Could online degrees be the future for higher education?

Although in-person learning continues to take place on physical campuses across the country and the world, many universities are rising to the demand for online degrees. Recent years have seen many students opt for online study, raising questions as to whether this could be the preferred study mode of the future.

Greater flexibility

While some students are able to devote themselves to full-time study, many more are trying to fit it in around other commitments such as work and family. When courses and study materials are available online, students can decide for themselves when they want to study and can fit it around a family routine or study before and after work. This might be particularly useful for those using their studies to advance a career as they can study without giving up their job, leaving them ideally placed to take advantages of the new opportunities that their degree will provide.

Greater choice

Online degrees can allow students to study at any university in the world without leaving their home. In the past, a student would only have the choice of studying courses at universities easily accessible to them or having to move, which is not an option for everyone. Advances in communication technology have opened up universities at vast distances, bringing increasing choice in subjects and levels of study.

Customized learning

When studying in person, courses usually begin and end on a set date, with the amount of study required also fixed. Online learning is more flexible. There is more likely to be a choice of start dates, and students need not take on more courses than they can comfortably manage. Instead of a ‘one size fits all’ approach, online degrees can be tailored to the individual.

Are there any drawbacks?

It is true that students studying online can lose the university experience, and there are likely to be fewer opportunities to get to know classmates, making the study a lonely experience. Universities are aware of this problem, and although they may rarely or never physically meet their students, most continue to care for the wellbeing of their students, with mentoring and faculty support on offer.

Another concern raised is the issues for practical learning. While theory is a component of courses such as nursing or education, the practical experience required cannot be replicated virtually. Again, universities rise to this challenge. Wilkes graduate tuition offers a number of online nursing degree courses where 100% of the study is online, but there are also clinical placements in diverse settings where students learn from expert practitioners. Clinical placement services help students find secure, quality clinical placements in their local community so that wherever they study, they do not miss out on this vital course component.

The future?

While face-to-face degree courses remain a popular choice for many, it is unlikely that these courses will disappear. However, the demand for online learning means that this is an education sector that is likely to develop, providing quality degree courses for those who may otherwise be unwilling or unable to take their studies to the next level.

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