It’s such a different experience from the traditional classroom environment. Why would someone want that? And why are so many people saying that online classes are a great alternative to in-person attendance at a class?
Believe it or not, there are some enormous advantages to online classes. Some of these are obvious while others may surprise you. Here are 13 big advantages to taking online classes.
#1 — Lower costs
College costs a lot of money. You pay for the classes, a dorm room that smells like old stuff, cafeteria meals, activity fees, massive text books, and a host of other random expenses. It adds up quickly. There’s a reason most students have to take out loans.
The average graduating student has $37,172 in college debt. This can be a huge burden to someone just trying to launch a career.
With online classes, you’re only paying for the university credits. If you’re trying to save money, this is a perfect solution. You’re only spending money on the things you want to spend money on.
#2 — Less intensity
Taking classes usually means showing up at a particular time, sitting through a somewhat lengthy lecture, and then going directly to your next class. Or, if you’ve spaced your classes out, you may be able to take a break in between, but you still have to stay on campus. It can make for really long, really intense, really exhausting days.
Then you have to come home, do homework, sleep, and do it all again the next day. It can easily become a grind.
With online classes, you do all the work at your own pace. As long as you meet your deadlines and participate appropriately online, you’ll be fine. This means much less pressure and intensity.
#3 — Easier attendance
If you live where it snows, you know how difficult it can be to get to class when there’s been a storm. You have to get up early, shovel your way out, navigate icy roads, and trudge across the freezing campus. Even if you don’t live in a cold area, there are plenty of other conditions that can make it tough to come to class.
If you take classes online, attending is as simple as opening up your computer or tablet. No rain-soaked walks or hypothermic marches. You can learn from the comfort of your home or favorite coffee shop while sipping on a steaming beverage.
Additionally, you can be flexible about when you get your work done if something comes up, like needing to take a child to soccer practice or to attend a meeting at work.
#4 — Improved self-discipline
Succeeding in online classes requires self-discipline. You don’t have a teacher to tell you when an assignment is due. Your best friend won’t call you on Monday morning to make sure you’re working on that group project. You have to login and participate in the discussions to get participation credit. Being lazy or undisciplined will cause you to quickly fall behind.
By taking online classes, you develop stronger self-discipline, which often translates to other areas of your life such as fitness, work ethic, and even relationships.
#5 — Easier access to teachers
In some ways, the distance is greater between you and your teacher because you’re not sitting in class with them regularly. But in other ways, you have much easier access. When you ask a question in class, the professor has to consider other questions that need to be answered, the time it will take to answer the question, and whether they even want to answer the question at all.
In an online class, you can email a teacher questions directly. When they answer, they can take as much time as they need to give you a thorough answer. They also don’t have to worry about getting to someone else’s question before class ends. So in this way, you actually can have more of your professor’s attention.
#6 — Location, location, location
Normally, your choice of university is significantly narrowed by location. If you live in Pennsylvania, it can be really challenging to attend UCLA due to the cross-country difference.
But with online classes, location doesn’t matter. If you live in Alaska and want to take classes at Florida State University, you can! If you want to travel the country while simultaneously getting a degree, you can make that happen. All you need is a computer or tablet and an internet connection. Location independence is a massive, often underrated benefit of online classes.
#7 — Greater comfort
There is absolutely no dress code with online classes. If you want to do your work in your PJs or velour track suit, you can. If you want to lie on your couch or your bed while watching a lecture, you can. If you want to play music in the background while you chat with classmates on the forum, you can.
You may remember a scene in “Seinfeld” where Jerry tells George that wearing sweatpants is a sign that you’ve given up on life. That was before online classes were invented. Now sweats can be a sign that you’re successful!
#8 — Easily transferable credits
There may be times when you need to transfer course credits, for example, if a class requires a prerequisite but you can’t fit it into your schedule or you need to take a prerequisite class during the summer and your university doesn’t offer it during the summer.
Because online credits are usually transferable, you can take a needed class online at another university and then transfer the credit to your university. It’s the perfect solution if you’re trying to move through school quickly or need to make up lost time.
#9 — Variety of options
No matter what your desired field of study, you can probably find an online program. And more programs are being added by schools every day. There truly is an option for almost everyone.
If your program is not offered online by your school, ask if there are any similar options or transferable credits you could get from another school.
#10 — Easier to focus
It’s not always easy to focus in class. Sometimes you’re tired. Sometimes the person next to you smells like they need a shower. Sometimes there’s construction going on right outside the classroom. Sometimes your study group wants to talk about “The Bachelor” rather than an engineering problem. And sometimes your mind just wanders.
It has been repeatedly shown that studying in a loud or noisy environment makes it much more difficult to concentrate.
With online classes, it’s much easier to focus on what you’re doing. You can put yourself in the right environment. You can wear headphones if your surroundings are noisy. Your interactions happen online, meaning they won’t easily wander off topic. And you can choose to study at a time when you’re freshest. If you struggle to concentrate, online classes might be the ideal solution.
#11 — Keep your job
Many times, getting a college degree requires quitting your job. After all, it can be difficult to juggle the demands of school and work simultaneously. But if you’re organized and self-disciplined, it’s often possible to do both.
Because you don’t have to attend class at a specific time, you can fulfill the functions of your job and study during your free time. You can also use weekends to get additional work done that you didn’t have time for during the week. Yes, it’s demanding. Yes, it’s a lot of work. But if you want to keep working while getting a degree, you can make it happen with online classes.
#12 — Easier schedule
With traditional classes, you have to work around the university schedule. If your class is at 4 p.m., you have to be in the classroom at that time and you have to attend the entire lecture. Failing to do those things will result in missing valuable information.
Online classes make it easier to fit things into your schedule. You can listen to lectures on your drive to work. You can watch videos on the train or bus. You can respond to comments while sitting in the coffee shop. You can even watch part of a lecture, pause it, and then come back to it at a convenient time. If you have an already full schedule, online classes are the perfect solution.
#13 — Learn tech skills
If you’ve never been tech savvy, online classes will force you outside of your comfort zone (in a good way). You will have to learn to navigate the course lectures, download materials, interact with others online, and communicate well digitally.
This may be scary for some people; however, in the information age, these are essential skills and will allow you to keep pace with others.
A recent survey found that the most important skills that employees lack are computer and technical skills. Of those reporting that they needed skills for their current job, 33 percent reported lacking technical skills, including computer skills.
Online classes aren’t for everybody. Some people just want the tried-and-true traditional classroom. But online classes offer some really unique benefits. These benefits allow people who might not normally be able to get a degree to attend college.
Whether you want to study from the comfort of your bedroom or increase your computer skills, online classes are a fantastic option.
Trevor McCready serves as the director of online learning at Cornerstone University (www.cornerstone.edu). His professional interests include instructional design, educational software, and effective use of media in education.