Online Classes and Colleges: the Pros and the Cons
Over a decade ago, I heard about people taking online classes. My first impression was "Online classes, you have to be kidding?" Over the years, I have learned to be less skeptical and be much more respectful of online classes and degrees. Without a doubt, online classes and degrees can be a legitimate and credible way to obtain a degree. However, there are things that you have to know when taking an online class or seeking an online degree. Following are some of the pros and cons of taking online classes, especially from a totally online college. Before presenting you with a list of pros and cons, you have to be aware that as appealing as online classes sound, online classes are not for everyone. Another thing to take VERY SERIOUSLY, is that you have to pay attention to whether the online classes, degree, or program is from an ACCREDITED, legitimate, credible school. Whether you try to obtain a degree or financial aid for college, you need to be aware that there are PLENTY of SCAMS out there. You NEED to investigate whether the source of classes or financial aid is from an ACCREDITED, legitimate, credible source.
Having said all of that, here are some Pros, Cons, and Tips that you need to consider when looking to take online classes or seek an online degree from a totally online school.
The PROS of taking online classes or getting a degree from an online college:
- CONVENIENCE, convenience, convenience, convenience, and convenience.
- Transportation to school no longer becomes an issue. Price of gasoline, catching the bus, weather, and more transportation-related issues, becomes less of a concern.
- You can receive a degree from a school that is hundreds or thousands of miles away from your house. You do not need to move to another location.
- A lot of people do not like interacting in public or giving presentations in front of an audience. With online classes, where you interact with classmates through your computer, you do not have to worry about public speaking.
- Online classes and online universities have opened up new opportunities for many people to achieve a degree or obtain a good job, who did not have this opportunity before the development of online classes. For many, their only option IS to attend a totally online college, so the following cons will not hold much weight, but some people will want to be aware of the cons.
The CONS of taking online classes or getting a degree from a totally online college:
As convenient, flexible, and GREAT as online classes are for so many people, there are issues that people have to consider. The pros are obvious, but the cons may take some explanation.
- Make sure that if you take online classes or attend a totally online college, that it is ACCREDITED. Make sure that the college AND the program is ACCREDITED and legitimate. If the school or program has not been properly reviewed by the appropriate governing agencies, the degree may not mean anything to future employers.
- Everyone is different. Everyone has their own learning styles. Some people learn better by being in a class surrounded by fellow classmates and interacting with his/her teacher one-on-one. Definitely, online classes lack the human personal touch, attention, and care that a traditional class offers. There is a tendency with an online class for you to be more on your own. If you are taking an online class from a school hundreds or thousands of miles away and you have an issue, then there is only so much that the teacher can do for you.
- You need to have some knowledge of using a computer. Definitely, you do NOT have to be a computer programmer, but you do need to feel comfortable working with a computer. It would be helpful if you have a relatively fast Internet connection. In all likelihood, you will be viewing or downloading documents. As technology progresses, you may be viewing and listening to video and audio files.
- Above, in the "pros," we mentioned how with online classes that you do not need to interact in public with your classmates or give a public speech. Some of the research suggests that this may not be looked upon favorably from future employers. There is some information that suggests that some employers are looking for well-rounded, socially-adapted individuals who can interact comfortably with people.
- There is some attention being given to "networking." There are not a lot of complaints about this but some students are concerned that online classes do not promote "networking" with their fellow classmates when it comes to seeking future employment. Apparently, some students feel that they obtain important contacts with classmates and teachers through all kinds of activities on campus. These "contacts" can pay off when searching for jobs. It has to do with the old expression "It is not so much what you know but WHO you know." It may not be that much of a "con", but some students are concerned that attending a lot of online classes does not promote the type of "networking" that on-campus classes establish.
- Many students will decide to transfer their credits / classes to another school. What happens all too often is that some of the credits will not transfer to the new school. Issues with transferring classes (credits) between any type of college has been an age-old problem for decades. It happens, and it is kind of a fact of life when taking classes the traditional way at a traditional college. When taking online classes from a traditional college or especially an online university, please investigate the chances that the online classes (credits) will transfer to other institutions.
- For many careers, online classes can teach you all that you need to know. However, for some careers, online classes can teach you only so far. For example, let's take a look at a career such as nursing. When it comes to drawing blood from a patient, can a computer really give you the valuable practice of applying a tourniquet on an arm, tapping the vein to make it stand out, feeling for the vein with your fingers, and then sticking the syringe in that vein to draw out the blood? How about a computer teaching a person to shift gears on a truck or getting the feel of what it is like to try to manuever a truck in order to obtain his/her CDL license? There are legitimate concerns about trying to obtain practical job experience by going through a computerized online course.
- You may not see much mention of the following "con" but it is something that you need to be aware of. There is literature out there that we will list at the bottom of this page that gives credible information on SOME employers' perceptions of online degrees. Slowly, perceptions are changing, but you need to be aware that some employers would choose the applicant with a traditional degree over a person who received a degree from a TOTALLY ONLINE SCHOOL. We are NOT saying this to discourage anyone form taking online classes or seeking a degree from an online university. When doing the research for this website, all kinds of information appeared and this is one of the cons that people have to think about when choosing how to achieve a degree, or the schooling, for a particular career/occupation.
Following are some magazine and journal articles that give some information about the pros and cons of online classes. If your local library does not have the article, please ask them to interlibrary loan the article for you. Most libraries will interlibrary loan the article for free.
Carnivale, Dan. "Employers Often Distrust Online Degrees." Chronicle of Higher Education. January 2007: pA28. Print.
This is an EXCELLENT article. If you are concerned about the value of online classes OR an online degree from a totally online school, then you might want to take a look at this 2007 article. The author does a very good job of presenting why some employers are reluctant to accept potential employees with online degrees. Carnivale says "To those officials, the words 'online education' conjure up images of those spam e-mail messages that promise Ph.D in exchange for $5,000 and a bit of 'life experience.'" Another excerpt from this excellent article gives a more positive view of online degrees by stating "acceptance of online degrees may be growing among managers, however. The employers who are most skeptical of online education are the ones who seem to know the least about it. The more they learned, researchers found, the more comfortable they were." As this article states, "because many traditional colleges offer online degrees, graduates of those programs can often apply for jobs without the hiring manager ever noticing that the courses were delivered over the Internet."
Clark, Kim. "New Answers for E-Learning." U.S. News & World Report. 21 January 2008: 48-9. Print.
This magazine article mentions pros and cons such as making sure that the school is accredited and reputable. Make sure that the classes can transfer. Some different pros and cons are covered here that are not covered in other articles.
Columbrao, Nora L., and Catherine H. Monaghan. "Employer Perceptions of Online Degrees: A Literature Review." Online Journal of Distance Learning
Administration 12.1 (Spring 2009). This study can be found online at http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring121/columbaro121.html
This is an excellent research study from a credible peer-reviewed journal giving the pros and cons of the perceptions that employers, as well as other people have, of students achieving their degree from a totally online school. Both sides of this issue are covered very well in this study.
Heubeck, Elizabeth. "Higher Ed Professionals' Perspectives on Online Education." Diverse Issues in Higher Education. 16 October 2008: 30-31. Print.
College professors give their opinions on the pros and cons of online classes. Convenience is mentioned as well as students tending to give more thoughtful responses when taking online classes. On the other side, online classes require the student to be mature, disciplined, and self-motivated. This article warns of "shams" out there so "buyer beware."
Terrell, Kenneth. "How Do I Choose a Program?" U.S. News & World Report. 16 October 2006: 68-69. Print.
This magazine article covers the importance of determining if the program is legitimate, knowing computer skills, and a little of the inner workings of taking an online class.