Online learning has been transformed in recent years into a mainstream format for education. Over the last two decades, the online learning sector has grown by more than 900%. The global e-learning market is forecast to exceed $457 billion by 2026.
When online learning was first introduced, traditional classroom-based learning was still preferred by many students. However, opinions and preferences have changed over the years, with a dramatic shift in attitude recently due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
During the pandemic, many universities and colleges moved to online learning, introducing more people to this type of studying. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that in the fall of 2020, 75% of students in undergraduate programs in the US were taking at least one online course, while 44% were enrolled exclusively in online courses. In many cases, students who had not previously experienced online learning were suddenly given no option but to try it. Many students quickly recognized the benefits this style of studying offers.
Online studying has become so popular that although there has been a slight drop in overall enrollment in degree courses in recent years, online programs continue to see rising enrollment numbers. Many factors are driving the popularity of online learning, with students citing several reasons related to their circumstances.
Quality of education
The quality of online education has been transformed over the last decade, with highly ranked institutions offering online learning programs to compete with the pioneers in the e-learning market. With universities vying to attract students to their online courses, the standard of education provided is being pushed increasingly higher.
Employers who might have been more skeptical of the value of an online degree a few years ago now recognize that a qualification gained online from an accredited university is equal in merit to a traditional campus-based degree. Moreover, some employers see additional benefits in online capabilities, such as recognizing that it requires a greater level of self-discipline from the student to complete a degree via distance learning. This self-discipline is an attribute that employers are always eager to see in their employees.
As technology has advanced, online learning has been transformed from the very basic formats of its early days into much more sophisticated and varied learning platforms. Distance learning programs now usually incorporate various delivery methods, including podcasts, videos, and interactive sessions. These types of content delivery are often more engaging than traditional lessons and keep students motivated to progress their learning.
Studies have found that online learning supports better student information retention, sometimes by as much as 60%. Some institutions have found that the pass rates are better for online learning students than they are among their classroom-based counterparts.
A study carried out in 2018 by Learning House, Inc. found that 52% of students who had taken both face-to-face and online courses felt that the online programs were as good as the classroom-based ones, while 37% thought that the online programs were better. Since then, online learning platforms have been further developed, and universities are becoming more creative in delivering course content.
Most students enrolling in online degree courses seek to enhance their careers somehow. Some students wish to embark on a new job that they will find more exciting or rewarding. In contrast, others want a promotion within their current profession for additional responsibility and a higher income.
If you are eager to progress in your career, the last thing you want to do is to put your career on pause while you gain further qualifications. Not only does it mean that you risk missing out on opportunities for development or promotion for the duration of your studies, but it also means you will have to spend time getting back up to speed when you rejoin the workplace.
Another clear disadvantage of a full-time classroom-based program is that you are unlikely to earn a full-time income during your studies. One of the key advantages of online degree programs is that they enable you to continue to work and make while allowing you to enhance your knowledge, skills, and employability through your new qualification. Working while studying also means you can immediately try out your new technical and soft skills. This will enhance your performance at work while reinforcing your learning and retention of newly acquired knowledge.
Flexibility and convenience
Online degrees vary in their delivery format. If it is important to you to be able to study at any hour, you need to make sure that the degree program you opt for offers asynchronous learning. This means you can look at hours that suit you rather than having to join synchronous classes online at set hours. Asynchronous learning allows you to fit your studies around your work hours and any other commitments and enables you to work at your own pace within each course module. This makes undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs accessible to many people, including those with childcare or elder care responsibilities. Many online courses offer accelerated courses so you can gain your new qualification quickly.
According to research by the College Board, 63% of students who chose to enroll in an online degree program did so because it was the most convenient option for them, enabling them to accommodate other responsibilities while studying. Around 70% of students in online postgraduate programs are in full-time employment, while 41% are parents. Even for students who are not parents, it is not always easy to relocate to study. Many people prefer to stay in the area where they are close to friends and family and already have a career established.
Online programs allow you to upskill from the comfort of your home or any suitable place, such as a library or a quiet space in your local coffee shop. You can even use a lunch break at work to catch up on your studies.
Control and responsibility
Students in online courses have a greater sense of control over their learning. The greater flexibility of studying online also means that students must take more responsibility for their work. Distance learning requires more self-motivation than an on-campus course, where the more rigid teaching structure compels you to be in class at set times.
