Are online courses right for you? Learn the pros and cons

Online college courses and degree programs have become more common in recent years. Taking classes online is an alternative for college students and working adults to pursue their education. More than 7 million people enrolled in online courses last year.

Find out whether online courses are right for you. (Credit:

Find out whether online courses are right for you. (Credit:

Some educators praise online learning for improving study habits and responsibility, while others decry online courses for not offering a mentor or personal interaction with an instructor. Here is some need to know information about online classes for your personal student success.

According to the report “Changing the Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States,” by the Babson Survey Research Group of Babson College in Massachusetts, from 2002 to 2012: “The number of students enrolling in at least one online course in fall 2011—more than 6.7 million—increased by 570,000 over the previous year. The increase may signal why advocates of online learning say they are optimistic about the potential of technology and distance education to offset declining enrollment among traditional students with older, nontraditional ones. It may also mean new opportunities to reach and teach more students and to generate needed revenue for colleges and universities,” wrote Denise B. Hawkins in “College, Connected: Online Enrollments at HBCUs Continue to Grow,” published in Diverse Issues in Higher Education, March 28, 2013.

Advantages of online courses

  • Online courses are convenient and flexible. They are available 24/7. You can access the classes online at your convenience and read and study material when you study best, be that bright and early in the morning or at midnight. You can learn at your own pace, and as long as you adhere to deadlines and due dates, the rest of the schedule is entirely up to you. Online classes allow you to make time for part-time work and visits with family and friends. You can create your own field trips and hands-on learning experiences and even take a snow day (or a beach day!).
  • Affordability. In an economic crunch, online courses offer an affordable alternative to expensive college enrollment that has been inaccessible for many. With more technology improvements in online learning and more pricing competitions from various colleges and universities, more people have access to online education. And there’s no need to pay room and board when your classroom is your living room or bedroom.
  • Instant playback. In a lecture in a classroom, if you stare off into space for a few minutes, you’ve missed what the teacher just said. With online classes, you can simply rewind and play back the lesson. If you’re having trouble on some difficult material, you can go over it as often as you like, or wait a few days and play it again after you’ve had time for your brain to regroup.

Disadvantages of online courses

  • Online courses require more time than on-campus classes. “Believe it or not, you will spend more time studying and completing assignments in the online environment than you will in an on-campus course. …The online environment is text-based. To communicate with your instructor and other students, you must type messages, post responses and otherwise communicate using your fingers (i.e. through typing). As you can probably guess, typing is slower than speaking,” explained Professor Sean Chamberlin of Fullerton College in “Ten Disadvantages of Online Courses,” written for Montgomery College.
  • Lack of contact with a professor. “Courses delivered solely online may be fine for highly skilled, highly motivated people, but they are inappropriate for struggling students who make up a significant portion of college enrollment and who need close contact with instructors to succeed,” said an editorial writer in “The Trouble With Online College,” posted February 18, 2013, in New York Times.
  • Lack of contact with other students. Students learn from each other, study together, bounce ideas off each, and help a struggling peer to catch up, all of which is not always possible with online courses. Although online students can chat over the Internet, they don’t have role models and can’t provide each other in-class discussions and debates.
  • High attrition rates. Online courses receive criticism for being ineffectual and having a high rate of drop outs. It’s easier to drop out of an online course than an in-school college course. Online students can get frustrated, feel isolated, have too much independence and often don’t receive the friendly push and encouragement to stick it through that teachers and professors give to their in-class students.

Check out Questia’s online Education library for more information.

Do you think you’d study better with in-class courses or online courses?

5 replies
  1. Ikponmwosa Imafidon says:

    Study done in-class is better than online. I prefer in-class because learn more through students’ interactions. Online study is only an alternative when time, finance and academic qualification required for enrollment is a barrier.

  2. Margaret says:

    I don’t agree with your comments about the barriers to bricks and mortar enrollment. Many top universities offer online courses. Are you implying that the standard for acceptance to online programs is inferior to that required for regular school? You also said that you learn more through student interactions. You can interact online in the same manner. If that were not the case, I believe social media would be an abject failure. Online education calls for a significant amount of discipline. You either have that discipline or you don’t. It’s as simple as that.

  3. Medline says:

    If i have to choose any one from regular and distance education, I’ll choose regular course. But if we are doing any job than distance education is one of the best way to get higher degree. I’m also doing post graduation from distance learning, it flexible and affordable.


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