The traditional college experience isn’t for everyone. These days, a lot of people are going to college, or going back to college, online. It can be a great option, especially for students who need to work full time or can’t relocate. An online college can give you the freedom and flexibility to care for loved ones or pay the mortgage.
But going to college online isn’t for everyone, either. It’s just as academically rigorous as attending classes in person, but you really need a lot more self-discipline in order to succeed in an online degree program. Plus, it might not be quite the same socially to go to college online. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering whether to go to college online or in person.
Going to college online isn’t the same as going to a traditional brick-and-mortar program. You won’t have to attend in-person classes, but you will have to carve out time yourself to download study materials, watch lectures, do group projects, and attend synchronous class meetings. It’s easier to stay motivated when you have to walk into a classroom and be counted as present in order to get the lecture or take the test.
Communications technology has made it easier than ever to collaborate across distances, but there’s a lot of writing involved in going to college online – even more than in the traditional classroom experience. You’ll have to make discussion board posts, write papers, and participate in class chats. You’ll have to do all the same kinds of work – reading for class, doing group projects, and even complete labs for science classes.
If you want the traditional college experience – completely with freshman year orientation, frat parties, and dorm rooms – you’re going to want to go to a brick-and-mortar school. The experience you’ll have in an online college course will be different. For one thing, fewer of your classmates will be traditional college-aged students. Many more will be working adults, people with full-time jobs and families, who are finishing their degrees or upgrading from an associates.
That doesn’t mean you can’t make friends and form strong connections, but much of your college experience is going to take place in the comfort of your home if you choose an online program. On the plus side, going to school with people at different stages of life can give you valuable perspectives.
If you’ve taken time off from college and need to play catchup, or you’re juggling the demands of a career and family and want to finish your degree as quickly as possible, online college can help you knock out that coursework faster. Many online college programs offer accelerated courses, so you can earn credits faster. For example, the Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice at the University of Arizona Global Campus allows you to take accelerated classes online that last just five to six weeks. Many online colleges use a quarter system, rather than a semester system, so you take accelerated classes for six to eight weeks, have some time off, then take classes for another six to eight weeks. You can finish your coursework much faster than four years this way.
The number one reason people choose to go to college online is the flexibility that learning in this format offers. During the pandemic, online learning allowed people to shelter at home from the virus. If you’re immune-compromised, you might still want to shelter at home while you take classes. Maybe you’re disabled and struggle to find a campus that can accommodate you, or maybe you’re working full-time and raising kids and need to take classes at night.
Whatever your reasons for needing flexibility, online courses can accommodate you. Most courses require students to check on coursework once a week, and you can do your coursework and take your tests whenever you want as long as you meet the deadline.
Whether you decide to go to college online or in person, the important thing is the investment you’re making in yourself. Work hard at your degree and take the time to forge connections with classmates and professors, whether you go to school in person or online. Making the most of your college experience now will pay rich dividends for the rest of your life.