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Why Choose Online Learning: Overview for Prospective Students

Online classes are flexible and can often be tailored to fit any schedule. They're popular with those who prefer to study from home due to family or professional obligations.

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They are many advantageous reasons to choose online learning, including more subject offerings, fewer in-person requirements, flexible scheduling and independent learning opportunities.

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Reasons to Choose Online Learning

Here are some of the advantages of online learning programs:

Degree and Subject Options

Some students do not live near institutions offering studies in the subject they want or at the degree level they want. Online learning opens a much wider range of educational opportunities for these individuals. In addition, there are online schools that offer personal enrichment courses for individuals who want to study without having to be formally admitted to a university.

Scheduling, Flexibility and Pacing

The way that online courses are delivered varies by school and instructor, but in general, the scheduling is more flexible for online courses than for on-campus courses, even when the curriculum is the same. For instance, options are available for working adults who wish to pace themselves slowly through a degree program, as well as for driven students who wish to complete a degree program in a fraction of the time normally required.

On the other hand, there are courses that follow a fixed semester schedule, which can be helpful for learners who prefer a more structured schedule. Some online classes allow students to complete all work at their own pace as long as all work is turned in by the end of a semester; others have deadlines for assignments to help students stay on track for course completion. In some programs, students are required to be online to attend virtual class sessions at specific days or times.

In-Person Requirements

Another reason individuals choose online learning is so that they can earn a certificate or degree entirely online without traveling to a college campus or attending classes at fixed times. Another option is a hybrid program. In these programs, students may be required to attend on-campus courses, but they are less frequent, and they may be offered in the evenings or on weekends in order to accommodate the needs of working professionals. There are also programs that provide a fully online curriculum that requires brief visits to the school for orientations or residencies.

Online Communication and Assignments

Many online classes also require students to spend a certain amount of time interacting with the professor and/or the other students. Depending on the course, some of these interactions might occur in real-time, while others may occur asynchronously. Course communications can occur via:

  • Message board postings
  • Chat rooms
  • Phone calls
  • Video chatting
  • Instant messaging
  • Online discussion forums

Course Material Distribution

Online classes are usually organized through a web portal, which is content management software used by colleges to replicate a classroom environment for distance-education students. This means that individuals can visit one area to locate all of their materials for all of their courses, which may include written text, video or audio files. They may also be able to take open-book exams online, though some schools require students to visit either the campus or an approved site for proctored testing.

Learning Style Considerations

Many individuals choose online learning because it corresponds with their learning style. Because of the self-directed nature of online learning, it is ideal for students who have excellent time management and written communication skills, as well as those who find it easy to summon the motivation to complete coursework. Also, since students can't speak up as they would in a regular classroom, they need to be comfortable with voicing concerns, asking questions and submitting work in writing. It's ultimately up to individuals to determine if online learning is right for them, and many schools offer online learning orientation or quizzes to help candidates decide if this option is suitable.

Online learning programs are great for students who need scheduling flexibility or who don't live near a school offering the program options they want. They are also ideal for students who excel at technology-based communication and independent learning.

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