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Online Colleges-Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Degrees

Updated on August 1, 2014

Why do we need to seek education

The current job market is very competitive with only those having the necessary training, certificate and / or degree being considered by employers. Many of the currently employed quite often find themselves in the position of needing that training or college degree to move up in the company or some even to keep their current position.

Many careers are constantly undergoing changes, some by leaps and bounds. Educators, for instance, must continually seek additional education to earn those higher degrees. Growth in the technology industry is another constantly changing and improving sector in society as are many others. There are also people who thirst for knowledge, want to learn something new, or want to complete an unfinished degree.

Top 5 Online Colleges

College Name
Bachelor's Ranking
Westfield State University
In-State/Out-of-State Tuition same, Max 20 Student Class Size, Faculty Credentials
Daytona State College
Highly Experienced FT Online Instructors,
St. John's University
Online and On Campus, Popular Degrees
Graceland University
Small Classes, No In-State vs Out-of-State Tuition
Washington State University
In-State/Out-of-State Tuition same, Entirely Online,

The Online or Distance Education Choice

Online courses or Distance learning is one way to get a new degree or finish an ongoing one, or simply to learn something new. By choosing one of the numerous online colleges available, earning online degrees or taking online courses is made easier because it can be done while working at a full-time job outside the home or maintaining the household and children. We are all very busy these days with our spare time being valuable so knowing the advantages, disadvantages, and facts about distance learning is important when making the decision.

Getting your college degree or adding to your knowledge base has never been easier utilizing the online education programs from online colleges and online universities. Once you have decided that Online or Distance learning is for you; check to see if your online college offers Financial Aid Department, either online or, because some local colleges offer online education, go to the Financial Aid Office in person. By doing so you may be able to apply for Financial Aid to cover all or part of your classes.

Financial Aid

Educate yourself about the various forms of financial aid offered by online colleges and online universities, whether for an online degree or just online courses. It is important to realize that Federal Financial Aid can only be offered by accredited online colleges.

If your online college or university isn't accredited it is still important to check out the forms of financial aid that is offered. Quite often there are appealing packages put together for the online classes offered.

Make sure that you educate yourself about all the details of any financial aid program offered.

What are some of the Advantages to Online or Distance Learning?

  • Convenience: The student has the "classroom" at their fingertips without driving there. In many regions, wintertime driving can make going to school, especially at night, unpleasant. In addition, after working a long day on the job, having to drive elsewhere for classes adds more time and expense to your already strained budget.
  • Time Saved: the time you save not driving, especially for those who are not close to the larger towns where colleges are located, can be used for classroom instruction.
  • Flexibility: Courses can be taken any day of the week, any time of day or night. Completing homework assignments, research papers, or classroom discussions can be done according to your schedule. You don't have to rearrange your work or class schedule to suit each other.
  • Your own pace: Students can personally structure the time frame in which they get their degree.
  • Access to faculty: Rather than making an appointment or waiting till class day to ask a question, with an online class you have almost immediate access to the instructor; questions asked are usually answered very quickly.
  • Ease of classroom participation: Allows a reserved student, uncomfortable speaking in front of others, the ability to ask questions in class or of the instructor without being face to face. Often questions go unasked due to being self-conscious.
  • Choices of classes: Whatever type of learning is desired, there is an online class being offered. A simple browser search will give you the choices.
  • Interaction: Each student has to post and interact with the class on a regular basis. Ideas and thoughts are much more freely given with the online method.
  • Note Taking: With online classes you have all the notes available at any time, to look back on or build a discussion on.

What are some of the Disadvantages to Online or Distance Learning?

  • Lack of supervision: students need to keep on track and complete assignments without the benefit of in-class reminders of any upcoming deadlines.
  • Procrastination: the student who puts off things till the last minute will not do well due to the fact that normal classroom discussions now take the form of posting, reading, and more posting, back and forth.
  • Internet skills: a sound understanding of the Internet is a must.
  • Access to a computer: your instructor and class members are only accessible through your computer. Limited access to a PC will not allow you to finish assignments on time.
  • Computer condition: Your computer must be fast enough and in good condition to handle an online class.
  • Acceptance of credits: not all classes offered are through traditional colleges. Make sure the credits you earn will be transferable if that is what you plan to do.
  • Lack of discipline: It is easy to fall behind and difficult to catch up if you aren't self-disciplined while taking an online course.

Facts and Details to Know to Decide if Online or Distance Learning is right for you.

