In an increasingly digital-based world, online college experiences have certainly become more popular. Not only can today’s students easily opt for online classes to supplement their traditional schooling, they can also earn entire college degrees online.
However, the question many students ask before choosing between pursuing an online or in-person degree is whether or not an online college degree is really worth it. Do online college degrees hold the same weight as on-campus degrees? Do they prepare students well enough for a future career?
Of course, choosing to earn a degree online has both pros and cons. While online degrees provide the opportunity for more flexibility and freedom to make a college schedule work for you, they do not include the hands-on, in-person, professor-led experiences that certain majors might require or benefit from.
Read on to discover which types of students and fields of study could pair well with an online degree and which students and/or fields might necessitate a more hands-on learning experience.
What kind of student are you?
An important question to consider when thinking about pursuing a degree either online or in person is what kind of student you are. Are you a student heading to college right after high school who might need more one-on-one attention? Or are you a student with more life experience and outside commitments like family or job responsibilities with a need for more flexibility?
Online degrees are best structured to help students with outside commitments balance life and school simultaneously. However, if you are fresh out of high school with very little experience outside of student life, you might want to pursue an in-person degree to get as much help from professors and other students as possible. Not to mention, this approach allows students to gain more experience with diverse groups of people and to enjoy college life to the fullest.
Another personal consideration you should make is whether or not you thrive among other people and need others to help motivate you or if you work better in solitude. Are you self-motivated? Do you continuously stick to commitments you make to yourself?
Online degrees require students to remain motivated while working alone and not necessarily having other students or professors there to hold them accountable. Though you will have opportunities to engage with students and professors on today’s online platforms, you still need to have the self-discipline to log on when you need to and finish assignments on time.
So, if you are a student who peforms better around others, you might want to consider foregoing an online degree and attending college in person. However, if the flexibility appeals to you and you know you can motivate yourself, an online degree might be perfect for you.
What field of study are you pursuing?
You should also think about your chosen field of study and whether or not an online degree will help you fully prepare for a career in that field. Employers will want to see your degree on a resume and feel confident that you are fully qualified.
For example, employers in S.T.E.M. fields have been known to prefer traditional college and university experiences to online degrees. Fields like education and nursing might also require more in-person training, even at the undergraduate level, to help you prepare for dealing with students and patients in real time. However, as online degrees continue to improve, employers with a more traditional stance might also begin to change their perspective toward online degrees and their viability.
In addition, however, though online degrees sometimes offer a mixture of online and in-person learning opportunities, spending time learning online does not offer the same connection with professors and students that could be beneficial in specific fields. While earning a business degree, for instance, you might want to experience networking face-to-face to build strong relationships with professors and fellow students.
The truth is, taking online courses does not easily or necessarily allow you to network with students and professors in person, participate in research opportunities, or find face-to-face study buddies. If you think you want this more traditional experience based on your field, you should forego an online degree. However, if you are confident you can network on an online platform and prefer to make your own schedule, you should go for the online degree.
All of these considerations point to the idea that you should always think deeply about which type of college experience will be right for you and your situation. An online college degree can certainly be worth the cost and time, as long as you know you will be fully prepared as a result and that this type of learning will work with your schedule and unique needs.
At the same time, just because an online college degree may seem most convenient, learning online does not work for everyone. If you want the traditional in-person experience of a college degree, know that you are not necessarily missing out on a more modern college experience by skipping the online version. Do what seems best for you!