If you’re thinking about taking an online college course, you’re in good company — according to Forbes, nearly 8.5 million U.S. students took online classes at public colleges in 2021.1 Most universities today offer some classes online as well as on campus, while other universities have online degree programs that enroll far more students than their campus degree programs. Other colleges only offer remote learning; they do not maintain a brick-and-mortar location. Approximately 2.7 million students in the U.S. are enrolled in a degree program at an online university.1
Online learning is everywhere. But is that a good thing? What are the pros and cons of online learning? And most importantly, is online learning right for you?
The Pros of Online Learning
- You can participate in classes at any time.
One of the biggest benefits of online learning is flexibility. You don’t have to adhere to a rigid schedule or worry about being at a class at 8:00 am on a Tuesday. You can log in and complete your coursework late at night, at lunchtime, early in the morning or during the weekend. The flexibility of online learning is ideal for busy adult learners who need to balance earning a degree with raising a family or working full time, or both.
- You don’t have to commute to a campus.
With online learning, you don’t have to relocate to attend a university. You don’t need to battle traffic or use public transportation, because you don’t have to travel to your classes. And you won’t have to pay for a parking permit and search for a parking space. You’ll likely save time, fuel and money by learning online.
- You can attend class from anywhere.
Another benefit of online learning is that you can learn from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection. Whether you’re on a meal break at work, traveling the world or on the couch in your pajamas, you can log in to your online classroom.
- You might be able to earn your degree faster.
While some online classes release one lesson a week, others allow you to go at your own pace. If you breeze through the course material, you may be able to demonstrate your knowledge through a quiz, paper or project, and then move on to the next subject. If you’re a motivated student, you may be able to complete coursework more quickly online than in a traditional classroom, which could allow you to earn your degree faster.
- You can connect with classmates from all over the world.
One of the great benefits of the online classroom is that you can learn alongside students from anywhere in the world. You might take a Bachelor of Science in Nursing course with aspiring nurses from Nevada, North Carolina, the Netherlands or Namibia! Your classmates will share their experiences, which might enrich your perspective and foster a truly global education.
The Cons of Online Learning
- You might want to escape to a classroom.
It sure sounds nice to attend college courses online from the beach, your backyard or your bed. But for some, online learning can be difficult without a room that is quiet and peaceful — making classroom learning more appealing.
- You need to have basic computer skills.
In our technology-driven world, most people find the transition to online learning rather smooth. However, if you’re not computer savvy, attending college online may pose technical challenges. Online degree programs often provide 24/7 technological support, and online classrooms are designed to function intuitively. Still, if you don’t spend much time online, you could experience a learning curve when it comes to taking courses on a computer.
- Flexibility requires self-discipline.
You can participate in online courses at a time that’s convenient for you — but you do need to complete your coursework on the timeline the instructor provides, just like in a traditional classroom. While the flexibility of online learning is convenient, you’ll need to dedicate time to studying in order to complete your degree program.
- You probably won’t interact with your instructor and classmates in person.
In a traditional classroom, your instructor and classmates are all in the same place at the same time. You can raise your hand and ask a question. You can turn to a fellow student for clarification about an assignment. In an online learning environment, you’re still able to communicate with your teacher and fellow students, but it’s not always as immediate as it would be in an in-person classroom. You might send a question through an online discussion or chat and have to wait a bit for a reply. On the other hand, as an online student, you’ll have a variety of resources available at your fingertips that can help you quickly find the answers you need. And, if the university offers a hybrid model, you can get the best of both worlds.
- Online universities don’t provide typical college social activities.
While the academic experience is ideally the same whether you’re learning online or on campus, online colleges don’t offer the same social events as traditional colleges. There’s no online university football team. If you long for the traditional college social experience, you may want to attend a brick-and-mortar university. However, there are some sororities and fraternities for online students, which can provide great networking opportunities and a sense of community.
A Note About Accreditation
Whether you choose an online university or a traditional college, be sure that the institution is accredited. Accreditation is a mark of quality that ensures that the education you receive in your degree program achieves a level of academic quality. Unaccredited universities are ineligible for federal financial aid. A degree from an unaccredited college may negatively impact your ability to get a job or be licensed in your field.
Is Online Learning Right for You?
If you need to work full time or travel regularly while pursuing a degree, the flexibility of online learning could make it the right choice for you. You’ll be able to learn from anywhere, and you may be able to complete your degree faster if you’re a self-motivated online college student. If you want the typical college experience of living in a dorm and being a full-time student on a campus, then a traditional college experience is probably best for you. If you learn better in a physical classroom with the structure of set class times, a brick-and-mortar campus could be your ideal environment.
If you’re interested in earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Chamberlain University is an accredited institution that offers online, on-campus and hybrid BSN degree program options. Chamberlain also offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program and master’s programs in a variety of other health professions, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program, nursing certificate programs, and a post-baccalaureate public health generalist certificate. Whether you’re ready to earn your bachelor’s degree or you’re thinking about pursuing a graduate degree, Chamberlain is a great choice for extraordinary healthcare professionals who want to make a difference in the lives of others.
Chamberlain University, an accredited institution, offers bachelor's, master's, doctoral and certificate programs in nursing and healthcare professions. With a growing network of campuses and robust online programs, Chamberlain continues to build on more than 130 years of excellence in preparing extraordinary healthcare professionals.
Chamberlain University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (www.hlcommission.org), an institutional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The baccalaureate degree program in nursing, master’s degree program in nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice program and post-graduate APRN certificate programs at Chamberlain University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, (www.aacnnursing.org/CCNE).
By Chamberlain University
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