For good reason, the Internet is buzzing with positive information about online education. The advantages are numerous, from lower costs to accessibility to flexibility. However, a quick look around the real world clearly demonstrates that most students are still choosing traditional classes. Are these people just ignorant? No. There can be multiple drawbacks to online education in comparison to traditional classroom education.
1. Lack of accreditation and low quality
Before you enroll in any online course, check that the program is accredited and verify this information with the accrediting agency. Legitimate schools, from established universities to newer online colleges, are proud of their status with accrediting agencies, and agencies are happy to accredit good schools. Therefore, this information is readily available online for you to check.
If you earn a degree from a school with no accreditation, you can find yourself with a worthless degree that will leave you in debt and no better prepared for the workforce. Verifying an online program’s accreditation is a small step that can save you time, money and heartache in the long run.
2. Little or no face-to-face interaction
While this may seem obvious, students have a tendency to underestimate the impact of never meeting the instructor and other students in the class. Mark Edmundson, an English professor at the University of Virginia, argued in a Time opinion piece that online education creates a “monologue and not a real dialogue” in the learning environment. Building relationships with your instructor and classmates will require more effort in an online environment.
3. More work
Online courses typically require a greater amount of reading and assignments than traditional classes. Programs in general are improving the quality of their online courses, and this means that students will have to do more to prove that they’ve mastered the material. Expect to spend at least 10 hours per week on each online course. However, it is not uncommon for a single course to require 15 or 20 hours per week (source).
4. Intense requirement for self-discipline
Online courses usually have deadlines for assignments, tests, commenting on lectures, etc. That’s not the problem. The problem is the time management and organization skills necessary to stay on top of your work, allot an appropriate amount of time to complete each task and balance your coursework against other priorities in your life. If you tend toward procrastination, then you might need to strengthen your skill set before choosing an online course or program.
5. Even more intense requirement for self-direction
Traditional college programs typically offer or even require that students meet with advisors to help them plan their path in college. If you only need a course or two, this is not an issue. However, if you are pursuing an entire degree online, you will need to be proactive in finding the information you need to ensure that you are taking the right classes for your degree plan. Straying from this path could constitute failure to make academic progress, and you may have trouble securing financial aid.
Despite the potential pitfalls, the vast majority of people are satisfied with their online education and happy that they chose it over traditional classroom education. If you know the positives and negatives, you can make an informed decision whether online learning is right for you.