An online degree is an academic degree (usually a college degree, but sometimes the term includes high school diplomas and non-degree certificate programs) that can be earned primarily or entirely through the use of an Internet-connected computer, rather than attending college in a traditional campus setting.
What we know of as education has turned into something more flexible, efficient, and accessible called online education. Online learning refers to the information we draw from the internet. It is entirely based on technological learning, through tools made available for us online. In this aspect, the internet serves as the mediator between the learner and the process of learning, through ways of assessment and detailed instruction.
Simply clearing out the terminology is not enough. So, find out more below about online degrees, the differences from traditional learning, the benefits, the best online education programs, and whether it is worth it.
What is an online degree?
An online degree is any type of undergraduate or graduate degree (associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, or professional) that you earn online. Rather than relocate to attend an in-person program, you’ll work through your coursework online, either by attending virtual classes or completing asynchronous classes on your own time.
What is an Online education degree?
E-learning, virtual learning, and distance learning are just some of the many names used to refer to online education. Whichever term you use, the basic meaning is all the same. Online education, in its simplest definition, is a self-explanatory term. It is the process of teaching and learning through technological means. You attend, participate, and engage in classes using your laptop or phone. Basically, all you need is a laptop and a willingness to learn.
Online degrees give students the opportunity to graduate without having to attend face-to-face classes. Furthermore, the curriculum of an online degree contains all the essentials that a traditional degree offers, including lectures, quizzes, as well as assignments, and exercises that require active participation.
However, online courses include rich content that incorporates many technological advances into the curriculum, such as audio, video, animations, and live chats with professors – making it as effective as possible. You should also bear in mind that online classes do not mean easier classes. The workload varies from subject to subject, but generally, online learners spend 15 to 20 hours a week on their coursework.
Synchronous and asynchronous online learning
Synchronous learning allows students to interact with one another and the teacher in real time; whereas, asynchronous learning uses mainly pre-recorded lectures to allow learners to start and finish a lesson wherever and whenever they can.
Blended learning, also known as hybrid learning, is a mix of both online and face-to-face learning, where students complete their studies in person and online. It uses the most effective tools from both educational methods to make learning more effective and achieve better outcomes.
Massive open online courses
Lastly, massive open online courses are low-cost or free online courses where anyone interested can attend and learn through pre-recorded lectures, discussion forums, and assessments graded by computers.
Online Learning vs Traditional Learning
While some people have major trust in the online learning content, material, and the online education process as a whole, others have their doubts and like to stick to traditional education.
When it comes down to deciding between one or the other, how do you weigh the pros and the cons? How to decide whether you want to pursue a degree through online learning or if you’re more the traditional learning type? All you really have to do is see which one suits you best, based on your circumstances.
Online learning has been proven to reduce so many costs related to your studies. Pursuing an online degree has been estimated to cost an overall average of $30,000. In comparison, several reports show that pursuing a degree in a traditional university or college can cost you up to $85,000. As noticed and calculated, enrolling in online courses offers students the opportunity to save more on tuition fees and boot camps while enjoying greater flexibility.
Online Education Stats
All indicators show a constant growth of online education throughout the years. And with the dynamics following this last decade, we are not surprised. More than 6.3 million students in the U.S. — most of whom were undergraduates — took at least one online course in the fall of 2016, a 5.6% increase from 2015. These data were found by Babson Survey Research Group in their research on the growth of online enrollment.
According to the same report, public colleges and universities had a 7.3% growth in online course enrollment between fall 2015 and 2016, the largest one so far. In total, more than 65% of all online students have enrolled in programs in public schools. As for private, non-profit schools, they enjoyed a 7.1% rise in enrollment during the same period.
Additionally, the latest statistics report that between 2011 and 2021, massive open online courses (MOOCs) increased their reach from 300,000 to 220 million learners.
The Credibility of Online Degrees
According to a survey conducted by CareerBuilder, 83 percent of executives say that “an online degree is as credible as one earned through a traditional campus-based program.” For quite a long time, we have heard about employers sharing a shade of disbelief towards degrees earned online because it was an unfamiliar terminology for them. The only way of learning they used to know was brick and mortar.
However, as employers are now being replaced with younger generations, the concept of online degrees is everything but unknown. Hence, this growth of credibility has a proper justification, and we are finally landing on an era when the understanding of degrees is estimated equally, whether they’re earned online or traditionally.
Benefits of Online Education
online learning flexibility
As you may imagine and understand now, the benefits of online education are numerous. Some of the most important ones have to do with the timing and the innovative ways of learning that have made possible the rise of self-paced learning and global access to different types of degrees.
Probably one of the highlights of online learning is its level of flexibility. It has finally become possible for students not to quit their jobs in order to pursue a certain degree and not be obliged to skip several other occasions just to follow lectures. Instead, you can adapt the schedule of these courses far ahead with what you have on your calendar, and this way, you end up perfectly organized, without missing a thing. Whether you want to study at 5 AM or 5 PM, that is totally up to your choice.
