When electing to take online classes, as opposed to classroom-based lectures, the fact that online college classes are still such a new form of education can bring up a lot of questions: For example, exploring what exactly changes when one makes the shift between those forms of learning — work load, contact with professors, etc. — can be a bit tough to answer. But with a bit of knowledge about how this form of education works, the rewards can be myriad.
Firstly, the key difference between online learning and learning in a classroom often comes down to what university one is taking the classes through. But a good rule of thumb is that the work loads of online classes and location-based classes will be nearly identical. The major difference will be twofold: In online classes, the ability to ask questions as issues come up, unless there is major real-time video included in the class, is not possible; and secondly, office hours with a professor are not possible — though this doesn’t prohibit speaking with a professor over digital lines.
Mostly the reasons you’ll want to weight online learning against attending a physical class will come down to what you need in an education. For example, if you would have a better financial situation staying in a particular location that is not near a university, online classes can offer a major incentive for getting a degree, or even learning a new skill. Moving costs, especially when security deposits on apartments are so high, are a major prohibitive factor in shifting location to attend school. It’s just one aspect of higher education that is changing to adapt to students’ needs.
Secondly, online learning can provide a flexible schedule that might not otherwise be there. If you want to work your way through school — or make major inroads toward reducing student debt while attending university — this means you can usually watch lectures when you’re best able to do so. When you’re working full-time, for example, having this ability can mean you’ll focus better. That can be a major plus when you’re hoping to give your best towards your education.
And one of the other biggest reasons to consider online learning is to ask yourself whether you work better on your own, or with a group. Sometimes people find that when left to themselves, they’re more efficient at studying and learning. Which is why online classes can leave you much more satisfied, if you’d prefer to go it alone when it comes to studying.
But whatever you consider, know that in most cases online classes offer the same rigorous challenge and opportunity to grow that in-classroom lectures do. If you’re seeking flexibility, in fact, it may just be the path for you — and that could make your education an even more positive experience than it already would be. Educating yourself on the pros and cons for your own needs is just one of the best ways to prepare for what could be the best time of your life — and what people often find as the period of time where they discover who they really are.