at home in an open-book format. Yet for others you must go to a certain facility to take an exam with a test proctor present.
While it may take time to adjust to the format of online education, there are plenty of reasons why it might be a perfect fit for you, especially if you aspire to earn your degree.
What are the benefits when you earn a degree online?
No single educational system is right for everyone. Every student has their own educational requirements, financial needs, and professional interests to consider. However, a growing number of students are discovering the benefits of earning their degree online.
So… why earn a degree online?
No matter your academic interest or level of study, there’s a good chance you can find an accredited online program that meets your needs. You can earn everything from an associate degree to a four-year degree, to a graduate degree and beyond. You can also study to obtain endorsements and licensures relevant to your profession. Academically, there’s almost no subject that can’t be taught at least partially through an online interface. Programs can even offer numerous specializations within a course of study.
According to Forbes, the average college student has $37,172 in debt. Anything you can do to lower this amount helps. Fortunately, online degrees are often more financially reasonable than their traditional counterparts. In addition to pricey tuition, campus programs often require expenses related to housing, food, parking, facility use, and a host of other amenities. Online programs forego many of these. Additionally, online programs allow you to continue working while you attend school.
Gone are the days of online education stigma. Today, earning a degree online means you’ll have a real opportunity to gain the skills employers value and put them to work right away. Earning your degree online doesn’t just allow you to study high-opportunity job fields. It enables you to immediately apply your new skills to your work and increase your effectiveness as a professional.
Online learning is wonderfully convenient. You can log on and learn any time, day or night, and can attend class from anywhere you have internet access. And you can work at a pace that’s right for you. Having the ability to customize every aspect of your program means the ability to craft the kind of learning experience you want, and keep work and life commitments balanced in the process.
College degrees increase your earning potential. According to the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, individuals with a bachelor’s degree earn about $32,000 more per year than peers who only have a high school diploma. When you earn your bachelor’s degree, you are also poised to make more money throughout your career. Additionally, you are 47% more likely to have health insurance through your job and are half as likely to be unemployed.
If you become an online student, you can usually transfer any academic credit you’ve earned through a community college or two-year degree program. Not only does this cut down on expenses, it enables you as a working adult to get the degree you need in a shorter amount of time, allowing you to back to the workforce and professionally advance at a quicker pace.
Colleges and universities are known for the relationships students build during their attendance. Although you may not meet your fellow students face-to-face, there’s no shortage of meaningful interactions between peers in a digital classroom. Instructors with years of real-world experience are there to mentor you and improve your understanding of course materials. And your program ensures you’ll be in constant communication with others through emails, forums, live chats, and other methods. When it comes to community building, online students truly don’t sacrifice anything.
All online students have different time needs. Some students can progress quickly through course materials. Others go slower, or need additional academic support. They may need to put school on hold for a semester or study double-time to meet a deadline for their job. Whatever your time requirements, online degrees give you the option of moving through your program exactly in the way that works best for you.
Technology is in a constant state of evolution. As an online student, you’ll have the opportunity to develop your skills along with it. Whether it’s navigating basic programs or honing advanced skills, online programs enable you to navigate learning management systems to build skills that transfer to many careers and industries.
To succeed in an online degree program, you must be a self-directed individual who works well independently. You must be able to effectively schedule their study time, meet deadlines, initiate conversations with your instructors and peers, and keep yourself on a long-term plan toward graduation. Earning a college degree is not a casual process. Therefore, you’ll learn an extraordinary amount of self-discipline and fortitude, which will serve you well throughout your life.
All of these factors make online learning an extraordinary experience. However, the most important selling point for an online degree is obvious: successful career advancement.
View all the benefits of learning online.
How do online colleges prepare you for your career?
Earning an online degree is beneficial to your career in many ways. Statistically, college graduates have lower rates of unemployment. They also tend to earn more money. And like the best educational experiences, earning an online degree successfully prepares you for your future.
Online colleges offer career opportunities
Online programs also prepare you for an incredible range of career fields. More than ever before, you can earn a convenient degree that fits precisely with your intended career goals. Just some of the possibilities include:
- Business analytics
- Business management
- Human resources
- Sports management
Criminal Justice & Criminology
- Homeland security
- Law enforcement administration
- Public safety administration
Education & Teaching
- Early childhood education
- English language learning
- School administration
- Curriculum design
Health & Nursing
- Family and human development
- Health care administration
- Health informatics
- Nursing administration
- Social work
Computer Science & Technology
- Computer engineering
- Computer information systems
- Computer science
- Information systems
- Software engineering
- Web design and development
Liberal Arts & Sciences
- Environmental science
- Public administration
- Social science
Online graduates gain skills
When you earn a degree online you also develop crucial transferable skills needed across the workforce. Here are just a few:
Critical thinking involves having the ability to think clearly, rationally, and with an open mind. When you have excellent critical-thinking skills, you can help employers better solve problems and make sound decisions.
Communication involves writing, speaking, and presenting ideas effectively. When you are an effective communicator, you can present yourself and represent your employer in the best light possible. Communication skills also improve interactions with fellow employees and clients.
Time management is the ability to understand how long tasks take and how to best utilize time available to complete projects. If you possess excellent time management skills, you increase your marketability in the workforce and can help companies complete projects quickly, efficiently, and realistically.
The ability to work in teams means understanding how to delegate, compromise, and collaborate with others to achieve common goals. If you are good at working in teams, you are better able to help employers synergize their workplace.
Organizational skills mean the ability to systemize, prioritize, and otherwise take independent parts of a system and integrate them into a whole. This skill enables you to stay on track with your work and help others in your workplace do the same.
When someone has effective research skills, they can find a variety of credible sources of information about a topic. This ability is necessary for any position that requires gathering knowledge.
Those who have a strong work ethic are able to prioritize and don’t quit. Successful online students are excellent at these things. So are successful employees.
Online programs offer career development resources
Learning how to be a successful professional can be challenging, especially without help. Luckily, colleges and universities with online degree programs often provide career development assistance to online students and graduates. These schools can help you with:
- Academic advising
- Writing a resume and cover letter
- Job search assistance
- Mentorship and networking
- Job fairs
- Skill workshops
The career preparation offered by online schools is as thorough as any other. For students to understand this, they sometimes have to see it for themselves.
Online College and You
Earning an online degree can seem like an intimidating challenge. However, online degrees are uniquely situated to help you succeed. Online programs allow graduates to increase their earning potential, develop careers, and do so with convenience and a lower cost than traditional college programs. When you graduate from an online college program, you’ll rest assured knowing that you’ve developed in your profession and are on your way to building a better life.