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The Benefits of Online Learning

A woman seated on a couch, taking notes from a laptop.

53% of all degree-seekers in the U.S. will take at least one online class. If you’re seeking a degree there’s a high chance you will take an online class.

If you’ve never taken an online class before, you may be wondering what to expect. Maybe you consider yourself to be a more traditional learner, taking notes with a pen and paper and talking with your professors after class.

The truth is, that online learning has many benefits and can be tailored to match your learning style. We’ll cover:

  • The difference between online and in-person courses

  • 8 benefits of learning online

  • Myths about online learning

  • Benefits of online learning statistics

  • Where to find online courses

Difference Between Online and In-Person Courses

Online courses and in-person courses cover the same material but in different ways. These are the differences between in-person learning and online learning.

Scheduled Classes Vs. Asynchronous Classes

In-person classes occur on a set schedule. Typically, 3 credit classes are either one 2-3 hour lecture or two 45-90 minute lectures. These classes are required to attend if you want to do well in the class. Some professors may give some leeway for missing classes for important events, but overall it’s a good idea to attend every lecture.

Online courses come in two flavors, synchronous and asynchronous.

  • Synchronous classes require students to attend virtual courses on a set schedule. Virtual lectures let students take notes and set up their study space in any way they want, but they have a set lecture schedule.

  • Asynchronous classes mean all the lectures are pre-recorded and materials are uploaded so students can engage with the course on their own time. These classes are more convenient because they let students watch lectures whenever they want. They can even choose to watch a little bit at a time. If you’re choosing between online and in-person, consider how well you do with or without structure.

Graphic defining synchronous vs asynchronous online learning.

Face-To-Face Vs. Virtual Interaction

In-person classes let students interact with professors and peers face-to-face. This is a benefit of online classes for more extroverted people. For some, coming to class and seeing friends, and peers, and interacting with their professors directly, is a helpful practice.

Students enrolled in online courses can interact with peers and professors in a virtual setting. For some courses, this means attending lectures at the same time and discussing questions in an online forum setting. Some students may see this as a benefit.

Depending on your professor, they’ll be available to talk with either through office hours or emails. These options will be available to online and in-person learners. However, some professors may be too busy to chat after classes and their office hours can get booked quickly.

8 Benefits of Online Learning

A student workign at a desk on a laptop.

Since 2000, Online learning has been on a consistent rise, and for good reason. Online degree programs offer students a new way to engage with course materials that could suit them better.

Whether online learning is beneficial to you will come down to your personality and preferences. Here are 8 benefits to online learning you should consider before attending an online class.

1. Cost Effective

Online education is much cheaper than in-person degree programs. The cheaper cost comes down to cheaper tuition and fewer expenses for transportation, meal plans, and room and board.

The cost-effective nature of online learning is a major draw for a lot of people. You’ll be able to create your own budget for food and other amenities while also completing your degree or certificate.

2. Improve Work/School-Life Balance

Attending online courses means you won’t need to spend extra time on campus. Instead, you can keep your school life, your work life, and your personal life separate.

Having extra time in the day to study, work, go on hikes, you name it, is a bonus for students. You can even spend that extra time developing your career by applying for jobs or working an internship.

3. Flexible Schedule

40% of full-time students in 2020 were employed. Attending online classes makes your schedule more flexible, especially if the courses you’re attending are asynchronous.

Attending classes on your own time means you can tailor your daily and weekly schedule however you want. With this amount of flexibility, you won’t need to worry about aligning your class and work schedules.

4. Receive the Same Degree and Certification

Whether you’re taking in-person courses or online, you’ll get the same degree and credentials. An online degree is not considered less than an in-person degree. In fact, there is no such distinction between the two.

An online degree program lets you get the same degree for a cheaper price.

5. Customizable Learning Space

Working from home has become a norm for many jobs. It’s been shown to increase employee productivity, increase happiness, and decrease commute stress. Another benefit of working from home is being able to customize your working space. This benefit carries into online learning.

If you attend online courses, you can tailor your classroom setting to your liking. Maybe you focus better with lots of natural light: you can do your classes on the porch, or in a sun-draped room. Maybe you prefer a dark academia setting. The point is, you can make your learning space whatever you want it to be.

College classrooms can be hospital-like and make learning difficult for some students. When done right, a home office or study nook can increase your productivity by creating an environment that helps you think clearly.

6. No Commute

Not having to drive to class makes attending online classes much easier.

Having a daily commute to campus cuts into your study, work, and personal time. Depending on where you live, the drive to campus could be a long one. And once you’re on campus, it might not be worth it to drive all the way back home. This will leave you stranded on campus during the time between classes.

When attending online classes you won’t need to drive to campus at regular intervals, you could even watch lectures in bed.

7. Gain Skills Employers Love

In most cases, employers want workers who are self-driven and able to work independently. Online courses require you to make your own schedule, plan ahead, and complete tasks within a given timeline.

As employment continues to shift toward remote and hybrid settings, gaining the skills necessary to confidently work from home is important. If you’re able to maintain a schedule and complete tasks on time, that’s a big deal for many employers.

Online courses give you the ability to confidently put “able to work independently” on your resume.

8. Learn Anywhere

Online learning gives you the opportunity to learn anywhere in the world you want. That means you could watch lectures and study at a local coffee shop, or complete homework assignments from a bungalow on the coast of the mediterranean.

Just make sure you keep your timezones straight.

Myths About Online Learning

There are a lot of misconceptions about online learning. Not everyone agrees on the benefits, or downfalls, of online classes. However, some criticisms are flat-out wrong.

Here are some myths about online learning.

A student hunched over open notebooks & computer.

Online Learners Lack Support

This is easy to misunderstand. Not being on campus every day won’t cut off the support available to you.

Professors and faculty will have their own preferences on how to communicate with students. However, most of them prefer to answer emails over getting questions thrown at them at the end of class.

Online learning options do not mean you’re completely on your own. You’ll be able to ask your instructor, professor, and even peers questions about the material you’re learning.

Online Classes Are Easy

For some people, online classes are easier to engage with than in-person classes. However, online classes are not necessarily easier than in-person.

Good online classes are just as difficult as in-person classes, but are modified just a little to better accommodate at-home learners.

You Don’t Have to Engage in Online Learning

Some might say you can coast through online learning by hiding behind your computer. This isn't the case. Online learning requires students to engage with them just as much as in-person classes.

Most online classes will ask students to engage in online discussions, and others might even ask you to work on a team project. This might require you to join on a Zoom call with other students or meet up if possible.

Benefits of Online Learning Statistics

The prevalence of online learning is continuing to grow yearly. In 2021 coursera hit 92 million registered students. That’s a large number of people seeking online learning.

Online classes for traditional degrees are also becoming more normal. During 2020, 46% of students learned exclusively in an online medium. That number has increased after the pandemic with 59% of students taking classes both online and in-person.

Online-only students who finished a degree after the 2020-2021 academic year made up:

  • 4.4% of all associate degree graduates

  • 6.5% of all bachelor’s degree graduates

  • 11.5% of all master’s degree graduates

It’s more common to receive an online degree for a postgraduate degree. This makes sense when you consider that a good portion of people seeking a master’s degree are already in the workforce.

Develop Your Skills At REDC

Online learning is very accessible. There are so many options available, and it may be hard to know where to start.

The REDC at Yavapai College is a great place to start looking for online courses and programs. Our team is eager to help students find free programs through the QUEST Grant. This grant lets students learn for free from a wide range of career-oriented certificates through Yavapai College and Coursera.

Apply now to start finding free online learning opportunities.

Home LinkThe REDC is a Division of Yavapai College.Go to yc.edu

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