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Benefits of Earning a College Degree Online



Discover the Benefits of Online College Degrees

With an array of resources and articles on online college degree programs, where do you start to get the essentials?  Our guide to understanding the benefits of earning a college degree online will be the perfect starting point.  Learn the basic on earning an online college degree, set realistic expectations about college, and find answers to commonly asked questions about distance learning.

Basic Information: Online College Courses and Degrees

As the name suggests, an online college course is a program that can be taken remotely through the use of technology.  The exciting part of this recent technological adaptation within higher education is the quality of the programs coupled with the breadth of learning opportunities.  There are over 5,000 online college courses available and several dozen different college degrees that can be earned through the use of technology.

How many online college courses exist today?

According to the latest data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics, there are over 5.5 million college students taking online courses through an accredited public or accredited private college.  This represents 27% of all college students taking an online college course during their undergraduate or post baccalaureate studies.  Interesting to learn that 2.6 million students exclusively take college courses online which is over 13% of all enrolled college students.

How do students and employers view online college degrees?

These are staggering numbers that continue to grow in popularity as technology is adapted more broadly coupled with a growing employer acceptance rate.  More specifically, the Society of Human Resource Management performed a broad-based survey of HR Managers around the country to better understand attitudes towards students earning a college degree online.

What they discovered was an overwhelming 87% Human Resource professionals concurred that a candidate with an online college degree is looked at more favorably today than five years ago.  Further, Education Dynamics performed a study of college graduates that indicated nearly 90% of students believed earning a degree online was at the same level or better than a classroom experience.

Is an online college degree worth it?

Earning a college degree online may be a viable option worth considering to bolster your career and provide key skills for your future.  Earning an undergraduate or graduate degree online from an accredited institution may help your ability to effectively communicate, organize ideas, manage your time, synthesize new information, generate new ideas, more adept at research, enhanced writing skills, and help improve leadership capabilities.

Why Consider an Online College Degree?

We understand there will be as many answers to this questions as there are online college courses available.  However, after many surveys and data collection about the motivation for taking an online course we have found a clustering of common responses.  The most common reasons for taking an online course are:

  • A student can take the type of course and number of courses online that make sense for them given their goals and scheduling restrictions.  Many online college programs offer self-paced and accelerated programs giving the student to control the pace.  Another key feature within the flexibility reason is embedded within the notion of competency-based learning.  With competency-based learning, a student can take an exam at any time during the course to demonstrate competency of the subject matter.  If the competency exam is passed, the student may bypass the remainder of the class and move on to the next course in the series versus being restricted to a time-based classroom experience.
  • A working professional can take specific classes to learn new skills and strengthen their resume.  By the same token, a person who is unemployed or underemployed can take a class and earn a degree to improve their vocational trajectory.  Education is key to personal and professional growth & employers continue to reward those that invest in their education.
  • Quality.  As eluded to previously, the quality of online programs is viewed by students and employers to be on par with traditional methods of earning a college degree; thereby achieving the same educational goal with the added benefits of flexibility and convenience.  Many of the top colleges and universities in the country offer online learning modules on a path to earning a valuable college degree.
  • Career Focus. A growing number of online degree programs are geared towards a specific degree with very granular learning objectives.  In turn, these objectives can be utilized to improve an existing career track or set you on a new path depending on your situation.  This career focus is ideal for professionals that know exactly what they want from a college experience within a predefined vocational field.  Another benefit of a career focus is a streamlined program that often will save you considerable tuition dollars as your march towards successfully completing a college degree.

What to Expect from Online College Programs

Once enrolled in an accredited online college program, your learning will be digitized.  You will spend substantial time engaged in reading e-books, taking notes online, engaged in online assignments, emailing peers, online group chats, instant messaging, and participating in required message boards.

Accessible technology at our fingertips will allow digital natives and online college students of all types to connect.  Being able to quickly communicate, complete required assignments, and share ideas, in real-time is the crux of the fluidity in distance learning.  Individual pace and flexibility have become hallmarks of those learning online while balancing existing schedules.

What happens after I enroll in an online class?

After enrolling in an online college course, you will first be introduced to an online class manager.  This individual is assigned to a class by the school and will ensure you have the equipment and credentials necessary to get online and into the school's designated learning portals.  After receiving online access, students can enter the class discussion room and course portal.  From the portal, you can collect information on the expectations, syllabus, and support team involved in the class.

How are online college courses structured?

The academic structure of the class and degrees offered by schools will vary from institution to institution.  However, there are two primary modes of online learning that are critical to understand.  The primary online learning modalities are synchronous and asynchronous methods.  We have outlined each as you think about which learning mode is best for you.

  • Synchronous online learning is a mode in which classes must be taken as a group at the same time.  More specifically, students log-in at the same time as the professor through the school's online portal.   The same material is covered as a group and all learning objectives are in synch.  Synchronous learning requires students to follow a prescribed schedule in unison with one another.
  • Asynchronous online learning is defined learning not required to happen simultaneously.   Rather, students will be provided a host of learning objectives, assignments, resources, tools, tests, and projects that can be accessed at any time.  Asynchronous learning provides students with the ultimate degree of flexibility and independent learning opportunities.

Would taking an online college course be a good fit for me?

Like most personal questions, it will depend on your situation and your objectives.  Factors that may come into play when considering an online college degree may be your learning style, personality, geographic location, career goals, work discipline, and family considerations.

As we have discussed, earning a college degree online requires you to work online in cadence with your class or independently.  In either case, you will need to have the self-motivation and work ethic to remain focused and strive to complete the smaller activities on your way to achieving milestones then finally to overarching academic objectives.

Understand in advance if you are the type of person that needs the face-to-face social interactions or require the motivation of others to push you towards your academic goals.  Likewise, if you thrive on working side-by-side with people and inspiring them to complete a task a classroom setting may prove to be a better fit.

In terms of geography, if you live in a remote or rural area with limited undergraduate and graduate programs it may behoove you to look seriously at online learning options.  Many students based in rural parts of the country have found great success maintaining a job near their home and earning a college degree online.

Family considerations may be a big factor when thinking about college.  Whether you are living at home and mapping out your future or resetting your goals with growing children to care for, you may be limited on classroom time when thinking about your college experience.  As you align your priorities with your goals and personal work habits, you will be able to see a path towards a classroom-based college experience, an online college program, or a hybrid option that combines both online and classroom aspects.

If you have already earned college credits at a community college or university program, you will very likely be able to transfer those credits to an online program.  While it does vary from school to school, an overwhelming number of students surveyed regarding credit transfers said they were able to get most if not all of their existing credits transferred to an online program.  Please check with the admissions office to ensure this is the case for you well in advance.

What learning opportunities are available through an online college or university?

There are over 5,500 accredited college institutions available to choose from in the United States.   These programs include the full range of programs including business, nursing, psychology, criminal justice, MBA, healthcare, computer science, information technology, science, and dozens more degree types.

Where do I learn more about online college learning options?

Spend some time researching the degrees available at MatchCollege to open up a world of options.  Start by working towards a larger list of colleges and degrees then winnow the list down to a smaller set to make the final set of decisions about your college learning experience.

For additional resources, make sure to visit MatchCollege and subscribe to our blog for the latest in college information.