What we know of as education has turned into something more flexible, efficient, and accessible called online education. Online learning refers to the information we draw from the internet. It is entirely based on technological learning, through tools made available for us online. In this aspect, the internet serves as the mediator between the learner and the process of learning, through ways of assessment and detailed instruction.
Simply clearing out the terminology is not enough. So, find out more below all about online degrees, the differences from traditional learning, the benefits, the best online education programs, and whether it is worth it.
What is an Online education degree?
E-learning, virtual learning, and distance learning are just some of the many names used to refer to online education. Whichever term you use, the basic meaning is all the same. Online education, in its simplest definition, is a self-explanatory term. It is the process of teaching and learning through technological means. You attend, participate, and engage in classes using your laptop or phone. Basically, all you need is a laptop and a willingness to learn.
Online degrees give students the opportunity to graduate without having to attend face-to-face classes. Furthermore, the curriculum of an online degree contains all the essentials that a traditional degree offers, including lectures, quizzes, as well as assignments and exercises that require active participation.
However, online courses include rich content which incorporates many technological advances into the curriculum, such as audio, video, animations, and live chats with professors – making it as effective as possible. You should also bear in mind that online classes do not mean easier classes. The workload varies from subject to subject, but generally, online learners spend 15 to 20 hours a week on their coursework.
Online education does not simply refer to the deliverance of lessons through technological means; its complexity lies in the different types it is divided into. The four types of online education are synchronous learning, asynchronous learning, blended learning, and massive open online courses.
Synchronous and asynchronous online learning
Synchronous learning allows students to interact with one another and the teacher in real-time; whereas, asynchronous learning uses mainly pre-recorded lectures to allow learners to start and finish a lesson wherever and whenever they can.
Blended learning, also known as hybrid learning, is a mix of both online and face-to-face learning, where students complete their studies in person and online. It uses the most effective tools from both educational methods to make learning more effective and achieve better outcomes.
Massive open online courses
Lastly, massive open online courses are low-cost or free online courses where anyone interested can attend and learn through pre-recorded lectures, discussion forums, and assessments graded by computers.
Online Learning vs Traditional Learning
While some people have major trust in the online learning content, material, and the online education process as a whole, others have their doubts and like to stick to traditional education.
When it comes down to deciding between one or the other, how do you weigh the pros and the cons? How to decide whether you want to pursue a degree through online learning or if you’re more the traditional learning type. All you really have to do is see which one suits you best, based on your circumstances.
Online learning has been proven to reduce so many costs related to your studies. Pursuing an online degree has been estimated to cost an overall average of $30,000. Whereas in comparison, several reports show that pursuing a degree in a traditional university or college can cost you up to $85,000. As noticed and calculated, enrolling in online courses offers students the opportunity to save more tuition fees and boot camps while enjoying greater flexibility.
Traditional learning has its own benefits too. The fact that there is face to face interaction, whether that be social or between you and the lecturer, means a whole lot. You get to discuss several topics, ask plenty of questions, and remain more disciplined with your schedule. However, the bottom of it remains that the choice you make should depend on the type of learning that goes along well with your personality traits.
Online Education Stats
All indicators show a constant growth of online education throughout the years. And with the dynamics following this last decade, we are not surprised. More than 6.3 million students in the U.S. — most of whom were undergraduates — took at least one online course in the fall of 2016, a 5.6% increase from 2015. These data were found by Babson Survey Research Group on their research on the growth of online enrollment.
According to the same report, public colleges and universities had a 7.3% growth in online course enrollment between fall 2015 and 2016, the largest one so far. As a total, more than 65% of all online students have enrolled in programs in public schools. As for private, non-profit schools, they enjoyed a 7.1% rise in enrollment during the same period.
Additionally, the latest statistics report that between 2011 and 2021, massive open online courses (MOOCs) increased their reach from 300,000 to 220 million learners.
The Credibility of Online Degrees
According to a survey conducted by CareerBuilder, 83 percent of executives say that “an online degree is as credible as one earned through a traditional campus-based program.” For quite a long time, we have heard about employers sharing a shade of disbelief towards degrees earned online, because it was an unfamiliar terminology for them. The only way of learning they used to know was brick and mortar.
However, as employers are now being replaced with younger generations, the concept of online degrees is everything but unknown. Hence, this growth of credibility has a proper justification, and we are finally landing on an era when the understanding of degrees estimated equally, whether they’re earned online or traditionally.
Choosing an Online College: Factors to Consider
In the prior sections, we mentioned briefly that there are ways through which you can differentiate universities that offer quality online learning programs. Thanks to these factors, the acknowledgment of online degrees has increased, and it is now easier for students to make sure that they’re making the right choice.
