Online learning is a convenient and accepted part of the education landscape; almost everyone got a taste of it during the pandemic. If you’ve taken online classes and excelled at them, there’s probably no reason to look back. But they’re not for everyone. If you’ve been out of the classroom for a few years, you might be wondering whether online or in-person classes are right for you. Here are some things to consider:
Flexibility. The biggest advantage of many online courses is the flexibility to work through the course material at your pace and on your schedule. That’s obviously a major selling point if you’re trying to juggle work, family and school simultaneously. But make sure the online courses you are considering are truly flexible. Some require you to log in and watch live lectures. You’ll save a trip to campus, but the timing isn’t up to you.
Self-motivation. If you’re a procrastinator or easily distracted, you might benefit from going to a class that requires your attendance, either in-person or online, at an appointed time.
Social interaction. Although most online programs offer opportunities to interact with instructors and other students remotely, some people prefer face-to-face interaction. If you are one of those people, getting your education exclusively online probably isn’t for you.
Credibility. Most employers now recognize an online degree as just as valuable as a traditional one. (According to a Career Builder survey cited by Western Governors University, 83% of executives say an online degree is as credible as one earned through a traditional program.) Some employers might be even more impressed by an online degree because of the discipline involved in completing an online program. The key is to make sure the program you enroll in is accredited. Un-accredited and/or classes offered by for-profit companies are likely to raise credibility issues with prospective employers.
Technology. Technology makes online learning possible—just make sure you can handle it. This means a reliable internet connection, a fully functioning computer, a monitor that’s easy to see and the temperament to handle the occasional mysteries of malfunctioning computers and lost connections. The good news is, you might pick up some computer skills along the way that you can use to sell yourself to employers.