Pros & Cons of Online Classes
Enlisted personnel and veterans have numerous opportunities to pursue higher education, but transitioning from military life to college can be somewhat challenging. Today, however, returning students have many more options available for both in-person and online learning: The trick is to figure out the right combination for your individual circumstances.
More than 1 million Americans are currently receiving GI Bill benefits for higher education programs, according to Best Collages, a leading national ranking service, which reports, “In 2020, 80% of student veterans pursuing higher education degrees or credentials were full-time students; student veterans are often older, married, and work full- or part-time jobs while in school.”
Many military students are faced with juggling families, children, careers, and the transition to civilian life, all while attempting to pursue their educations. In recent years, spurred in part by the global COVID-19 pandemic, online learning has exploded, with nearly all colleges and universities offering at least some online classes.
According to the college informational website Admissionsly.com, “Since 2020, 98% of universities have offered online classes, and more than 21% of colleges within the U.S offer online courses entirely.” The website also reports, “According to a survey by the Babson Survey Research Group, 33% of college students are taking at least one course online.”
According to the Industry Expansion Solutions department at North Carolina State University, “Online education can be a highly effective alternative method of education for the students who are matured, self-disciplined and motivated, well organized and having high degree of time management skills, but it is an inappropriate learning environment for more dependent learners and has difficulty assuming responsibilities required by the online courses.”
The primary benefits of online learning include convenience, flexibility, and affordability. The main downsides to online classes include a lack of personalized interaction and attention with both fellow students and faculty, the cost and familiarity with remote learning technologies, and motivation and scheduling. Here is a summary of the pros and con of online learning:
Online learning allows you to study and do coursework whenever and wherever you need to be. There is no commuting or travel time to a campus, so you don’t have to change your living arrangements or find transportation. And you can access library resources, textbooks, study guides, lectures, and lessons all through a computer or mobile phone. Online students also have access to guest experts, instructors, students, resources, and information from around the world.
Online learning allows you to set your own schedule and makes it easier to juggle multiple responsibilities, including an ongoing career and family duties. You can adopt personal study habits that suit your schedule: for example, studying in the evenings if you are a “night owl” or in the mornings if you’re an “early bird.” You set your own pace for learning and progress; can accelerate your degree program; and can interact with other students and faculty virtually as much – or as little – as you deem necessary.
Online courses are usually less expensive than on campus courses: According to EducationData.org, an online degree costs around $11,000 less than an in-person degree at a public four-year college or university in the U.S. You also avoid paying for room and board, and you save on transportation expenses such as a car (or the cost of public transportation), gas, parking, and maintenance. Many students taking online courses also continue to work either full-time or part-time to subsidize their education.
Con: Lack of Personal Interaction:
One downside of online learning is limited social interaction with instructors and fellow students. Virtual learners may miss out on group discussions, personalized attention from faculty, and opportunities for social networking. It can be harder to build camaraderie and share ideas with others; although, virtual meetings, group chats, and collaborative projects can help overcome these limitations.
You may need to invest in new technologies, including up-to-date computer, software, web access, and more in order to pursue online learning. You also will need to learn new or enhanced computer skills. And, you’ll be spending your study time in front of a screen, rather than in a classroom, which can cause fatigue and eyestrain. Make sure to take frequent breaks to let your eyes rest and set up an ergonomic and comfortable study environment.
Con: Motivation & Scheduling:
Some students need the structure of an on-campus classroom schedule in order to stick to their studies. Online learners may find it easy to procrastinate or not stick to a schedule. It is necessary to set and stick to deadlines in order to complete coursework and assignments on time. Plan a study schedule that works with your lifestyle, and set aside time each day for coursework so you don’t fall behind or get overwhelmed.
There are pros and cons to any type of learning environment, but the key to success is making an informed decision about what type of learning is best for your individual circumstances. The online learning environment presents both opportunities and challenges; with the right approach and attitude, it can be a valuable alternative for many people. As with any life decision, pursuing a higher education is one that should be carefully researched and considered to maximize your personal strategy and reach your goals.