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Online courses use learning management systems to deliver course content, allowing students to submit assignments and communicate with peers and professors. Most online programs use either the Blackboard or Canvas LMS. From the Blackboard landing page, learners can see grades, create an academic portfolio, and keep up with deadlines with a calendar. Canvas confers many of the same benefits of online education, including an outcomes feature that displays students’ mastery of course objectives.
With the ability to study anywhere, online learners can complete coursework at home, a coffee shop, or a library. This advantage of online learning allows students to work in the environment that best suits them. As new online degree- and certificate-seekers research different places, they should focus on those that offer a reliable internet connection and few distractions. Another factor to consider is space requirements, as some facilities’ tables may lack the space for a computer and reference materials.
Many prospective students overlook the cost advantages of online classes. Although online learners may pay the same per-credit tuition rate as on-campus degree- and certificate-seekers, they do not pay for on-campus housing or meal plans. Learners also save time and money by eliminating a commute.
Other cost savings include cheaper textbooks, especially if online learners can purchase digital versions. As long as online learners take enough credits to qualify as part-time students, they can apply for federal financial aid programs, such as grants and loans. Most colleges also allow online degree- and certificate-seekers to apply for institutional aid, including need-based grants and merit-based scholarships.
For many learners, the primary benefit of online learning involves scheduling flexibility. Some programs allow degree- and certificate-seekers to start a course immediately. In other cases, students can select between a traditional 16-week course and an accelerated eight-week course. This page highlights accelerated courses’ advantages in a later section.
Although many online courses run asynchronously to provide maximum scheduling flexibility, some require learners to collaborate with peers at set times or meet with a professor during virtual office hours. Prospective students should research these requirements before signing up for an online course.
Learning online can help students hone the technical skills they need on the job. New skills can include the ability to use new software suites, perform in-depth research online, and communicate effectively online in various formats such as discussion boards and teleconferencing. Employers often demand these skills as more and more positions require employees to work remotely. Students can also add new skills to a resume and discuss them during a job interview.
Another advantage of online education that relates to flexibility involves prospective students’ geographic location. Many of the nation’s top colleges and universities offer online degrees and certificates, meaning that learners do not have to relocate to attend a premier school. They do not incur moving expenses since they can study from any location. This flexibility also saves money, as the cost of living among different cities can vary greatly.
Besides saving money, not needing to move means that degree- and certificate-seekers do not need to end friendships and professional relationships. They can also live closer to extended family members. These advantages of online classes can lead to greater emotional well-being and less stress.