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Why Online Classes Are Better: My Personal Experience

Updated on September 30, 2010

Non-traditional classes for a non-traditional student

I didn't do my college education in the traditional manner. In fact, I didn't do ANY of my education in the traditional manner. I went to a public-but-elite ("test to get into") competitive high school which I dropped out of in the second semester of my senior year. I eventually got a GED ... after enrolling in college courses at the local university. I lasted just over one semester in the traditional classes when I determined yet again that the traditional course of school was not for me. I dropped out to travel the country (and be a "student of life") for six months.

Eventually, I settled down a bit and determined that I wanted to get my Bachelor's Degree because it seemed like an important thing to have. It was the tool that could potentially open the locked doors I frequently found myself facing when I went to go apply at various jobs. So, I started looking in to the programs which were available to me. But, since I handled the rest of life in about as traditional a manner as I handled school, my situation at the time wasn't really suited to attending college full time on campus somewhere.

I was 23 and living on my own. Well, not quite on my own. I was raising two pre-teen foster children in my home. I was also volunteering at a local social services agency, working as a freelance writer and trying to run a small non-profit arts organization. I needed to finish school to be able to go further with any of these worthwhile pursuits, but I didn't have the time to devote to full time on-campus education, nor did I really have the inclination to make that time. It was a case of wanting the degree but not really needing the education, since I was already doing what my degree was going to teach me to do.

I did my research and found that I could complete a four year degree program through one of the state schools in Arizona by taking primarily online classes. Needing to meet some prerequisites, I signed up with the community college. Known for having more adaptable options for less-than-traditional students, the community college also offered online, self-paced and independent study classes which allowed me to complete my entire degree without having to attend campus classes for more than one semester. In the end, including the first semester that I did on campus when I tried college the first time, it took me only two years (summers included) to get my four year degree.

Online classes worked for me primarily because I was already a non-traditional student. I was used to learning on my own. I picked things up quickly and was able to grasp the material without having to be "taught" much. I didn't need the structure of a regularly-scheduled class to make sure that I was organized enough to complete my assignments in full in a timely manner. From my work as freelancer and non-profit operator, I was already skilled in the self-motivation and drive necessary to stay on top of online classes. Additionally, I was one hundred percent committed to completing my education as quickly as possible and willing to put in all of the work necessary to do that and to do it well.

In other words, I was probably a little bit nuts! Are online classes better than traditional classes? For me, they were. For someone who has the education and just needs the degree, they might be. For someone who doesn't need the resources and activities of a campus, they might be. For someone who is interested in supplementing a more traditional education with an extra self-scheduled class here and there, online classes can be great. But they aren't going to be for everyone. You should think carefully about whether or not online classes are the right course of action before you take them. They're difficult and require certain personal skills or work habits which differ from those of traditional classes. But in a non-traditional world, yes, online classes can sometimes be the best choice!


Submit a Comment
  • profile image


    7 years ago


    You raise some valid points. I recently earned a Master's degree, and while I did the majority of the work on campus in the traditional setting, there were some courses that were self-study/online assignments. The flexibility of working at my own pace without having to travel to earn the credits was awesome. But quickly, I had to learn to discipline myself to get the work done or I'd fall behind. Some people need the interaction that takes place in a traditional didactic environment. Also, depending on the degree and the institution, it may not be advantages to complete courses online. It's really an individual matter.

    Great article!


  • profile image

    online degree 

    8 years ago

    I also feel online education is better because i don't get time for wasting time in traveling because i am working and also don't want to leave the job, so without leaving job Online education is the best option specially for me :)

  • dallas93444 profile image

    Dallas W Thompson 

    10 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

    You got my attention. I did a dissertation on comparing and contrasting "Distance Education" to "Click and Mortar Education." My summary was: The results are inconclusive. It is impossible to obtain an "unbiased" survey. Students self-select and skew the results. Online students are by their nature, more independent and motivated... Given the drop out rate is higher, the results reflect the "cream" of the crop... I experienced the process of obtaining two PhD's at Capella University. They were up in "Arms" about my rate of completion and acquiring two PhD's. I gave up in frustration. I should have been "normal" and completed the one. My other dissertation was about "Knowledge," How Do You Manage, Quantify and Measure..." Both topics were cutting edge and required outside consultants to understand what the hell-I-was talking about. Example: Microsoft has most of the "assets" inside their employees heads.. How is this reflected in terms of accounting? "Goodwill" used to be an accounting term that worked.. It does not reflect "Knowledge." The employer does not own the employees "Knowledge."

  • glassvisage profile image


    11 years ago from Northern California

    I love online classes. Thanks for providing your personal example. PS You can raise foster children when you're 23? Good to know... :)

  • profile image

    Twin XL 

    11 years ago

    I tried online classes when my son was a baby. It didn't work. I thought I'd do my work when he was sleeping. What happened was when he was sleeping - I WAS SLEEPING. But I do know people that it has worked for. You just have to know yourself.


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