What are the pros and cons of online learning?

University has often been a formative experience for young adults, with the tertiary journey being a time to make friends and form a bridge between school and working life. But can this experience be successfully transferred online? Read on to find out the pros and cons of online studying, and whether it’s worth it, in this Canstar Blue guide.

Advantages of online learning

Woman studying online

Online learning has been a catalyst for plenty of people to get university educations, but how exactly does it have the edge over traditional in-person learning? The advantages of online learning include:

Learning from home

Arguably the most influential of the advantages to online learning is the portability it possesses. For people in regional areas, or for people who aren’t comfortable visiting university in person, online learning is a great opportunity to get qualified in their field, whilst still making connections virtually. And given the COVID pandemic altered traditional learning, online learning will no doubt see a boost in the future in terms of flexibility for students.

Saving money

University fees aren’t the only cost of a tertiary education – with getting to and from and student amenity fees adding up over the course of your studies at a brick-and-mortar institute. Attending university can rack up some serious costs, whereas the costs associated with an online university include the university fee itself, and a device to consume the course content on. Public transport costs, buying food on campus, and other in-person university costs can be avoided with online learning.

Enhanced accessibility

Another major benefit of online learning is the fact that you can study whenever you like, all the time. The classroom comes to you, and not vice versa, so opening up your laptop gives you a breadth of learning capability, without the hassle of business hours.

Disadvantages of online learning

Female student frustrated with online learning

While online university may seem to have no faults whatsoever, rest assured that there are some pitfalls that you should be aware of before committing. Some of these disadvantages of online learning include:

The not-so-even playing field

Essentials for online learning such as internet connection and technological hardware are not all made equal. In Australia, certain NBN plans offer different levels of internet speeds based on the cost of the service. For this reason, students with varying financial backgrounds will have also have varying accessibility to fast internet speeds. This can lead to course content loading slowly, which can disrupt work flow. While accessibility to these factors can also impact the brick-and-mortar university experience, online learning is heavily reliant on sound internet and technology.

The university experience

While the tertiary degree is the main reason for the majority of people wanting to go to university, the university experience and lifestyle is another huge drawcard. The nightlife, social events and societies associated with tertiary learning can be a formative experience that provides memories for life. With online learning, the people you meet in a brick-and-mortar institution are often foregone.

Lack of access to university resources

University not only provides social experiences and a tertiary qualification – they also act as a hub for a whole host of other services. For example, the sports clubs run by universities are a great way to keep in shape and can help you improve at a whole array of sports. Some universities also offer mental health assistance in the form of therapy, as well as a library with a breadth of informational resources. But if you’re studying online, you may not be receiving the same amount of experiences or support.

What are the best online universities?

The biggest online universities according to Online Study Australia, and going by number of external students, are as follows:

  • Charles Sturt University – 22,066
  • University of New England – 16,637
  • University of Southern Queensland – 16,399
  • Swinburne University of Technology – 16,035
  • University of Tasmania – 15,207

While the biggest doesn’t always mean the best, the above universities may be a good first stop for students looking to study online, as they may be able to answer any questions you may have about earning an education through online means.

Should you consider studying online?

Online learning is an incredibly effective option for gaining a tertiary education, and provides a commensurate outcome to a brick-and-mortar institution. The degrees are valued similarly to the most prestigious universities in the world, and you can attain them without even stepping foot outside. If you’re looking for an alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar institutions, online learning may be for you, although it’s always best to explore all of your options before committing to ensure you find the best fit for your needs and education goals. If you don’t know where to start, why not check out our ratings on universities in Australia?

Photo Credits: marvent/shutterstock.com, fizkes/shutterstock.com

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