From K through 12 and post-secondary, we become conditioned to learning in the classroom. In the old days, the traditional classroom consisted of a teacher or lecturer standing in front of a chalkboard or projector and their students sitting opposite. In recent years, more technology has been introduced into the classroom with computers and tablets gradually replaced by notepads and pens.
But for those wanting to take full advantage of the online learning revolution, there’s a whole other world out there. Online courses let you learn completely online—no classroom (or at least not a physical one), no chalkboard, no projector.
The following are the top 8 reasons to study online.
Online courses let you study from wherever you want and from anywhere in the world. You could be at home dressed in your pyjamas, at a café sipping on a latte, or on the train. You can even study by the swimming pool while on vacation if you’re so inclined. All you need to take an online course is a good internet connection and a compatible device. Many students prefer learning on their computer. But as online courses have gotten bigger and bigger, more and more students are getting used to learning on their smartphones or tablets. Most of the top online course providers offer iOS and Android apps, so you can take your studies with you wherever you go.
Like most things you can get over the internet, online courses are cheaper than traditional land-based courses. Online courses have less overhead—no renting out classrooms, paying electricity, finding space for all those students—and a large portion of the savings get passed on to the consumers. The online learning market has grown exponentially in recent years, leading to more competition, and of course competition serves to reduce prices. A 4-year degree can cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, but you can get credentials for a fraction of the cost online. Private tutoring can cost hundreds of dollars per hour, but you can find one-on-one tutors online for less.
Schools and universities don’t offer you flexibility. Sure, as you progress to your final years of high school and into postsecondary studies, you get to choose the subject you want to learn. But you’re still stuck with the Monday-Friday, 9-5 format (with some exceptions)—which, let’s be honest, is designed to prepare us for the grind of 9-5 in our working lives. Many online courses offer you the flexibility to learn on your own time and complete your studies within a timeframe that’s suitable for you. Some online courses offer on-demand learning with no restrictions. Others set schedules, but you still get more choice than you would at a brick-and-mortar institution.
These days, online courses offer an equal or superior level of online teaching as compared to their traditional counterparts. If you’re taking online test prep for exams like the GMAT, MCAT, or SAT, you’ll find tutors who have aced those tests and gone on to become experts in those fields. If you’re learning an academic subject like data analysis, biochemistry, or advanced Spanish, you’ll discover that many teachers from top universities and companies also teach online. If you’re looking for quality of education, you can find it online.
Just because it’s online doesn’t mean you need to lower your expectations. The online learning industry is a competitive space, and the best providers offer extremely high levels of support. Many online tutoring services have popped up in the past couple of years, and they take their job seriously. Before you pay a cent, you get a free consultation with a customer service rep, who asks you about your needs and matches you with a suitable tutor. The next step is an online meeting with the tutor, who also asks you about your needs and puts together a customized lesson plan made especially for you. Another feature several online tutoring and online test companies have begun offering is what one has named “instant tutoring.” This works exactly how it sounds: if you find yourself in urgent need of one-on-one help, you can call on a tutor, 24 hours, 7 days a week. Try calling a high school teacher or university professor at 2 a.m. and see how they respond!
Going online doesn’t reduce your networking possibilities, it expands them! Many online study platforms have forums where you can discuss problems and find solutions with your fellow students. Many offer a mix of on-demand lessons plus several hours of one-on-one learning with a tutor or instructor. The networking opportunities vary from provider to provider, but rest assured that you can study online and still make connections with people in your field.
People who learn online are spoiled for choice. There are online platforms for test prep, online courses for getting a professional certification, online courses for studying an academic subject, and online courses for learning a language. There are Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) designed to take an unlimited number of students and there’s one-on-one tutoring between you and an instructor. You can choose self-guided learning, live online learning in a virtual classroom, tutoring and more. You can sign up for a full degree, a short course, a few hours of tutoring, or a 1-hour lecture. As online courses have expanded, so too have the choices—and we, the consumers, are the winners.
One of the most underrated aspects of online studying is the ability to advance your career. Traditionally, people would finish high school or postsecondary school, get a job, and stay there until retirement. Of course, things no longer work this way and most people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s switch jobs every few years. But for all this progress, people are generally hesitant to leave the workplace and go back to study, and with good reason—it’s costly spending money on a course and going without pay. But with online courses, you can keep your day job and take a course at a convenient time of the week to get that promotion.