Until recent decades, there were few ways to obtain a bachelors’ degree outside of the face-to-face classroom setting. In most cases, you would have to apply to the school of your choice, be accepted, and then make plans to attend classes in person in order to pursue your degree. If the college or university you were attending were not in your hometown, you would then also need to move to the city where your degree program is located, either living on campus or a local residence.
In addition to your tuition and textbook costs, you might incur room and board expenses in addition to other fees to make your dream of a bachelors’ degree a reality. If you have personal family commitments, work full-time, or have other obligations, a traditional higher education setting can prove to be difficult to navigate.
The internet has changed the way that we navigate nearly every aspect of our lives. From the way we shop, to the way we date, to even the way we take care of our health, online offerings have created a whole new way of getting the things we need. Since 2010, the percentage of online sales has gone from 6.4% of total retail sales to 16% in 2019.
In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 30% of Americans say that they have used a dating app in 2019, while only 11% of people said the same when asked in 2013.
While still in its infancy, medical services such as online prescription fulfillment are rapidly increasing. It is estimated that the online pharmacy market will generate as much as $128 billion annually by 2023.
With the increase in reliance on online options in our daily lives, what impact could this have on online education and bachelor’s degree programs?
The History of Online Learning
Online learning has been around since 1982 when the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute opened its School of Management and Strategic Studies. The program provided distance learning opportunities to business executives.
However, it wasn’t until 1998 that the first fully online degree programs were created by New York University, California Virtual University, Trident University International, and Western Governors University as an alternative to on-campus learning options.
Since that time, the enrollment in online courses has increased dramatically from 8% of enrollment in the year 2000 to nearly 32% enrollment in 2017. Traditional in-person degree programs are still the majority of enrollments in higher education, but are online bachelor’s degrees a good alternative?
We’ll explore numerous aspects of accessing online educational opportunities to obtain a bachelor’s degree.
The Perception of Online Degree Programs
Like other online industries, online bachelor degree programs have had to undergo an evolution regarding the perception of these programs. In the past, many considered online degree programs to be a scam. This was due partially to reports of “diploma mills” where individuals could purchase an online degree.
Even the biggest names in online education didn’t seem to be immune to scrutiny and punishment. One of the largest online education providers, the University of Phoenix recently settled a nearly $200 million lawsuit related to its practices.
The good news is that this seems to be more the exception than the rule.
Each year more and more traditional on-campus institutions are creating online degree programs for their students. Schools such as the University of Florida, the University of Alabama, and the University of Indiana – Bloomington, among others, offer 100% online degree programs.
In addition, prospective employers have become more accepting of online degrees.
Careerbuilder.com conducted a survey that found that 83% of corporate executives found online degree programs to be as reputable as traditional in-person, on-campus options.
So are online degree programs right for you? Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons.
Scheduling and Convenience
Most online degree programs are structured in a way that allows students to attend classes and complete coursework at a time that is convenient for them.
According to a study by Educationdata.org, 47% of students choose online courses due to life commitments that prevent them from attending classes on campus. Online courses provide a convenient way to attend classes without having to drop any commitments.
The tuition costs for online courses are typically less expensive than their traditional in-person counterparts. In addition, room and board and travel costs are no longer a factor when attending an online class.
The recent global pandemic related to COVID-19 caused significant disruptions in all aspects of our lives including the way we work and the way we go to school. Many colleges and universities from across the country were forced to close their dorms and classrooms.
Many students and professors alike were forced to move to online courses in order to finish out the academic year. With the uncertainty surrounding the ability to fully return to traditional classroom policies, online courses may provide an ideal alternative for those who are seeking their bachelor’s degree.
Those who attend online courses can continue with their coursework without having to factor in these types of events.
Materials Delivered Online
Most of the materials for online courses are accessed via the internet. That means that the coursework is more easily accessed and updated than with textbooks that may not have been updated for years at a time.
Customized Learning Environment
The online learning environment provides the opportunity for a more personalized custom learning experience for students. The materials provided typically include audio and video components as well as other resources making it easier for individuals taking the courses to learn in a way that best fits their learning style.
With many colleges and universities, the students who attend are from the local area. Online programs allow attendees from around the world to attend classes. This can provide for a more diverse, enriched educational experience drawing from a more global perspective.
Opportunities for Non-Traditional Students
Many times we think of those seeking college degrees as those individuals fresh out of high school preparing to spend their next four years living in a dorm room and attending classes with few other obligations taking up their time.
In reality, those working towards their bachelor’s degree come from all walks of life including parents, those who are working full-time, and those who may only be able to attend college part-time.
An online bachelor’s program allows these students who might not otherwise be able to attend classes with the opportunity to complete your coursework at a time and pace that is convenient for you.
Professors Who Are Experts in Their Field
Many times, the instructors teaching the courses are also active in their industry of expertise. This means that students have the opportunity to gain real-time practical knowledge as a part of the learning process.
While online bachelor’s degree programs are a convenient, practical alternative for obtaining your education, they are not necessarily for everyone. Here are a few things to consider.
Self-Discipline to Succeed
Since online degree programs are self-paced, you will need to create and stick to a dedicated and consistent schedule in order to succeed.
Lack of Face to Face Interaction
While students typically understand the idea that they may never meet their professor or other students in person, they tend to underestimate the impact this has on building relationships. Establishing relationships with professors and students in an online environment will require more effort on your part.
Additional Due Diligence
The internet provides amazing opportunities for accessing resources to achieve your goals. However, it is important to separate the good from the bad.
When deciding on a degree program, it is important to ensure that the institution you plan to enroll in is from an accredited institution.
Here are some of the best online programs that are available as noted by U.S. News.
- Ohio State University – Columbus
- Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Worldwide
- University of Illinois – Chicago
- University of Florida
- Oregon State University
- Arizona State University
- University of Oklahoma
- Loyola University Chicago
- Pennsylvania State University – World Campus
- University of North Carolina – Wilmington
Given the current global pandemic, in addition to the way the internet has changed how we live, online bachelor’s degrees can provide a viable alternative to the traditional classroom environment. The pros and cons provided here can help you to determine whether an online degree program can be the right option for you.