Weighing the Pros and Cons of Online Learning

Online learning has a number of advantages over traditional brick and mortar schools, but there are several factors slowing its adoption. Let’s look at the pros and cons of online learning in general, as well as the options you have when it comes to online education.

The Pros of Online Learning

Many online courses provide a flexible schedule. If you miss a class, you may be able to make it up by viewing the recorded presentation. If you don’t understand the material, you can also review the lecture notes again. This isn’t an option with many in-person lectures.

You may need to be online at specific times for an online course, such as an online MSHI degree, but online learning eliminates the need to travel to school. This makes online learning an excellent choice for those who don’t have a car, cannot travel for health reasons, or only have the time for the class but not travel time on top of it all.

Online learning programs allow you to take courses that aren’t offered at nearby schools. Online learning programs are sometimes cheaper than the costs associated with brick-and-mortar school attendance.

The Cons of Online Learning

There are many online programs that charge money for a certification that has no value in the workplace. These diploma mills have existed for years, but their number and volume of business online makes many employers reluctant to accept an online certification they’ve never heard of. Conversely, many people are afraid to join online learning programs (including legitimate ones) due to the concern employers won’t recognize the certification.

The transferability of the online coursework depends on the program. If you take the online courses offered by a brand-name university, the course credit likely transfers – but then you’re charged a premium for that privilege.

Suppose you earn micro-degrees and mastery certificates through online programs. In that case, they are rarely recognized by employers as legitimate unless you are a programmer or STEM professional taking the courses through a well-known program.

Observations about Online Learning

Online learning does not mean never interacting with others. Many online programs are large enough that you could arrange to meet with local students taking the same course or provide online meeting options to discuss lectures and study.

Micro-certifications through some online massive open online courses will be seen as a demonstration of your skills and prove you are more than just self-taught. However, formal degrees are overwhelmingly preferred by employers as proof of skills and expertise.

The value of the degree depends on the demand for it in the workplace; in this regard, an online health informatics degree is worth far more than a generic liberal arts degree, whether the latter is earned at the local college or online. And because employers prefer full credentials, an online MSHI program that awards a full master’s degree is more likely to result in a pay raise than the proof you took a few edX courses.

Online learning is not necessarily dependent on technology in one’s home. You could take online courses at the local library; some even allow groups to book use of computer rooms to support this.

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