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If you’re considering your options for further education, it’s worth taking a look at the options offered by online courses. They’re much more established now than they were a few years ago – if you choose an institution with a good reputation, you can get a degree this way and employers will respect it just as they would a degree from a traditional university. You won’t get the traditional student experience, but that’s not all bad, and there are real advantages to learning this way. These are some of the big advantages.

Keep your own hours

Most online courses don’t require you to attend classes at specific times, so if you’re sluggish in the mornings, you can wait until your brain has woken up, and if something comes up in the middle of the afternoon, you can get back to your studies later. This doesn’t mean that you can slack, however, because you will still have deadlines for submitting work for assessment, and there will still be quizzes, tests, and group discussions. This can be good for learning self-discipline, and is a strong selling point when explained to prospective employers. You should note that a lot of courses do require you to be present online for scheduled tutorial groups, but these are occasional and are often scheduled by mutual agreement.

Connect with different kinds of people

Part of the original idea of universities was to enable people from different backgrounds to get together and broaden one another’s horizons. In practice, the majority of US institutions are now predominantly attended by people from the same state, most of them roughly the same age and from the same sort of social background. Online institutions are very different. They often have a broad international reach and are attended by people in all sorts of different circumstances, so they provide an opportunity to learn much more about the world, and they help students develop the skills to engage more effectively with different sections of society.

Save money

Because they don’t have the same overheads per student as traditional institutions, online educational organizations are able to deliver courses at substantially lower prices. Studying in this way also means that you’re not tied to a particular location, so your accommodation costs are likely to be lower, and you won’t have to pay for an additional commute. Socializing with other students generally takes place online, so it is effectively free. This makes courses like these a much more practical option for people who are struggling financially, and it means that students who want to make more out of their savings may be able to afford to take multiple courses. It democratizes education so that all you really need to succeed is ability and a willingness to put in some hard work.

Re-use study materials

Many students find that when attending classes, they have a choice between paying attention there and then and writing everything down so that they can read over it later. It can be difficult to do both. Online classes on courses such as Northeastern’s online MBA program are delivered in video form and can be watched again and again, so you can start learning immediately and then go back and re-watch as required. The same applies to supplementary materials such as short texts – they’re made available online, and you can access them as often as is necessary. Some institutions even make whole course books available like this, again reducing costs for students. They may also provide you with links to relevant videos from third parties, such as TED Talks.

Keep up with other commitments

Perhaps the biggest difference that online courses have made to education is in reducing practical barriers to entry. Because they don’t require students to be in certain places at certain times, they’re much easier to fit around other commitments in life. If you’re a parent, if you’re caring for an elderly relative, if you have a full-time job that you really can’t afford to give up, or if your local sports team desperately doesn’t want you to leave the area, you can still learn in this way. They can also fit around what might once have seemed like intractable problems – if you break your leg in the summer and need help to get around, you can still start college when your peers do.

With all these great aspects, it’s no wonder that online courses are so popular. Over three quarters of for-profit universities and colleges now offer them, and there’s a huge range of subjects available. Could study like this be the right choice for you?

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