ACE It Together

Insights from ACE Students, Alumni and Faculty

How to Decide if an Online College is for You

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As a prospective adult student, the decision to advance your education can be daunting. Many of us have found ourselves at this very crossroad: Can I balance a full-time job, life and family responsibilities? Will I find classes scheduled at times that don’t interfere with my busy life? Can I handle the workload? What if an option existed that catered specifically to the needs of adult students?

The key is to rethink what that education might look like. More people are forgoing the traditional brick-and-mortar experience for online programs. The flexibility of going to school online has allowed students to continue working full time and manage family obligations.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of attending an online college compared to a traditional, brick-and-mortar institution.

Pros:

  • The Convenience Factor. Whether you work full time, have children or you simply enjoy working from your couch, online classes provide the convenience of fitting into your schedule instead of you having to make time for them. When the California Community College Chancellor’s Office surveyed a group of distance learners in 2016, 74% reported convenience as the top advantage of virtual learning.
  • The Cost Factor. Online colleges often offer more affordable tuition than traditional schools. Additionally, you don’t need to pay for room and board fees or commuting. Furthermore, fully online institutions like American College of Education will often provide all course materials you need digitally, meaning there are no pricey textbooks to purchase. There are also no extra facilities or activity fees to pay for, which brick-and-mortar institutions often charge whether you use those facilities or not. Best of all? You can prevent debt by earning a full-time income while being a student.
  • The Social Factor. Online classes allow you to network with diverse professionals in your field from all around the country and world. You’ll form relationships through discussion board discussions and peer feedback assignments. And without the pressure of in-person presentations, those with social anxiety can ease their fears.
  • The Quality Factor. The quality of education received from accredited online colleges matches brick-and-mortar institutions. Since online programs are generally newer than traditional ones, course content is relevant and up to date. Instructors are monitored to ensure they answer student questions, communicate feedback and provide grades in a timely manner. Online colleges also feature robust digital resources centers, a responsive student services team and some provide a 24/7 help desk.

Cons:

  • The Speed of Feedback Factor. Although online instructors provide quality feedback to students, it may not be as immediate as a conversation during office hours. However, online colleges like American College of Education have features that ensure students are still connect with faculty, such as the ability to submit questions while watching online lectures, which both instructors and other students can respond to in nearly real time.
  • The Space Factor. Online courses allow you to work from anywhere. Some students set up home offices, some go to libraries or coffee shops. Others enjoy working from their bed. However, if you live in a crowded apartment or have kids running around the house, it may be difficult to find a quiet workplace.
  • The Accountability Factor. With freedom comes the necessity to plan and stay motivated. In some online courses, there are no hard and fast deadlines, meaning you complete your work whenever you want. This sounds great in theory, but many studies show students achieve better grades and learn more when there are structured due dates. At ACE, all courses have a consistent structure and feature weekly deadlines to give students leeway while also keeping them on track.

So are online programs a better way to continue your education? Especially for the self-motivated busy individual, online learning provides access to affordable quality education that brick-and-mortar institutions can’t compete with.

American College of Education's fully online degree and certificate programs are designed to fit seamlessly into the life of a busy working professional. Explore our low-cost, high-quality programs in education, healthcare, nursing and business.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.

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