Online learning is a popular alternative to traditional on-campus, in-person learning. In 2019, Research and Markets forecasted that the online education market will reach $230 billion by 2025—and given the major impact of COVID-19, it’s likely that online programs will see even greater growth.
In fact, the pandemic has demonstrated what a practical, sustainable model online learning is. It keeps education accessible during a public health crisis, natural disaster, or other circumstance where students and faculty can’t travel. It can serve students across a wider geographic range, bringing in voices from across the country—and beyond. The online learning environment also promotes a better work-life balance. In this post, we outline the advantages of online learning and how you can leverage them to foster your personal and professional development.
Advantages of Online Learning
The format of online courses can help you thrive both personally and academically, helping you meet your goals.
1. You don’t need to relocate
With online classes, you don’t need to move to a different city or commute long distances in order to attend the program of your choice. You can stay where you are and keep your current job while you work toward enhancing your career with an online college or graduate degree (However, some programs require fieldwork experience, which may necessitate relocation.)
On the other hand, if you want to become a digital nomad—someone who embraces a location-independent, technology-enabled lifestyle—online education may allow you to do that too. You can watch lectures and complete your coursework wherever you are—whether that’s at home, in a café, or on an exotic beach.
2. It’s easier to achieve optimal school-life balance
Whether you’re a full-time or part-time online student, the online learning experience allows for a much more flexible schedule. Some elements may be synchronous: You may need to attend live lectures, demonstrations, or discussion sessions. But many elements will be asynchronous, meaning that you can complete them at your own pace, learning at the time of day and in the place that works best for you.
When you’re more in control of your schedule, time management goes more smoothly. It’s easier to maintain an active social and family life while earning your college degree or graduate degree. It is possible to have it all: education, professional development, and a vibrant personal life.
3. It helps you develop and stick to healthy habits
Another benefit of online learning and a better school-life balance is that you can develop greater discipline about healthy habits. Not everyone enjoys squeezing in a workout or yoga session at the crack of dawn or right before bed. So if you’re learning from home, you can take a midday jog or online Pilates class. You can even take a power nap, which research has shown can benefit memory and learning.
Studying from home can also give you more time to focus on self-care. Whether through self-reflection, meditation, or yoga, practicing self-care can help boost your confidence and emotional intelligence.
4. You have more time to do the things you love
If you’re taking in-person classes but don’t live near campus, commuting can take up a significant amount of your time. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average daily commute time is 54.2 minutes. If you’re like most people, you’d probably rather avoid traffic or crowded public transportation. And saving that 54 minutes per day (or more) will free up time you can spend working, exercising, having fun, or connecting with loved ones. In fact, spending time away from work has been shown to ultimately boost productivity and creativity.
5. Online learning makes it possible to keep your job
Many graduate students can’t afford to take time off from work. Or they want to keep working on career advancement while staying in their current position, improving their credentials and applying their learning on the job. So if you want to continue working at your current job while earning your degree, online education is a great way to go. You don’t have to choose between school and work—you can do both.
6. You can create your own office
It’s an advantage to be able to create your own workspace. You can set up your desk at just the right height and find a supportive office chair—or you can work from your couch. Not only can your setup be more physically comfortable, but studies show that 42% of workers believe they’re more productive working at home.
7. It’s easier to concentrate and participate
Since different people are productive at different times of day, online learning allows you to work at the time when your brain is most engaged. Also, some people have trouble concentrating and participating in crowded classrooms. Online learning can make it easier for students to focus and for more introverted students to chime in with questions or ideas, which can help boost their confidence and positivity.
Skills and Positive Traits Gained from Online Learning
8. Boost your time management skills
Staying organized is key to being a successful student. Find a method that works well for you, such as exploring these time management techniques, using planners, or trying out new virtual tools for productivity.
9. Learn new technical skills
Immersing yourself in the technology that powers online learning will enhance your technical literacy.
10. Enhance your communication skills
Online learning creates opportunities to interact, participate, and communicate with your peers and instructors in different ways.
11. Develop self-motivation and self-discipline
In order to stick to a schedule and keep up with your coursework, you must learn self-motivation and self-discipline—qualities that will serve you well in your personal and professional life.
Additional Benefits of Online Learning
12. Reduce your carbon footprint
Not only do you save money on gas, which averages out to $1,300 per person annually in the United States—you can save paper by lessening your reliance on printed materials, ultimately reducing your carbon footprint.
13. Reduce stress
Learning at your own pace, participating in ways that feel more comfortable, and not having an arduous commute can help you limit stress.
14. Cook at home more instead of eating out
Spending more time at home makes cooking easier, which is ideal for healthy eating and saving money.
15. Expand your horizons
Connecting with classmates from all around the world can help you share different cultural perspectives on your field, which makes you a more broad-minded practitioner.
16. Network with your peers
Meeting classmates online can give you opportunities to network across a wider geographic region, which can help you advance your career. You might even find a mentor who can help support and guide you to apply your learning on the job.
Allison Bailey et al., “Making Digital Learning Work: Success Strategies from Six Leading Universities and Community Colleges,” Boston Consulting Group, March 2018: https://edplus.asu.edu/sites/default/files/BCG-Making-Digital-Learning-Work-Apr-2018%20.pdf
Joseph Cavanaugh & Stephen Jacquemin, “A Large Sample Comparison of Grade Based Student Learning Outcomes in Online vs. Face-to-Face Courses,” Wright State University, March 2015: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1062940.pdf
Gabby Shaw, “Here’s How Much the Average Person Spends on Gas in Every State,” Business Insider, Feb. 15, 2019: https://www.businessinsider.com/how-much-the-average-person-spends-on-gas-in-every-state-2019-2
ManpowerGroup, “Closing the Skills Gap: Know What Workers Want,” 2019: https://workforce-resources.manpowergroup.com/closing-the-skills-gap-know-what-workers-want/closing-the-skills-gap-know-what-workers-want
Ruffalo Noel Levitz, “2018 National Student Satisfaction and Priorities Report,” 2018: http://learn.ruffalonl.com/rs/395-EOG-977/images/2018_National_Student_Satisfaction_Report_EM-031.pdf
Robin Roy et al. “Towards Sustainable Higher Education: Environmental impacts of campus-based and distance higher education systems,” Design Innovation Group, March 2005:
Robin West et al., “New Developments in Goal Setting and Task Performance,” Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, 2013: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Natalie_Ebner/publication/287491758_Linking_goals_and_aging_Experimental_and_life-span_approaches/links/56773c0008ae502c99d2f10a.pdf