When the first crop of online courses began to appear on the education scene, many were understandably skeptical. After all, classes were taught in brick and mortar institutions, not over the Internet. However, as time passed and technology developed, more colleges and universities embraced web-based learning options. Many schools even combined traditional face-to-face education with the online option to create what is known as hybrid learning. In addition to online institutions such as the University of Phoenix and Kaplan University, renowned schools including Harvard University now offer courses via distance education. For any remaining skeptics, here are a few benefits of online and hybrid learning.
- Convenience: In an increasingly complicated world, free time has become a luxury. This is especially true of older individuals who wish to earn their first college degree, or continue their studies at the graduate level. However, professional and personal responsibilities often get in the way of attending on-campus classes. For adult learners, online courses can provide a flexible alternative to traditional education methods no matter where you live: Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine – it really does not matter. Rather than arranging one’s life around their schooling, web-based classes often allow students to complete required material at their own pace and on their own schedule. Whether it is 8 a.m. or the middle of the night, online classes are in session whenever the student decides to turn on his or her computer.
- Time-saving: Online courses take away all the inconveniences that are associated with traditional learning, according to Associated Content from Yahoo! This includes the time it takes to drive to and from school in addition to free hours in between classes. When lessons are accessible with the simple click of a mouse, valuable time that might have been wasted can now be devoted to studying. In addition, Associated Content states that many online offerings provide class notes so that students do not waste their time scribbling in their notepad.
- Cheaper: Students who choose to pursue degrees online are saving on many of the college expenses that are associated with on-campus learning. For instance, aside from many other monetary issues, being from Mississippi but going to college in Montana can become costly because of out of state tuition charges. Taking courses from the comfort of one’s own home does away with the need for a dorm room, a meal plan or the price of gas that an individual who commutes would typically be paying.
- Growing popularity: The Sloan Consortium is an institutional and professional leadership organization that is committed to integrating online learning into the mainstream of higher education. In 2010, the organization released the results of its survey of more than 2,500 colleges and universities, entitled Class Differences: Online Education in the United States, 2010. The Consortium’s findings pointed to several instances of the rising popularity of internet-based learning. For instance, from the fall of 2002 to the fall of 2009, online enrollment at the postsecondary level increased on a yearly basis, from 16,611,710 to 19,036,860. In addition, nearly two-thirds of the surveyed institutions reported that they viewed distance learning as a critical part of their long-term education strategy. Results from this survey also reveal what impact the economic downturn has had on online enrollment at the participating institutions. In 2009, a total of 48.8 percent of these colleges and universities reported an increased interest among students in the schools’ distance learning programs. Based on the survey’s 2010 findings, student interest in online courses has grown to 74.5 percent as a result of the economic downturn. For professionals who found themselves out of work during the economic downturn, online academic options offer a fast and convenient way to update their skill set or pursue a degree in the hopes of making a career transition.