  • Organizational skills are a must: Because you are taking the class online, you need to organize your time, making sure you complete assignments/discussions on time, without the benefit of reminders.
  • Due to lack of classroom participation, online classes have discussions in the form of postings back and forth between you and your classmates. This takes additional time.
  • Writing skills and being able to make your meaning clear in the form of writing is essential.
  • Grammar and spelling skills need to be honed.
  • Self motivation is necessary to keep pace. Signing on to your class on a regular basis is essential, the temptation to do something else must be resisted. Keeping on top of the requirements is up to you.
  • The time you spend "in class" is all productivity and intense. A quiet place is needed to concentrate on what is required.
  • Being disciplined and working independently are two characteristics you must possess and taking these types of classes build more of each.
  • Check and even print out the online class Syllabus. Makes it easier to keep track of deadlines or specific requirements such as visits to the instructor, proctored tests, or if applicable a campus lab.
  • The textbook requirement is often posted much earlier than the class begins, so go to the campus or get online and order your book so you have it in time for the start of class.
  • Online classes shouldn't be thought of as easier. They require the same amount of homework as traditional classes and discussions take the form of writing.
  • Communication skills are a must. The only way you will get your thoughts across to the other classmates and instructor is by communicating often and skillfully.

My Experiences with Online Learning

The long and short of online classes is while you have the advantages of being able to be at home and scheduling class work on a schedule that works for you, you also need maintain the motivation to complete the work.

I have participated in many online classes and enjoying working independently toward my degree. The discussions seemed so much richer, people expressing their ideas with much more freedom and thought than they would have in front of the class. Everyday I would log on, view and participate in some discussions and often would work on an assignment or two. It was easier to complete the homework for my online classes on my own schedule and at the best times for me while still working at my job full time.

Lastly, if you decide to try online courses, start with a subject you are comfortable with. This will get you used to the online methods, the way your individual school maintains their computer programs. If you are good at writing and expressing your thoughts, studying on your own and working independently, you will love the online method of learning.

Still Unsure about the Online Colleges?

Many of the online colleges and online universities offer a way for the student to "try out" their programs before committing themselves. Look for those that offer free online courses or allow you to audit the course; meaning you don't get credit but you are able to virtually sit in on the course and see if the online method works for you.

Many that offer free online courses are well know universities or colleges. Look at sites such as for more information. Imagine being able to enroll in a biology course from Tufts University, an online course in robotics from Stanford University, or a criminal justice class from Notre Dame.

It's worth it to explore the option of online classes.


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    • ecamper23 profile image


      8 years ago

      Thank you for telling both sides of the story!

    • cmellon86 profile image


      8 years ago

      Thank you for the wonderful hub, you've put your two bits and I gleamed a lot from it.

    • agent007 profile image


      8 years ago from Florida

      This is an excellent and useful checklist! You lay out all the points necessary to get ahead.

    • MimiKat33 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Northeastern NY State, USA

      Exactly! The most important key is to be self-motivated and organized.

    • marilnelanoon233 profile image


      8 years ago

      There's pros and cons to everything. If you have the determination and motivation, then online learning will work for you.

    • DeborahFantasia profile image


      8 years ago from Italy

      Great Hub, very informative ! I love the idea of learning online rather than having to go to an actual class everyday.

    • MimiKat33 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Northeastern NY State, USA

      Thanks for your input, I'll try

    • bdouble28 profile image


      8 years ago

      Good resource for those who don't know whether they want to attend a traditional or online school. Keep up the good work!

    • MimiKat33 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Northeastern NY State, USA

      Yes online learning does require both of those skills. Thank you for your comment.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I'll say that online learning require a lot more motivation and discipline from a student than someone attending a traditional college.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Good information, I found this very informative

    • MimiKat33 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Northeastern NY State, USA

      Thank you Pat. Those are very important points when deciding on whether or not to choose an online education.

    • profile image

      Patrick laRotonda 

      9 years ago

      Patrick Larotonda Good post Kathy. I received my B.S. in Criminal Justice on-line. i did the lion share of the work at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and finished up at Hartford. One thing I must mention, it was expensive, and there is a maximum amount... of credits you can transfer. What was good is that they allowed me to write a paper based on "life experience" in the field of criminal justice and receive more credits.

      The main difference with online was the amount of written work. i easily had to write at least a 1/3 more in reports and papers and essays than in traditonal school.

      Let the buyer beware, there is no shortage of "diploma mills" out there. Make sure the school you choose is accredited.


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