Online education is becoming more and more popular amongst students around the world. Although many people consider an online degree to be a lesser form of education, they would be surprised to learn that a recent study undertaken by SRI International (on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education) concluded that “on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.” This study echoes the sentiments of many students, whether they study English, Economics or Engineering – it is time to start taking online education seriously.
So what are the pros and cons of studying online?
Pro: Increased Flexibility
The biggest advantage to studying online is the increase in flexibility. You can study when you want to, how you want to, where you want to. This does not mean that the workload is less for a student studying online, only that they have more flexibility in when, how and where they study. This flexibility is why an online education is very popular with mature-age students who have other commitments, such as work or children.
Many firms and institutions are quick to dismiss an online education. If two candidates are interviewed who are exactly in the same in every respect, except one studied at a conventional university and the other studied online, in many cases the student who studied online will miss out.
A positive sign is that many traditional universities, such as the Melbourne Business School, have extended enrolment to online students. But until online education becomes more commonplace and accepted in society, reputation remains a definite disadvantage.
Pro: Ease of Access
All you need to study online is a computer with internet access. All of your study materials, lectures and assignments are sent to you via email or some kind of file transfer system. Even your correspondence with lecturers are wired, with email and video calls via Skype widely used.
Con: Lack of Social Interaction
One of the biggest disadvantages in studying online is the lack of social interaction. This is especially relevant for young undergraduates who should be making friends and having a great time. University is important for your career, but don’t forget that you will meet friends at university that will last you a lifetime.
Pro: More Affordable
Studying online dodges many financial bullets that regular students have to bear the blunt of. Transports costs can add up to hundreds per week, the prices at the cafeteria can be, at times, ludicrous and textbooks can set you back thousands of dollars per semester. The student who studies online has to pay a set annual fee, and that’s it.
Con: Fewer Courses
The internet is an emerging phenomenon; it is still in the infant stage of its development and so it should be of no surprise that there are some shortcomings to an online education. Courses that required hands-on experience, such as Neurology or Chemistry, are simply unsuited to online education.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to studying online. With this article in hand, you will be able to make an informed decision on whether to study via traditional means, or to study online.