The first question that you ought to ask yourself at the start of your online program research is whether the degree program is accredited. Accredited universities, colleges, and institutions have to fulfill countless rigorous requirements prior to their accreditation. This step is essential, specifically if you’re aiming to benefit from financial funds. Only programs accredited by the Department of Education are eligible for federal funds, so you need to be in an accredited program in order to take advantage of such an opportunity.
Do not rely on the myth that an expensive online degree will guarantee you quality learning. Or on the opposite, that those low-cost online degrees are not worth the shot. This information isn’t always the proper foundation, as there are many degrees available out there from different fields with low tuition fees or even ones that offer scholarships. They even have a reputation for their top-notch online programs, and you can easily access them with proper search techniques. So check properly with other more important factors that we are listing, and don’t let the costs push you towards a wrong decision.
3. Curriculum quality
It is indeed worth the while if you take your time to explore the content which is offered on the online courses you’re aiming to pursue. Explore in detail the course listings, program descriptions, and materials that are available for students. You have to make sure that those materials will get you engaged throughout your courses actively, in order to generate knowledge. Check for discussion forums, virtual labs, or other collaborative projects that allow students to connect and practically apply their taught skills. This is the only guaranteed way to keep your discipline and finish the courses you enroll in.
If people are talking good things about a specific university program, there must be something they’re doing right. It is, therefore, essential to understanding how established is the program you have chosen to follow and connect with the community that was part of it. People will surely spread the word about their bad experiences and good ones as well, so you might take advantage of that. On the other hand, if the program is new and is offered by an unknown institution that has no track record of the online degrees you want to pursue, you may want to consider other alternatives.
5. Retention rate & job placement
Last but not least, among other facts you have to check regarding an online program is its history regarding its retention rate. This can either be a red flag or a green one, meaning that if a large number of learners are dropping out of the program, it shouldn’t really be delivering quality education. If it doesn’t engage you enough, use that data to switch to other choices. Along with that, you should also find useful information that can tell you if graduates found suitable employment after finishing their courses. Examples of the types of organizations that employ graduates of the program will give you enough clues about the appeal of the program.
Benefits of Online Education
As you may imagine and understand now, the benefits of online education are numerous. Some of the most important ones have to do with the timing and the innovative ways of learning that have made possible the rise of self-paced learning and global access to different types of degrees.
Probably one of the highlights of online learning is its level of flexibility. It has finally become possible for students not to quit their jobs in order to pursue a certain degree and to not be obliged to skip several other occasions just to follow lectures. Instead, you can adapt the schedule of these courses far ahead with what you have on your calendar, and this way, you end up perfectly organized, without missing a thing. Whether you want to study at 5 AM or 5 PM, that is totally up to your choice.
We are no longer bound to end up studying in the same place we have lived our entire lives. Sure, it was also possible to study abroad in the past through different scholarships and transfers, but this is something completely different. If you don’t want to move to your campus, you can always access all sorts of lectures worldwide, regardless of where your university is located. And you can have access to all learning materials, whenever you want, enough that you have an internet connection and a laptop or smartphone.
No pace is the same when it comes down to catching up with one’s studies. People have different ways of feeling comfortable while engaging in their study field. While for some people, social interaction and traditional education may close the deal, for some others, a sense of slower techniques and individual learning is needed in order to succeed. Online learning can offer this exact environment for you while you get to choose if you want to participate actively in other debated and online discussion forums.
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All the costs of traditional learning can be devastating for a person. You basically have to start your life all over if you’re moving to your campus, paying for the dorm, apartment you rent, utilities, food, and all that extra social life that requires you spend more than you would normally like. As we went through the exact number of reduced costs above in other sections, it is evident that online learning is more affordable and, therefore, grants more opportunities for students of all backgrounds.
Learning is a never-ending process, and with so much technology in our lives, we should all admit to ourselves that we owe to remain updated if we want to survive in the labor market. Through numerous online courses, you can get certificates of courses that can improve your performance at work and which automatically increases your value within your organization. It’s always a boost of self-esteem to learn something new every once in a while and get to practice it with your teammates.
Gain more tech knowledge
During online education, everything, from attending classes to completing your assignments, is done online. This eventually leads to you becoming more tech-savvy, which is an essential skill to have.
Be more comfortable
Choosing an online degree means you do not have to worry about finding a good and affordable place to live. You also will not have to commute. Everything is done from the comfort of your home.
How long do online education programs last?
Online courses have been around for a long time. However, it is only in the past few years that they have gained popularity. More and more students now, whatever their reasons might be, choose to earn their degrees online. While it is true that online degrees are different from traditional degrees in many aspects, the time it takes to complete an online degree does not differ that much from that of a traditional degree.
