As online learning gains in popularity, students are discovering that choosing online over traditional degree programs offers many advantages. Those benefits go beyond the flexibility and convenience of attending class on a computer from home.
Maria Lavooy, Florida Tech Assistant Professor and Applied Psychology Online Program Chair, said that from a “general academic perspective,” online students learn essential skills that can elevate their careers no matter what industry they work in.
“Students gain the critical-thinking, the problem-solving, and the oral, writing and interpersonal communication skills required to be successful employees in today’s market.”
More students than ever are seeing those benefits. About one-third of all college students take at least one course online, and the number of online students has steadily increased each year, according to Inside Higher Ed.
Online learning provides advantages to all students, but many of the benefits listed below are especially important to adult learners, working parents and busy professionals.
- Continued Career Growth
Online courses offer far more flexibility than traditional classes. This is especially a benefit for those who must schedule academic study around their busy professional and personal lives. Parents also see tremendous advantages to online learning. With online programs, students can attend class from wherever they have a reliable internet connection, whether it’s a home office or a quiet cafe. Just not having to commute to class can make a big difference, especially for those in urban or high-population areas.
In the past, professionals had to take time off to earn a degree. Now, online courses make earning a degree while maintaining a job, and even growing in your career, attainable.
“The ability to not have to attend a physical class allowed me to continue to grow at my company, but to also continue earning that degree that I very much wanted,” said Catrina Hopkins, MSIT in Cybersecurity grad. “I think I made the best choice and would do it again.”
Access to online learning also allows students to immediately apply what they learned in class last night to their job today. Universities offer online programs in a variety of fields, including:
With online learning, you either have self-discipline or you learn it very quickly. Without having to physically attend class or have someone looking over your shoulder to ensure you complete an assignment, students must create their schedule and stick to it. Online students will need organizational and time-management skills. Both are huge benefits of online learning because these skills will serve them well throughout their career.
Brian Tocci, a Florida Tech online MBA program grad, said time management is one of the most important skills he gained as a student.
“Learning how to balance working full-time and completing class while still having time for my personal life is perhaps the most important skill that will help me throughout my life…Managing time is something that everyone can benefit from and is a great skill to have.”
Some may think that online learning is isolating, but quality online programs offer the chance to communicate not only with professors but also with fellow students. Because online classrooms attract students from around the world, the opportunity to practice more soft skills such as communication and collaboration is abundant in an online classroom.
In fact, time management, communication skills, and problem-solving and critical thinking skills are built into the online programs, according to Jim Reynolds, Academic Program Chair for Online Criminal Justice & Homeland Security.
“We know that’s what employers want to see, and so we build those three skills into each one of our classes to make sure we help the students achieve those.”
Online programs also offer students the chance to develop technical skills needed to excel in their jobs. Beyond this, just being in an online class requires students to learn skills such as creating and sharing documents, completing tests (or training) in online sessions, and incorporating audio and video elements into assignments. All these skills are useful in a modern office environment where digital literacy is considered a critical trait
The doors are never locked on the internet. At any time of day, and from any location, you can access a school’s online platform to review materials, answer questions from fellow students or collaborate on projects. This was a huge benefit for Marla McGuinness, BA in Business Administration/Management grad:
“The reason that I like to do online classes it that I can do it in my pajamas! I didn’t have to get up and have a scheduled time where I went Monday, Wednesday and Friday to a class, and get all dressed up. I could sit there with my dogs and type away and do my homework. If I wanted to get up and I had a brainstorm at one o’clock in the morning, I could do that. I could get it done, turn it into the professor. Online classes are challenging – you’ve got to make that dedicated time – but if you can do that, you can be successful. And you don’t have to get up and go to the school.”
This can prove just as valuable as flexibility, especially for adult learners and those who have a job. Online degree programs typically allow students to take fewer classes at one time. Florida Tech offers eight-week terms with six sessions per year, giving students a chance to focus on one topic for a short period rather than many topics over a long time.
Chats, discussion boards and video conferencing allow students to communicate with each other like in face-to-face classrooms. And with online degree programs, that can mean the chance to network with people from around the world. All college degree programs allow for great networking opportunities, but online learning can significantly expand your network’s geographic range.
This provided a significant benefit for BA in Criminal Justice grad Bethany Schommer:
“Florida Tech made a difference in my life by providing me a platform to showcase my skills, both academically and professionally. It made a difference in my life by allowing me to make connections I can possibly use further in my career. It allowed me to build bonds, not just with professors, but with other students as well.”
Online courses also provide access to experts in every field. That’s something that students may discover they cannot find in their local area. But with distance learning, they can find exactly the degree program they want, taught by professors with a great deal of proficiency in their industry. Students are no longer bound by the limitations of geography and can find themselves engaging with professors without the inconvenience of difficult office hours.
Online college degree programs must meet the same high standards of accreditation as traditional programs. It’s smart to check a school’s accreditation status through the U.S. Department of Education. And most employers today accept online degrees just as well as traditional ones, according to U.S. News and World Report.
These rank among the most frequently cited reasons why people find benefits in online learning. But Florida Tech student Brittany Lundquist may have put it best:
“With the knowledge and everything I’ve learned from Florida Tech, it helped with my communication, it helped with my writing skills, it helped with everything, honestly.”
Interested in pursuing an online education? Learn more about Florida Tech’s online degree programs.