We are no longer bound to end up studying in the same place we have lived our entire lives. Sure, it was also possible to study abroad in the past through different scholarships and transfers, but this is something completely different. If you don’t want to move to your campus, you can always access all sorts of lectures worldwide, regardless of where your university is located. And you can have access to all learning materials, whenever you want, enough that you have an internet connection and a laptop or smartphone.
No pace is the same when it comes down to catching up with one’s studies. People have different ways of feeling comfortable while engaging in their study field. While for some people, social interaction and traditional education may close the deal, for others, a sense of slower techniques and individual learning is needed in order to succeed.
All the costs of traditional learning can be devastating for a person. You basically have to start your life all over if you’re moving to your campus, paying for the dorm, apartment you rent, utilities, food, and all that extra social life that requires you to spend more than you would normally like. As we went through the exact number of reduced costs above in other sections, it is evident that online learning is more affordable and, therefore, grants more opportunities for students of all backgrounds.
Learning is a never-ending process, and with so much technology in our lives, we should all admit to ourselves that we need to remain updated if we want to survive in the labor market. Through numerous online courses, you can get certificates of courses that can improve your performance at work and automatically increase your value within your organization.
Gain more tech knowledge
During online education, everything, from attending classes to completing your assignments, is done online. This eventually leads to you becoming more tech-savvy, which is an essential skill to have.
Be more comfortable
Choosing an online degree means you do not have to worry about finding a good and affordable place to live. You also will not have to commute. Everything is done from the comfort of your home.
How long do online education programs last?
Online courses have been around for a long time. However, it is only in the past few years that they have gained popularity. More and more students now, whatever their reasons might be, choose to earn their degrees online. While it is true that online degrees are different from traditional degrees in many aspects, the time it takes to complete an online degree does not differ that much from that of a traditional degree.
Generally, it all depends on whether you commit to your online studies full-time or part-time. If you are a full-time student, you can get a bachelor’s degree online in three or four years. On the other hand, if you are a part-time student, it might take you five to six years to graduate.
Best Online Degrees for a Successful Career
online degree graduate
No doubt – Business Administration is on the list of the most popular online degrees. Most online students are enrolled in online programs in this field, and this is because there is so much versatility in the world of business, specifically business administration. Whether you’re getting a Bachelor of Business Administration or a Master’s in Business Administration, either way, you will gain in-depth knowledge of the fundamentals of business operations.
The need for accountants is never outdated in today’s economy. Organizations and corporations always need someone who is good with numbers to keep their business running successfully. As a matter of fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted a 13.1 % growth rate for this profession, with more than 166, 700 jobs available until 2020. This growth evidently exceeds all fields, and that is why online degrees in this field are so popular as well.
A career in finance requires attention to detail and skills to deal with managing investments, annual forecasts, budgeting, risk management, supervising, and leadership. All of these, and more, can easily be learned if you have the discipline and passion to commit through an online program. You can acquire everything from knowledge of the stock market, Keynesian models of inflation, or other courses that you may need depending on your workplace and ambitions.
When referring to the impact of technology in the business world, we can mostly witness this impact in the world of marketing. The shift in marketing techniques is evident, and if you’re not up for keeping up with these changes, you may as well be considered outdated. Marketing requires a great deal of creativity, research, and savvy business skills.
With the rise of new healthcare regulations, and training programs to advance the performance of employees – and mostly, with the intention of reducing the retention rate, there is a significant need for HR professionals. These people own the properly taught techniques to recruit and assist, in regulating everything related to contracts, salaries, benefits packages, and development programs.
This exciting field of the service industry is quickly becoming one of the most pursued online degrees out there. People have noticed the benefits of working in hospitality and tourism, as they involve all the best aspects of a workplace: flexible hours, traveling, exciting environments such as hotels and cruise ships, etc. Online hospitality degrees are also an excellent option for individuals who have started in entry-field positions, who have enough work experience, and who want to move on to managerial positions…
Project managers have a lot of tasks and responsibilities at their hands, all of these, with the purpose of making a business more profitable, competitive, and successful. This is what makes people approach this career alternative, benefiting from online degree programs that offer a variety of skills one can apply in multiple industries. With a proper online college, organization, or other educational institution, you can become a professional in this field and benefit from all the bonuses that come along with your qualifications.
The technological inventions that are making our lives easier nowadays are all created by bright heads and computer-savvy individuals. That’s why these specialists are a must in every company, both corporate and private. Each industry needs to remain up to date in this age of information, and profit from individuals with a Computer science degree. The compensation level is very rewarding for both entry-level and management positions.
