We do everything online these days. We shop online. We order pizza online. We talk to Grandma online. We even watch Game of Thrones online…legally, of course. So it comes as no surprise that, between mouthfuls of pizza and chatting to Grandma, more and more of us are getting our degrees online.
More than 80% of public universities now offer at least one fully online program, and according to a 2014 report from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2.6 million students were studying fully online (13% of all college students). If the statistics are anything to go by, college education and the internet go hand in hand, and there are many reasons why online degrees are now so popular.
The Price Is Right
I am not referring to the television show, but yes, you can watch that online too. The right price I am referring to is the overall cost of a college degree, when done online. Cost of living factors associated with a traditional on-campus degree, such as housing and commuting, are obviously much lower, or even non-existent, when you don’t actually have to move anywhere. Savings can also be made on course materials for online degrees, which are often downloadable and considerably cheaper than traditional printed materials like text books.
In some cases, tuition prices for online degrees and traditional degrees are the same. This often happens when established colleges set-up online learning faculties. The cost of setting up online learning has to be passed onto someone and, dear reader, that someone is probably you, the student.
Specialist online education providers, however, do offer lower tuition prices, because they don’t have to spend money on constructing and maintaining ivy-clad buildings, sprawling campuses and all the recreational and cultural facilities that are found on these campuses. These savings have to be passed onto someone and, dear reader, that someone is probably you, the student.
A little research is called for when choosing a specialist online education provider. While they can offer great value with lower tuition prices, some of those providers are not as well credentialed as others. Yes, I’m talking about… (**DIRTY WORDS ALERT) …diploma mills.
Online Learning Is Now Respectable By Degrees
Oh yes, diploma mills. The academic equivalent of getting your degree out of a cereal box. While they make it ridiculously easy to obtain an online degree, diploma mills are taken as seriously as professional wrestling.
The good news is, many of the institutions now offering online degrees are reputable. They are not diploma mills. Instead, they are accredited and authentic education providers; their online degrees are the real thing. This is where the news gets even better. Online degrees are gaining a level of recognition and respect like never before, particularly in the job market, and this is another factor in their popularity.
Not too long ago, an online degree lacked a certain gravitas. More Pauly Shore than Paul Giamatti, if you like. Employers looked upon an online degree with the same disdain as a piece of paper they might use in the executive washroom. Times have changed, with established and prestigious colleges now offering online degrees and courses, while the new wave of specialist online degree providers teach at a far higher level than a diploma mill ever could. Employers now accept an online degree as being a legitimate qualification, rather than something sugary that came out of a cereal box.
An Online Degree Fits Right In
Not all of us can pack up our things and move to a campus to embark on a long learning journey. Some of us are employed in a job we can’t afford to give up. Some of us can’t afford to move. Some of us are married. Some of us are married with children. Some of us don’t want to leave the comfort of our armchair.
Enter the online degree, with its flexibility, its elasticity and its ‘stay seated and comfortable in your armchair’ mentality, and you see why this method of learning is currently so popular. It fits in with our lifestyle. It doesn’t require life-changing, trans-continental leaps. With some modifications to our day-to-day routine, an online degree can be achieved pretty much anywhere, and at any time.
A Distraction-Free Degree
But, I hear you protest, aren’t I missing out on a lot of fun by not studying on-campus? You might have a point there. A campus is a fun place, full of fun people doing fun things. Every day can be a party on a college campus, with so many delightful distractions. And this is exactly why so many students prefer to stay well away from it all.
A surprising number of students say they would continue to study online even if there was a university campus right next door. For those students, campus living is too distracting. Resolving dorm room dramas, partying like John Belushi in Animal House, and competing in the daily popularity and fashion contests that make up campus living, can be draining. Yes, believe it or not, there are some students who just want to study.
Online degrees allow them to put business before pleasure, with a focus on study before everything else. Without all those outside activities and distractions clouding their minds, online students say they have more time and energy to devote to their studies and, as a result, higher grades. They also report healthier bank balances, as indulging in all that campus fun can be expensive.
A Career Booster, In More Ways Than One
A degree is an absolute must if you want a specialised, high paying job. Go into your local hospital tomorrow and ask if there’s a vacancy for an unqualified neurosurgeon, one who has no idea what the job entails or what neurosurgery actually means, and see how far you get. Not very. You don’t have to be a neurosurgeon to work that one out.
The bridge between unqualified, and qualified, is a college degree. It has always been that way. It has always been that obvious. Yet, the online degree serves as more than a career starter. It is also a career booster. It is the easy way for people already in work to climb the corporate ladder, without having to interrupt their daily work routine. A flexible online degree allows the fulltime worker/part-time student to add qualifications to their resume, skills to their repertoire and dollars to their pay packet in a relatively non-disruptive, convenient and affordable way. This is why online degrees are increasingly popular with graduates who want to add some lustre to their existing degree.
It’s Just How We Roll These Days
If we were back in the old days, say 1995 or so, we would have to watch Game of Thrones on television, and we would have to watch it at a time of the television network’s choosing. These days, we would laugh in the face of any TV scheduler who told us we’d have to wait another seven days for the next riveting episode of our favourite show. We expect to be able to watch what we want, when we want, and where we want. We have this expectation because technology makes it all possible.
Technology has also changed the way our education is delivered, and it has changed our expectations at the same time. Why go to school, when school can come to us? We expect that to happen because technology makes it possible. The point is, technology changes how we live our lives. Travel, entertainment, communication, commerce, or ordering pizza. All have been changed by technology, and we accept it as a fact of life. Education is no different.
The upshot of this is that online learning continues to gain legitimacy as it becomes more entrenched as just another way of doing things in the modern world. It is simply a way of delivering education using the latest technology available, in much the same way the ultra-modern Apple II was used to teach us in the 1970s. (Kids, the Smithsonian will be able to help you if you don’t know what the Apple II is)
This is a good thing, because an online degree will not be seen as something odd, suspicious or dubious. It will be accepted as a legitimate qualification, obtained through perfectly acceptable means, and compared in the same light as a degree achieved by studying on a campus. And best of be achieved in between mouthfuls of pizza and talking with Grandma.