The Pros and Cons of Online College
The topic of online college has been brought up over the past couple years. As someone who enrolled in an online program before Zoom was a thing, I have some opinions on the matter.
If you are in an asynchronous program, your schedule is in your own hands. This is especially great if you are trying to get a degree while working full-time or if you have an otherwise demanding lifestyle. My pursuit of an acting career at the time had made this factor particularly appealing. You decide if you cram all of your work into three days in the week, or if you want to spread it out through the entire week. You can sleep in as late as you want without punishment and go to school in your pajamas.
This goes with the scheduling point. While most online programs have weekly assignments, many of my professors have posted content two weeks ahead of time. This enables you to challenge yourself academically.
Since you are not on campus with your peers and classmates, it is up to you to keep yourself on track. This forces you to develop good time management and discipline. You also get to choose where your classroom is— one day it may be the library and the next it could be your bed.
Due to the fact that your classroom can be anywhere, this means you can travel while you are in school. Visit your grandparents without stressing over having to catch up on your work. Hop on a flight to your dream destination and submit your paper in the airport— it is all up to you.
This was the biggest shock to me, though it is dependent on your school. While you are in the college decision process, make sure to ask about their scholarship opportunities for online students. At my school, I was ineligible for any of their grants and scholarships. This meant that if I wanted a degree, I would have to pay my way through school or take out a student loan.
Not every major will be available online. In some cases, hands-on experience cannot be replaced. You may, however, be able to take many of your general education courses online.
When you are attending school online, you are dropping out of the traditional college experience. If that is something you were looking forward to, then online college will not be the best option for you. There are discussion boards where you can communicate with your peers and professor, so you still hold the possibility of exchanging a few words or creating a study group. It takes more effort, but it is possible (especially with Zoom now.)
Harder to get help:
This is another thing that is dependent on your school. In my experience, it was nearly impossible to get help from my professors. Most of our classwork was done through Pearson, so my professors did not even have to grade our work. When I would email about a tech issue or a question, I would be referred back to the textbook or to the school’s IT department.
Must be disciplined:
While having new independence can be a perk, it can be a fault if you are not used to creating your own schedule. It is up to you to remember due dates and ensure everything is submitted on time. Since there is less of a separation between your school life and personal life, it can be difficult to keep tabs on everything. Investing in a planner and setting reminders on your phone can be a huge help.
It can feel very lonely to be an online student. You will be spending a lot of your time on the computer, which is more fatiguing than I had expected. Since you are not surrounded by your peers, it can be harder to relate to the people around you. There is a lot of work, so you will be multitasking a lot. I have not taken any courses on campus, so I cannot compare the rates of burnout. I can, however, compare it to public high school. Walking into a classroom, meeting new people, and talking through an assignment face-to-face was something I did not appreciate enough when I had it.
What are your thoughts? Have you taken any college classes? Are you a fan of in-person classes or online? Let me know in the comments!