Online learning has changed significantly in the last few years. COVID 19 helped to make that happen. The pandemic made it clear that people could learn from home and do well at it, and as a result of this, it has worked to build a strong and effective opportunity for many people to receive the education they desire without having to go away to a college for four years. There are pros and cons of an online school, and for those thinking about where to earn their education, it may be critical to consider the opportunities both paths may offer. Online Learning and Online Schools Since the pandemic, many colleges and universities have been forced to move their education online, creating a way for students to learn with distance in mind. Many colleges worked hard with faculty members and staff to create remote courses and to facilitate learning in a digitally connected environment instead of the classroom. Since that time, there has been a wide range of changes to the educational environment, with remote courses, support services, and even online graduation ceremonies all working to support students who want to continue to learn in this manner. Was the switch to online learning for colleges easy? Initially, there were a number of key concerns. For example, there was a limit to the amount of hardware and software available, and many colleges and universities had to flex to meet the demands of their teams. Many students, along with professors, were not ready to teach the same content online as they were teaching in person. Many schools did not have robust online programming or the design and technology for it to support these types of programs. When emergency situations required that colleges and universities adapt, though, they did. Many designed new programs to better meet the needs of the student who was learning from a distance. What many did not know was that once the pandemic and those emergency situations ended, there would still be an incredible demand for people who were looking for a way to continue to learn from home. Schools that put the funds and time into building up resources and infrastructure are continuing to offer those programs to students who want to or need to be able to learn with more flexibility. Yet, it is very much a personal decision when it comes to learning and education. Is online education a path you may wish to consider? While many colleges and universities now offer online educational programs, that does not mean these programs are for all students. Each person needs to take into consideration how well learning from home fits their learning needs and objectives. There may be situations, for example, in which students find it hard to focus without teachers in the room with them, directly impacting their behaviors. Other times, students may find the coursework requires more hands on learning that is difficult from a distance. Taking a personal approach, then, students may wish to consider some of the pros and cons of an online school before making this decision. What Are the Pros of Online Schools and Online Learning? The benefits of online education range widely. Many students may find that the structure and the learning methods are equal or better than those in a classroom. For other students, the flexibility of scheduling and individual support from advisors and faculty may be beneficial. Students may wish to look at costs, program access, and their overall needs before making this decision. Some of the pros of online education include the following: Education flexibility One of the important benefits for some people is having an opportunity to learn with a schedule that fits their needs. Many people are unable to go away to college, but they still want to work in those fields and gain that added insight and education. With online education, it may be possible to continue to have flexibility in classes and educational paths without actually having to go into a classroom. That benefit may be hard for many students to overlook. Lower costs Costs are very much dependent on the school and the programs a student studies, but overall, the cost of education in a traditional on campus classroom is going to be higher than what an online student may pay. That is because these programs do not require students to pay for room and board, which means you do not have to worry about commuting to school and paying for gas if you do not live on campus. The lower costs may also come in the form of lower tuition in some cases. Some schools may charge lower tuition rates to students who do not attend in person. Support for more people While an on campus educational process may be the norm for many students leaving high school, it may make it harder for older students to enroll. While they may still be able to do so, many people who are older find it difficult to work and raise a family or meet other obligations while they are learning. For those who may not otherwise be able to step away from day to day life for their education, online schools provide this for them with the ability to earn a quality degree program. It needs to be accredited Another core benefit comes in the way of earning a quality education. Though not all online courses and programs are equal, many of these programs hold equal accreditation. That means they are meeting the requirements set by the accrediting organization to provide students with the quality of education expected for the field. Not all online schools hold this type of accreditation, but it is very much an opportunity for those who seek out the desired school. More collect options to choose from Without the limitations of having to move across the state or even the country, students may have the ability to choose from more colleges and universities to apply to and attend. For example, if a student really would like to pursue a program offered in a state across the country for them, they may be able to do so without having to leave home. They may not have to settle for a program within their state or close to home. They now have more schools and opportunities to compare and consider, and that could open the door to new opportunities for some. Accessible learning is now available Equitable accessible learning may be a great reason to consider this type of educational path as well. For people who have different abilities or may have some type of physical disabilities that limit their ability to attend a college campus in person or make it much harder to do so, online schools may provide a better opportunity. That could mean participating in classrooms and conversations with students who are taking the course in person. It may mean having better access to technology that supports their learning processes. What Are the Disadvantages of Online Schools? Online learning offers many benefits, but there are some disadvantages to attending this type of program as well. For some students, learning in person is more efficient and effective, creating an opportunity for a person to learn more thoroughly. In addition, students who are learning in an online environment may need to be a bit more disciplined in how they learn and study, which could be a challenge for some students. Take a look at some of the other disadvantages of learning online. The correct environment Students who wish to study at home may need to create the optimal environment for themselves to do so. That often means having a distraction free area to study and learn. That does not always mean having a dedicated office space, but the student may need to ensure they have a space where they may focus on their schoolwork. In a traditional classroom, the student has access to these types of spaces and labs, and lecture halls tend to be quiet areas of focused study. Not all programs are fully online Not all types of educational paths are fully earned online. For example, if a school offers a nursing program that requires students to take lab courses, the student may need to attend in person labs to work on those components of the program. Sometimes the specific type of education the student desires may not be available from any or very few colleges or universities. This could limit access to some types of learning opportunities. Not all classes are available all of the time Some schools offer courses that students work on when they have time. For example, the student may be able to commit to signing into the class each Monday at 5 pm. Other schools allow students to work on their schoolwork and attend recorded classes when they are able to do so as long as they meet various goals throughout the semester. Students who need the flexibility to earn their education around other commitments may struggle with this. Less interaction with peers Though some colleges and universities created paths to allow students to work closely with their peers in chat groups and messaging forums, it is not the same as learning in person and being able to sit next to each other to communicate or work on a project. It may make collaborating on some topics a bit more challenging. For students who may enjoy working on their own, this may be less of a concern. Self-motivation Yet another concern for some students is maintaining motivation to attend the courses and work on all coursework. It may be harder to do this when you are learning at your own rate or when you may not have as many professors pushing you to turn in assignments or participate in class. In nearly all situations, students need to determine what works for their individual needs. Comparing both online and in person educational paths is one way to do this. Look into specific programs at various schools that interest you to determine which could provide you with the foundation you desire for your future career. This is an offer for educational opportunities that may lead to employment and not an offer for nor a guarantee of employment. Students should consult with a representative from the school they select to learn more about career opportunities in that field. Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific program curriculum.