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Online vs. In-Person School: Choosing Your Path

Dec 18, 2019

As technology becomes an increasingly critical component of the classroom, both brick-and-mortar and exclusively online schools are using web conferencing, online course platforms, and other technologies to stay connected and enhance the learning experience. In other words, online educational components have become nearly ubiquitous in all types of schools.

But because of the unique flexibility they offer, exclusively online universities are a popular choice for many high school grads. These new college students earn their degrees online—sometimes while working or taking care of a family—and set themselves up for success in their future careers.

Enrollment at online universities is soaring.

Technology is transforming the learning experience, which is a good thing considering that some companies are moving toward requiring workers to have specific technical skills training and certifications, WIRED says. This is creating a demand for online education, and enrollments in online universities continue to rise. A 2018 report from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) shows that the number of students taking courses online has grown by 5.7 percent. The number of students exclusively studying online has been rising over the past few years, too, climbing from 14.7 percent in 2016 to 15.4 percent in 2017, according to Inside Higher Education. The NCES found that the number of students earning degrees online varied by type of institution: 49 percent of students enrolled at private for-profit institutions, 19 percent of students at private nonprofit institutions, and 11 percent of students enrolled at public institutions were studying exclusively online.

Who's studying online?

Online students are busy people.

A Wiley, Aslanian, and Learninghouse survey of online students found that a majority of students studying for their undergraduate degrees are also working—59 percent of them full time and 18 percent of them part time. A large number of online students—41 percent—are also parents. Despite their jam-packed schedules, 71 percent of online students carry full-time course loads. The survey also found that 56 percent of online college students use a smartphone or tablet to complete at least some of their online course-related activities, illustrating the importance of mobility in education.

These figures illuminate why students are gravitating toward online education. After all, some online programs allow students to study whenever they have time and wherever students happen to be.

The survey also found that cost was the top factor in choosing an undergraduate program. One-third of all students chose the least-expensive school. Many students said that receiving an incentive—such as a free course or free textbooks—influenced their decision-making process. Some online students save on room, board, and transportation costs, too, by earning their degrees online.

The new norm.

Educators and students alike have long since valued online education and the value it provides. The Wiley, Aslanian, and Learninghouse survey notes that 89 percent of undergraduates said they were satisfied with their education from an exclusively online school. And with online and technical components becoming increasingly vital in college education, that number is poised to continue increasing.

With its flexibility and quality, it's no surprise that more students are choosing an exclusively online education.

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