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Are online programs as reputable as traditional programs?

As the job market continues to change and you consider your options for your college education, you may find that you can choose between an online program and a traditional, on-campus one. The COVID-19 pandemic created a drastic increase in the number of college students studying online, and that change appears to be one with staying power.

According to Inside Higher Ed, the number of students enrolled in distance education increased by 93% from 2019 to 2020. While some of those students likely enrolled in online courses due to the pandemic, institutions surveyed indicated they would maintain their distance education options in the post-pandemic world, meaning students will continue to have these options moving forward. This begs the question: is online education on the same level as traditional? Here’s a closer look at the two education models, how they are the same, where the differences lie and whether one is a clear winner over the other.

Central Michigan University offers flexible, online options so you can tailor your education to your needs.

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Advantages of online programs

Online programs have some distinct advantages over traditional programs, and for the students that need these advantages, they are the right educational choice. These advantages include:

Convenience and flexibility

When you go to college through an online program, you can study and attend class wherever you are, whether it’s at home, on your lunch break at work, or while traveling. This convenience is helpful to many students, and the flexibility allows non-traditional students to earn a degree, even while managing the demands of family life and work responsibilities.

Wide range of programs

Online learning is becoming more and more accepted, and as such, you can find just about any bachelor’s degree program you want in an online format. The main exception to this is a degree that requires a lot of hands-on, lab-based work, but most academic courses can now be taken online. Many schools also offer hybrid degree programs to help learners who want the benefits of online learning but also need some on-campus experiences.

Disadvantages of online degrees

Online learning is not perfect for all learners, and it does have some potential drawbacks to consider. As you make your choice between online and in-person learning, consider these potential disadvantages.

Lack of in-person interaction

Online learning does not allow for in-person interaction. While instructors are getting better at engaging with students and creating online learning communities, the reality is that you will lose the in-person interaction that makes college such a collaborative learning experience. If you learn best by bouncing ideas and thoughts off others, you may feel limited in an online learning environment.

Self-discipline is a must

To succeed when studying in an online environment, you must have self-discipline. No one will hold you to the fire to make sure you have your work done on time. If you struggle with self-discipline, you may do better with a traditional degree program where you interact with your instructors on a regular basis.

Harder time building professional networks

Without time spent in a classroom interacting with professors and fellow students, you may have a harder time building a professional network through your college program. It is possible to do, but it is just a little more challenging in an online environment. You will have to be proactive to make and nurture those connections, and taking classes on campus makes this a little bit easier.

Are online degrees respected?

According to U.S. News and World Report, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an increase in the acceptance of online education. Instead of looking at how a student studied, today’s employers are looking at what school they went to and what they studied in their degree program. They also want to see accreditation, regardless of the type of degree program. Some companies still look for in-person instruction, but they are becoming less and less prevalent. In addition, you do not have to disclose on your resume how you got your degree, so it may not even be an issue.

Online college vs. traditional college: similarities

There are many similarities between today’s online and traditional college experiences. As you consider your options, it is worth noting the ways the programs are the same.

Quality of education

You don’t have to sacrifice the quality of your education if you choose to study online. The quality of the education depends more on the instructors that teach the program and the school you choose than the delivery mode of the education. If you choose a trustworthy school with quality professors, you will get a quality education, regardless of the format.

Student outcomes and satisfaction

Satisfaction with online education and traditional education is nearing an even point, according to recent research. Bayview Analytics surveyed college students in the Spring of 2021 and found that 47% indicated online education courses met their educational needs well. In the same survey, 57% indicated they had optimistic attitudes about online instructional programs. This indicates growing satisfaction with the quality of online learning opportunities.

Student learning outcomes have similarities as well. In one study published in the International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, researchers found that the learning outcomes for an online course were similar to a traditional course when the teacher and curriculum were the same.

Career opportunities

There are no differences in the career opportunities when comparing online college vs. traditional college. If your degree comes from an accredited school that your potential employer recognizes as a quality one, you can expect to have the same number of career opportunities as someone who attends class in person. In fact, in tech fields, you may find that the tech skills gained through online learning are actually a perk in your job search.

Are online degrees worth it?

Are online degrees worth it? If you need flexibility and you choose a school with the right accreditation, then yes, online degrees are worth it. If that flexibility makes it possible for you to complete your degree program, where in-person education would be impossible at your current life stage, then online degrees are absolutely worth it. As an increasing number of people accept the validity of online degree programs, you will find that an online degree could be the key to a successful education and career.

On the other hand, if you thrive with face-to-face interactions with your instructors and peers, and need to build professional network connections through your education, then you may benefit from in-person, traditional degree program. Or, if you need the flexibility of some online education along with the perks of in-person instruction, a hybrid degree program could be ideal.

Find your degree path at Central Michigan University

If you are looking for an accredited degree program from a trusted educational institution, check out the programs at Central Michigan University. We have both online and traditional programs to fit the needs of all learners. With a large selection of majors and flexible learning models, you can find your degree with the learning delivery model that works best for you. Reach out to our admissions team today, or browse our list of available programs to learn more.


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