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Online Degree Programs: The Pros and Cons

The benefits of online college programs have proven successful in our technology-based world, but they don't guarantee success for every student. Check out these potential pros and cons of earning your degree online.

Contemplating between earning your degree on the couch or on campus? The benefits of online degree programs have proven successful in our technologically based world, but they don’t guarantee success for every student. Evaluating the pros and cons of earning your degree online is the first step toward shaping your ideal college experience.

Potential pros

Reduced tuition

Online programs are usually less costly per credit hour and can provide an overall reduction in tuition and fees. Online students are waived from certain campus-based fees (activity and service fees, transportation and access fees, etc.), which cover services offered to aid students taking courses on campus.

Lenient schedules

Many individuals attending college are more than just students in their day-to-day lives. Online programs provide a flexible schedule to accommodate outside obligations such as work and family care. The leniency of the schedule allows you to conduct your studies at your own pace—there isn’t a required time to show up nor a time frame to stay in class. Online programs allows you to customize your academic schedule without compromising other priorities.

Choose your classroom

Depending on your learning style, a traditional classroom setting may fail to keep you engaged. In an online program, you’re able to choose the setting in which you learn. You can choose to complete courses on the go, at your preferred coffee shop, or from the comfort of your home. More importantly, you’re able to privately focus on course material while still being able to communicate with your professor and peers online.

Small class sizes

The capacity for online courses is substantially smaller than the traditional 100+ seating of college lectures. This minimized class size simplifies the interaction between yourself, your classmates, and the instructor. Being able to network within a smaller group of students can also help you engage with the course material, all while sparing you of the concern of finding a seat.

Related: 4 Ways to Avoid Isolation as an Online Student

Potential cons

Non-traditional college experience

Being a student in an online program is a very different experience than being on campus for a myriad of reasons. Whether or not this is a con depends entirely on personal preference. Online students usually miss more traditional college student experiences like living in a dorm, participating in live lectures, socializing on campus, etc. When deciding between on-campus and online degrees, be sure to evaluate which factors will shape the best college experience for you in the long run.

Service restrictions

In conjunction to being exempt from campus-based fees (a pro), there’s the con of being restricted from accessing certain services provided by your school. For instance, the majority of online programs don’t require you to show proof of immunizations or pay a health fee for the medical services provided on campus. The downside of this is you’re ineligible to use Student Health Services or qualify for student health insurance. Before opting for a fully online program, be sure to thoroughly investigate the restrictions of being an online student at your college. This information will allow you to determine whether being unable to access those services will affect you.

Technological malfunctions

There’s a major disadvantage to the convenience of having all of your classes on your computer: if your computer malfunctions, there’s no way to get a hold of your work unless you back it up religiously or can access the internet elsewhere. It’s not uncommon for a glitch as minor as power outage to cause a timed test to be stalled or a missed deadline on an assignment that locks at midnight. This is a reality that carries a lot of weight for students who have no on-campus alternatives to make up or turn in course material.

Related: The Importance of Cybersecurity for College Students

It’s all on you

As an online student, you accept the responsibility of staying on top of your course load and timelines independently. This is another potential con that weighs on personal preference and circumstance. Self-motivation is mandatory to succeed as a fully online student, given you won’t have face-to-face reminders about deadlines, course changes, specific instructions, etc. It’ll be up to you to be self-sufficient as a student about what’s happening in each course.

Ready to search for your online (or on-campus) degree program? Start here on CollegeXpress.

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