Over the past few years or so, the number of students pursuing degrees online has steadily increased from 1.6 million to 6.6 million, according to the latest reports from the Sloan Consortium—an organization that has tracked the use of distance education since 2002. While the appeal is understandable—after all online education provides flexibility for those who have families, full time jobs, and can even be beneficial to students who suffer from learning disabilities and/or anxieties—online education isn't designed for everyone. In fact, it can be harder from some individuals, especially graduate students since online programs are just as vigorous and intense as traditional programs. To get a better feel for how online programs work and to determine whether this option is the best for you, check out some pros and cons below.
Flexibility - Like mentioned before, the main reason people like to pursue online education is the fact that it provides so much flexibility. If you're trying to pay for your master's degree while simultaneously keeping your fulltime job, an online education may help you achieve your goals more easily since you can "attend" class when it's most convenient for you—for example during your lunch break or after your shift ends. It's also ideal for parents. They can stay home and take care of their children while "attending classes." Again, while an online platform makes this possible, that doesn’t mean that it's going to be any easier. It can be rather difficult juggling everything at once. But with drive and ambition, it can be done.
Convenience - Online programs are designed for those who know how to work individually—there is little interaction with classmates aside from the occasional instant message or email. This is perfect for those who are on the shier side or don't do well with larger crowds—you'll never have to walk through crowded campuses or worry about being late to class. It's also really convenient because if you don't initially understand a concept or something the professor says goes over your head, you can simply rewind the video or replay the audio to take better notes.
Cost Effective - What you pay per course may not be cheaper than a traditional program, but collectively you'll end up saving more money in the long run. This is because you don't have to drive to school and spend money on gas, you don’t have to pay for any special housing (you can still live rent free at your parents and "attend" school miles away) and you can opt to purchase e-books that are offered at a fraction of the price of traditional textbooks.
Limited Opportunities - One of the downsides of an online education is the fact that you may not be exposed to as many opportunities that a traditional student would—for example, you won't be able to become a teacher's assistant and earn both experience and some extra income, you won't be notified about as many internships, and your networking pool (which can help you find employment) will be significantly smaller.
Less Interaction with Professor -While one of the upsides of an online education is that you won't have to deal with classmates, this also means you'll have less interaction with your professor which can become problematic once it comes to writing your thesis or when executing other assignments.
More Distractions - Last but not least, online education can be harder than attending a traditional school because of the continuous distractions at home such as the TV, kids, pets, videogames and neighbors. If you think that you have the self-control to focus when it's most important, then you should be able to complete an online education with ease.
If you do decide to look deeper into online graduate programs, just make sure that the school is nationally or regionally accredited and offers federal financial aid to those who qualify—these are the easiest ways to identify a legitimate school from a fraudulent one. You may also want to read this blog post on why accreditation matters when choosing a graduate school or graduate program.
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This article is brought to you by Mariana Ashley, a prolific blogger who provides web content to a number of blogs and websites. She's most interested in providing guidance to prospective college students who wish to attend online colleges in Montana. Mariana welcomes your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org