For many, an online education can be an affordable and accessible path to a college degree. But is it really more effective than attending college on a traditional campus?
Online degrees have become an integral part of the higher education landscape after two decades of evolution and improvement. Is online education perfect? Of course not. Is it the right solution for everyone? Not even close. But for many, it may be the only path to a college degree. And when approached in the right way, online education can be an even more effective way of attaining a degree than a traditional education.
For a deeper dive into the unique challenges of online education and whether online education is more effective than a traditional college education, check out Is Online Education More Effective?
For a closer look at the top performing online colleges, check out the best online colleges for 2022.
Or read on to find out 5 ways that online education can be more effective than a traditional classroom education...
Online education offers a level of accessibility that simply can’t be achieved through physical instruction. This is a leading contributor to the immense growth in online college offerings. Students from a more diverse range of geographical backgrounds can now access courses and programs that might not otherwise be available in their region. In this regard, online education is an inherently more effective way to reach a wider number of students.
The same is true for students facing socioeconomic challenges that might prevent transportation, as well as those with physical disabilities which might limit mobility. Online education provides immediate access without imposing the same physical demands.
Still, there is much more that schools must do to improve accessibility for students with a wide range of disabilities. A recent report from the Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks outlines the needs that must be addressed in every online educational setting in order to accommodate accessibility for all. The proper adaptations, according to his report, can improve the accessibility of online learning for those managing a broad spectrum of disabilities.
Accordingly, the article notes that
if the online environment is constructed correctly, all students will have equal access to information and that
the online environment provides the flexibility that some students with disabilities may need to fully participate in the curriculum whether their barrier is due to a lack of transportation to get to a traditional educational setting or another factor that make[s] a rigid daily course schedule problematic.
This suggests that online education can be a more effective form of education if we take steps to maximize its accessibility to all.
One reason that online education has become so popular at the post-secondary level is the capacity it lends students for balance. A growing number of adult learners and working professionals have come to view online education as the only way to effectively pursue a college or graduate degree without facing disruption to personal and professional responsibilities.
According to Baker College, the rising cost of college means that a growing number of students must simultaneously work to offset their expenses. Online college makes this eminently more possible. According to Baker,
Working and going to school at the same time can be beneficial. Becoming a nurse requires a combination of coursework and clinical experience; students in information technology fields may need to build a portfolio of completed work in order to compete for their dream job upon graduation. At the graduate level, students may be returning to school in pursuit of a promotion or other advancement opportunities with their current employer.
And it isn’t simply that this balance lends readily to the pursuit of both a degree and advancement within an existing career. In fact, the ability to work remotely, manage your schedule independently, and effectively juggle your responsibilities is evidence that you may be well suited to the demands of the 21st Century workplace. You may find, in fact, that future employers actually place a premium on the very same skills that have helped you excel as an online student.
At the college and graduate school level, evidence abounds that students are getting their money’s worth out of the online experience. While the tuition for online education isn’t always lower than tuition for a traditional degree, there are numerous factors that make the overall cost of college more affordable. For instance, it obviously helps when you don’t have to spend money on parking, transportation, and campus fees.
Moreover, the ability to balance the pursuit of your degree with professional responsibilities means you have more options for offsetting the cost of an online education than you might with a traditional college program. Considering that financial strain is the top reason that students fail to complete college, any way of offsetting the cost of college is tantamount to improving the effectiveness of a college education.
In this regard, online college can be at once more cost effective more effective as a source of education for students who might otherwise be sidetracked by economic pressures. For more on the cost of college and how you can offset it, check out our Guide to Paying for College.
And for even more ways to make your education experience more affordable, check out our tips on how to make online college cheaper.
Online education can provide equal or greater value to students who are paying for college. But there’s more to it than that. College is costly, and while most students have practical and professional goals that justify this cost, you are also paying for an experience. The value you get from your investment will depend in part on this experience.
As an online student, you will be sacrificing many of the social and cultural dimensions of a college education in favor of a more focused pursuit of your degree. So how well do most online students respond to this experience? According to an article in Forbes,
A 2018 study conducted by Learning House, Inc., showed 85% of students who had previously enrolled in both face-to-face and online courses felt their online experience was either the same or better than the classroom course. That included 37% who felt it was a superior experience.
Our own proprietary research offers a similar finding. Among the online students that we surveyed, a majority reported having more access to, and interpersonal engagement with, both instructors and their fellow students as compared to on-campus education. Respondents overwhelmingly reported positive experiences in online education, particularly as compared to traditional classroom education.
Of course, experience and affordability both mean precious little if the educational outcomes aren’t there. Fortunately, online education is proving exceedingly effective in this area. Among accredited online colleges and universities, outcomes suggest a degree pathway that no longer lives in the shadow of the traditional degree. Academic performance, post-graduate employment, and earnings all demonstrate that students entering the labor pool with online degrees are faring quite well.
According to an article in Forbes a Gallup study from 2018 compared outcomes for graduates from the competency-based online Western Governors University (WGU) with outcomes for graduates from traditional schools. Forbes indicates that
WGU graduates’ full-time employment rate exceeded the national average by almost 20 percentage points; their grads are nearly twice as likely to be thriving in their wellbeing, and were more likely to be engaged employees.
Figures like this dispel the increasingly outdated myth that online education lacks the dynamic potential that can be created in a physical classroom. To the contrary, the body of evidence is growing that, with proper execution, online education can transcend many of the physical and practical barriers to education encountered in the traditional learning space. The result, at its very best, is a type of effectiveness, and even excellence, that can only be achieved online.
For a look at the schools that prove the capacity for excellence in online education, check out The Best Online Colleges 2022.
And if you’re just getting started in online education and struggling to adapt-whether you’re a teacher, student, or parent-check out these Top 10 Tips for Online Education Beginners.
Get additional tips on finding, applying to, and getting into the best school for you with a look at our College Admissions homepage.
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