Online courses have become a very popular option in the last years. More and more people are choosing them because of the flexibility they offer compared to traditional courses. In this post, we will analyze the pros and cons of online learning, that is, the most important factors you should consider before deciding which program you want to enroll in.
While many of these factors apply to most online courses, some depend on the course subject and on your personal preferences.
The Pros of Online Learning
No more daily trips to school – One obvious advantage of online learning is studying from any location you want. You can learn from the comfort of your home without having to take the car, bus, or train to your school, which also cuts down expenses. This can be essential for those who live in locations where not all types of schools are available, like small cities or country towns. Provided you have a good Internet connection, online learning gives you access to the same variety of courses you would find in a big metropolitan city. Online learning can also provide benefits to people who live in larger urban centers and who might want to reduce the daily stress caused by driving on busy roads or using public transportation.
Flexible schedule – Maybe you are a full-time professional with a very tight schedule or a busy parent with children to look after. Or maybe you are a young person who needs a part-time job to pay for his or her monthly expenses. In any of these scenarios, online learning will make your life a lot easier. While some online courses require you to attend online classes and webinars on specific days and at specific hours, most courses allow you to plan your study flexibly. You will decide independently when to study and how long every study session should last. Some certification courses even offer monthly or quarterly exam sessions, which you can take only when you feel you have really mastered that subject.
No paper books – Another great advantage of studying online is the fact that most learning material is included in the course package and can be consulted online. Most online learning platforms have very functional dashboards you can easily log in to with your username and password. From there you will be able to access e-books, articles, videos, and everything you need to broaden your knowledge and skills on that particular subject. In some cases, you’ll have the option of downloading learning material on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Many online platforms also include forums and chats through which students can interact with professors, teaching advisers, and other students.
Overall costs – In addition to cutting down transportation and library costs, online schools often charge smaller fees than ordinary schools because they have to spend less money on infrastructure, administration, security, and other expenses for physical facilities. Moreover, some multiple-course programs allow you to pay for one course at the time, spreading the overall costs over a longer period. Online learning is, therefore, a great option for those who can’t currently afford to pay for a traditional course or for those who are saving money for other things. (Check also this article from Champlain College on the costs of online education in comparison to traditional education).
The Cons of Online Learning
No personal interactions with teachers – A lot of students value their relationship with their teachers and consider it to be a fundamental aspect of their learning process. While some online courses give you the option of interacting with your teachers through forums, chats, social media, or even email, some feel this is not the same as personal interactions. Whether this can be a limitation during your studies depends entirely on your personality and on your preferences. Are you the kind of student who feels encouraged by a direct, face-to-face relationship with your teacher, or do you just value teachers for the practical knowledge they provide and have no issues interacting with them virtually?
No direct socialization with other students – Another aspect of traditional schools some students might feel reluctant to give up is the chance of getting to know other people who study in the same course. Some people prefer studying in a group and really feel like they can’t go through an entire program studying entirely on their own. Other people also see schools as a social hub where they can make new friends and increase their overall network of acquaintances. While some online courses give you the possibility of interacting with other students through online social platforms, it is clearly not the same as meeting people in a traditional classroom or at the school’s cafeteria. You might want to assess how much value you give to day-to-day social interactions with other students before enrolling in an online course.
Less accredited schools – As online courses become more popular, more and more schools have begun to look for accreditation from official bodies. Some traditional schools and universities even started to offer an online version of their traditional courses, providing the same certificates and degrees they offer to students attending courses on campus. Yet the overall number of accredited online schools still hasn’t reached that of traditional schools. It’s very important to inquire about a school’s credentials before enrolling in an online course. It’s also important to be wary of those online schools that over-market themselves to display authority (even when their record doesn’t reflect that) and to stay away from scammy websites that are just looking for a quick way to bill your credit card. Look for online reviews from different sources. You can start by reading our reviews and by searching the web for blogs and forums where students post their experiences with various online courses.
Self-motivation – This is probably the most important factor when deciding whether to start an online course or not. Can you self-motivate yourself outside of the institutionalized context of a traditional school? Traditional schools may have long class hours, unfriendly professors, competitive classmates, and a rigid exam schedule, but that context forces you to keep up with the course in order to avoid falling behind other students. In contrast, online courses require self-motivation through the whole program. You need to define your own study plan and stick to it.
We hope this article can help you make the right decision on whether to enroll in an online course or to go for the more traditional option. If you have any doubts and questions don’t hesitate to leave a comment below and we will be happy to help you. Check also these other articles containing tips and advice for online learners.