This type of learning will enhance a range of skills beyond the core courses content, such as time management and organizational skills. These soft skills will be valuable for you in almost any career path and will be welcomed by future employers.
Interaction with instructors
Research has found that interacting with instructors in real-time is more important to students than how or where the interaction occurs. Online exchanges via platforms such as Zoom are considered as valuable as face-to-face conversations with an instructor. Access to mentors is equally important and has a significant impact on outcomes for students.
The convenience and efficiency of online programs apply to instructors and students, with more time available for providing crucial one-to-one support for students. The comfort and efficiency of online programs apply to instructors and students, with more time available for delivering critical one-to-one support for students. The comfort and efficiency of online programs apply to instructors and students, with more time available for providing necessary one-to-one support for students. The convenience and efficiency of online programs apply to instructors and students, with more time available for delivering crucial one-to-one support for students. The comfort and efficiency of online programs apply to instructors and students, with more time available for providing critical one-to-one support for students. A study by Gallup found that students who had a mentor who encouraged them in their goals were far more likely to find full-time employment. In one fully online institution where the availability of mentor support was high, the employment rate was more than 20% higher than the national average, which includes traditional colleges.
Tuition fees for a degree on campus tend to be higher than those of an online degree program. According to Education Data Initiative, private institutions in the US charge, on average, $129,800 for an in-person degree versus $60,593 for an online degree. Universities require fewer resources to run online programs. Some universities offer exclusively online courses, so they do not incur the overheads of providing extensive property for classrooms and other facilities.
Additionally, studying from home costs less because students have fewer associated costs. E-learning courses are usually designed to be as paperless as possible, with resources available digitally instead of expecting students to buy printed materials.
Online studying means you can avoid the cost of renting accommodations or commuting to your classes on campus. The prices of accommodations and transportation can significantly affect your disposable income from your paycheck.
Figures from Education Data Initiative indicate that student accommodations cost, on average, more than $2,000 per year than standard rental costs. In addition, students attending classes on campus typically pay $1,360 per year for transportation.
Online networking is also a low-cost alternative to meeting up in person with your fellow students, and online courses usually have both social and educational forums established. Instructors, mentors, and students will often participate in these online media.
Better for the environment
Some people choose to study online because it is better for the environment. Looking at home avoids the need for transportation, reducing your carbon footprint. Online study also has a lower environmental impact than studying on campus, which uses resources for constructing training facilities and lighting, heating, and cooling classrooms.
Traditional classroom-based learning also often entails greater use of printed materials such as class handouts. According to the UK’s Open University, online learning uses 90% less energy per student than classroom-based learning, with an 85% reduction in carbon emissions.
Fewer geographic boundaries
Many universities make their online degree programs available to students throughout the nation. Each school has something slightly different to offer, and each program has variations and specializations. Online studying opens up a wider choice of courses to students, meaning you can access your ideal program from anywhere without the upheaval and cost of relocating. The only prerequisite is a reliable internet connection.
Broader networking opportunities
Joining an online program allows you to study alongside students from various places, albeit virtually. This gives you a broader view of the sector and the chance to make connections and develop a far-reaching network of fellow students who may serve as valuable contacts or simply friends for the future.
In some programs, where a university offers both on-campus and online program options, online students can connect with their classroom-based peers, sharing ideas and questions. All participants can then benefit from various experiences within the wider on-campus and remote students group.
Studying for your degree online
An online MSW program allows you to keep your career on track while adding to your knowledge and skill with a postgraduate degree. The online Master of Social Work program from Florida State University is a part-time degree consisting of 16-week online courses and two social work field placements, allowing you to put your new knowledge into practice under supervision during the program.
This program takes three years to complete and is available to postgraduate students in all 50 states. The clinical focus of these programs means that students are prepared for social work licensure.
Many online courses have accreditation from respected industry bodies. Choosing an accredited degree program assures you of the quality of the education you will gain and demonstrates to prospective employers that the qualification meets the high standards of the accrediting body.
Suppose you are studying for an online Masters in Social Work. In that case, opting for an accredited degree program is important, as this will be required for your license application in most states. Your MSW degree should have accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) if you wish to apply for licensure.
Online learning offers many benefits for students. It allows you to conveniently and affordably conveniently and affordably gain respected qualifications, including postgraduate degrees, with the flexibility to continue working and managing other commitments.