Deciding to benefit from the option of autodidactism is certainly a quality of graphic designers. There are countless online degree programs, with exciting and creative content materials for students of this field. Animation and design opportunities are plentiful in the online world because the demand for advertising, commercials, social media, and websites, is constantly looking for ways to attract an audience. And what better way to do that than using graphics? The flexible career in Graphic design has inspired many freelancers and a large number of rising entrepreneurs.
Sustainable and Renewable Energy
Green jobs are the new, futuristic careers of our world. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a green job is defined as ‘a career which produces goods or provides services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources.’ With the ever-increasing need to conserve energy and protect the environment, this field is rapidly growing in demand. Graduates of this field can work with both businesses and the government to help them find ways to reduce waste, clean polluted areas, and create environmentally friendly public policies. Some of the most sought-after professions in Sustainability include Foresters, Geoscientists, and Biologists.
Is an Online Degree Worth It?
We used all the data gathered to measure the pros and cons and to help students decide whether an online degree is worth it or not. According to us here at the University of the Potomac, the pros certainly outweigh the cons. The only problem back in the past was the level of credibility from employees and the lack of recognition regarding online degrees. As we described, we are now able to identify universities according to their accreditation program and reputation.
Online degrees can either come from prestigious colleges or universities that offer specific online programs—usually in college majors conducive to being learned virtually—or entirely online colleges that do not offer an in-person experience.
5 benefits of earning your degree online
Many colleges and universities offer the same quality of education online as they do in person, including having the same faculty members teach courses. But when you learn online, you may find that there are added benefits involved:
Because of the way online degree programs are designed and offered, they tend to provide more flexible scheduling. Many courses take place asynchronously so you can learn around your other responsibilities, rather than fitting those obligations around your degree.
Work full-time or part-time
Many online college students continue working either part-time or full-time while earning their degree, thanks in part to the flexible scheduling we mentioned above. In fact, the average online college student is 32 years old, making an online degree program a strong option for professionals interested in going back to school .
Typically more affordable
Depending on what you study and where, some online degrees may cost less than in-person degrees. Online colleges don’t have the same overhead as brick-and-mortar schools, meaning they can charge less. More than that, you likely won’t have additional expenses, like transportation and on-campus housing, to factor into your budget.
Develop unique skills
With online learning, you get the chance to practice and refine self-discipline and time management. Both of those skills are important given the flexible, often self-paced nature of online learning, and both are valuable workplace skills that are particularly important as more of the global workforce becomes remote.
Network with your peers
Many students opt to learn in person because they want the full college experience or the opportunity to socialize and network. However many online degree programs offer opportunities to interact with other students. Those exchanges may start off via discussion forums or emails at first, but there’s an array of virtual resources to foster long-distance connections if you’re willing to make the time.
How to find the best online degree program for you
Enrolling in an online degree program has many advantages, as we discussed above, but it’s important that you find the right online program for you. Because of the self-discipline and time management that learning online requires, when you learn is up to you. That makes it especially important to make sure you’re set up for success.
Below, we’ve outlined a few components that you should keep in mind as you research different online degree programs and go about determining the ones you’d like to apply to.
Look for accreditation:
Finding an online degree from an accredited college or university is one way to ensure that you’re receiving a quality education that has been vetted by an approved outside agency. However, the type of accreditation can become especially important if you want to transfer previously earned credits to a new institution—or apply for federal financial aid. Note how each program is accredited, regionally or nationally, and speak with an advisor if you have additional questions.
Consider the course format:
The way your online program is structured will depend on the college or university you attend. Some programs are fully online, meaning you will not be expected to attend any classes on campus. However, others employ a hybrid model, meaning you will be expected to take some classes in person. Learn how each program is structured and think about the best approach for your learning style and schedule.
Determine how much flexibility you need:
Speaking of how you’ll learn, online programs tend to structure courses asynchronously (in which you learn on your own time) or synchronously (in which you attend a scheduled class virtually). Depending on your schedule and your needs, figure out which option best suits you, and narrow your program choices down based on how they offer courses.
Pay attention to what you can learn:
Not every major or program is available online at every degree level. Once you know what you want to study, and the kind of degree you want to earn, begin researching which colleges and universities offer that track. Pay close attention to the coursework required to graduate, and make sure it aligns with what you hope to gain by earning your degree.
Research the cost:
Each online degree program charges a different amount for tuition and fees, including in some cases whether you’re in-state or out-of-state. As you identify different programs that interest you, make a note about tuition costs so you can make a decision that best suits your resources. You can submit a FAFSA form each year, which may help you qualify for grants, scholarships, and federal student loans.
Review faculty credentials:
As much as possible, you should find out about the faculty who will teach your courses, whether those are led asynchronously or synchronously. Online programs should provide those details, and knowing more about your faculty’s experience and credentials can help reassure you that you’re learning from subject experts.