The decision to go back to school and continue your education is never easy. In addition to the financial commitment that you are normally required to make, it will also require a significant investment of your own personal time, often at the expense of time spent with friends or family.
While online learning is often suggested as a way to reduce some of these burdens, this is not always necessarily the case. In the same way that face-to-face educational programs require high levels of personal engagement, so do online learning programs.
Here’s a closer look at some of the benefits and burdens of online learning. By becoming more aware of what online degree programs have to offer, you can use awareness of the potential pitfalls you’ll encounter to improve your overall learning experience. Many people have found online learning to be a great way to further their career aspirations, but it’s important to know what to expect.
Benefit: Minimize career interruption
Perhaps one of the most underrated benefits of online learning is that it allows you to immediately put any new knowledge you’ve learned into practice in your career. This is highly beneficial for those balancing online learning commitments with a full-time job.
One of the biggest factors deterring so many mid-career professionals from pursuing higher education is that traditional classroom programs can often cause significant career disruption. For those unwilling or unable to take a year or more out of their career to pursue a degree program, higher education is often not feasible.
However, one of the biggest benefits of online degree programs and other forms of online learning is that it can be pursued flexibly without having to be away from work for extended periods.
For example, Aston University’s online business analysis degree is a program that can be used to enhance your career prospects without interrupting your career. By studying online at Aston University, you can learn as you earn and immediately put this new academic knowledge into practice.
This is generally not possible with traditional face-to-face programs, and is one of the main reasons online learning has proven so popular in recent years for early or late career professionals.
Benefit: Accessibility and efficiency
Another great advantage of online learning is that it allows you to attend classes from anywhere that works for you, as long as you have a strong internet connection. Lectures can be recorded, downloaded and viewed at a time that suits you.
This also affects the composition of the classroom you’ll be participating in, as it means students can tune in from all over the world.
Classes can be attended online from the location of your choice, and this will also save you time that you might otherwise have spent commuting to work. If you had to travel to campus several times a week, this can add up to a surprising amount of time saved.
Although online degree programs aren’t necessarily less expensive than in-person ones (after all, you get the same number of credits, even though they’re delivered virtually), you may have a much smaller financial burden.
One reason online programs tend to be less expensive is because they can usually be done while you’re still working. Classes and assignments can be completed flexibly, so you can fit them into your current work schedule. This means you can avoid taking a break from your career like you would with an in-person show.
Online programs will also have lower secondary costs. This includes everything from fuel or commuting costs to avoiding shelling out for expensive coffee on campus to fuel those late-night study sessions.
One of the potential burdens associated with completing an online learning program, especially if you are pursuing an extended program of study such as a degree or diploma, is that it must often be balanced against other life or professional commitments.
This requires people to be extremely organized to stay on top of lectures, homework, and studying for exams. Although this is not an insurmountable hurdle, it is something that should be considered before committing to any online learning program.
Loading: screen time overload
Another issue faced by many students who are learning online, particularly those juggling online learning with a full-time job, is that the amount of screen time this entails can often take its toll.
By overloading your screen time, you’re more likely to suffer from physical ailments like eyestrain and headaches, while potentially missing out on some much-needed physical activity.
However, while it can be relatively easy to overload yourself with screen time, ultimately this is something that can be balanced out quite easily by incorporating screen breaks into your routine.
This includes taking short screen breaks a couple of times an hour, as well as including longer breaks in your daily routine. Short screen breaks are an important way to give your eyes a break and prevent eyestrain from setting in.
Charge: lack of community
A common issue that seems to crop up regularly with students participating in online learning programs relates to the loss of community that they would otherwise gain in an in-person setting.
Having a sense of community and camaraderie with your peers has been shown to have a strong impact on learning outcomes and your overall sense of satisfaction. Although this is not impossible to grow in an online environment, it can be more difficult.
Therefore, it is important that schools allow various forms of communication between students, their peers and teachers. This can include everything from emails and online messages to message boards, forums, and video conferences. These approaches help reduce the sense of isolation some students may feel while increasing opportunities for collaboration.