Generally, it all depends on whether you commit to your online studies full-time or part-time. If you are a full-time student, you can get a bachelor’s degree online in three or four years. On the other hand, if you are a part-time student, it might take you five to six years to graduate.
Best Online Degrees for a Successful Career
1. Business Administration
No doubt – Business Administration is on the list of the most popular online degrees. Most online students are enrolled in online programs of this field, and this is because there is so much versatility in the world of business, specifically business administration. Whether you’re getting a Bachelor of Business Administration or a Master’s in Business Administration, either way, you will gain in-depth knowledge of the fundamentals of business operations.
The need for accountants is never outdated in today’s economy. Organizations and corporations always need someone who is good with the numbers to keep their business running successfully. As a matter of fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted a 13.1 % growth rate for this profession, with more than 166, 700 jobs available until 2020. This growth evidently exceeds all fields, and that is why online degrees of this field is so popular as well.
A career in finance requires attention to detail and skills to deal with managing investments, annual forecasts, budgeting, risk management, supervising, and leadership. All of these, and more, can easily be learned if you have the discipline and passion for committing through an online program. You can acquire everything from knowledge of the stock market, Keynesian models of inflation, or other courses that you may need depending on your workplace and ambitions. The great level of income and career stability make Finance one of the most stable online degrees.
When referring to the impact of technology in the business world, we can mostly witness this impact in the world of marketing. The shift of marketing techniques is evident, and if you’re not up for keeping up with these changes, you may as well be considered outdated. Marketing requires a great deal of creativity, research, and savvy business skills. Businesses count on their marketers for their business to grow, and the need to learn new techniques to reach an audience or customer is always on demand. Hence, the need for marketing graduates is too.
5. Human Resources
With the rise of new healthcare regulations, training programs to advance the performance of employees – and mostly, with the intention of reducing the retention rate, there is a significant need for HR professionals. These people own the proper taught techniques to recruit and assist, to regulate everything related to contracts, salaries, benefits packages, and development programs. Graduates can enter the Human Resources profession with a bachelor’s degree, so you should seriously consider online HR programs.
This exciting field of the service industry is quickly becoming one of the most pursued online degrees out there. People have noticed the benefits of working in hospitality and tourism, as they involve all the best aspects of a workplace: flexible hours, traveling, exciting environments such as hotels and cruise ships, etc. Online hospitality degrees are also an excellent option for individuals who have started in entry-field positions, who have enough work experience and want to move on to managerial positions.
7. Project Management
Project managers have a lot of tasks and responsibilities at their hands, all of these, with the purpose of making a business more profitable, competitive, and successful. This is what makes people approach this career alternative, benefiting from online degree programs that offer a variety of skills one can apply in multiple industries. With a proper online college, organization, or other educational institution, you can become a professional in this field and benefit from all the bonuses that come along with your qualifications.
8. Computer Science
The technological inventions that are making our lives easier nowadays are all created from bright heads and computer-savvy individuals. That’s why these specialists are a must in every company, both corporate and private. Each industry needs to remain up to date in this age of information, and profit from individuals with a Computer science degree. The compensation level is very rewarding for both entry-level and management positions.
9. Graphic Design
Deciding to benefit from the option of autodidactism is certainly a quality of graphic designers. There are countless online degree programs, with exciting and creative content materials for students of this field. Animation and design opportunities are plentiful in the online world because the demand for advertising, commercials, social media, and websites, is constantly looking for ways to attract an audience. And what better way to do that than using graphics? The flexible career of Graphic design has inspired many freelancers and a large number of rising entrepreneurs.
10. Sustainable and Renewable Energy
Green jobs are the new, futuristic careers of our world. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a green job is defined as ‘a career which produces goods or provides services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources.’ With the ever-increasing need to conserve energy and protect the environment, this field is rapidly growing in demand. Graduates of this field can work with both businesses and the government to help them find ways to reduce waste, clean polluted areas, and create environmental-friendly public policies. Some of the most sought professions in Sustainability include Foresters, Geoscientists, and Biologists.
Is an Online Degree Worth It?
We used all the data gathered to measure the pros and cons and to help students decide whether an online degree is worth it or not. According to us here at the University of the Potomac, the pros certainly outweigh the cons. The only problem back in the past was the level of credibility from employees and lack of recognition regarding online degrees. As we described, we are now able to identify universities according to their accreditation program and reputation.
With the reduced costs, all-time accessibility, and the incredible flexibility you can get, pursuing an online degree should definitely not be on your list of doubts for any longer!