The advantages of online community colleges have been heralded by critics for years. Critics point out that traditional schools of education have a woefully short tradition of graduation and that the vast majority of graduates will never work in any kind of job that requires a degree. Moreover, they point to the fact that community college graduates have a lower dropout rate than other graduates from four-year universities. Is online community college really the answer to these issues?
The answer depends on a variety of factors. For one, a traditional four-year academic year is filled with general liberal arts courses, many of which are not transferable to future workplaces. Students are typically immersed in this general liberal arts education for all four years, so much so that they rarely if ever consider changing majors. With few exceptions, online community colleges make do with a two-year track.
Secondly, traditional schools of higher education tend to focus on academic specialization as opposed to general education. That means that while students may pursue a number of general education courses, they typically only end up taking classes in their specialty area of study. For example, while math may be the most important course of study for physics students, those who major in mathematics will likely find themselves taking no classes in physics at all (if they major in anything else, at least). Likewise, engineering students can major in whatever field appeals to them; however, those who major in it will take very little general education courses throughout their academic career.
Online courses provide students with the freedom to pursue as many courses as they want. Students can take as many online classes as they want as long as they meet the minimum requirements. With traditional schools, a student must complete a minimum of two years of minimum attendance. This requirement is what sets two-year programs apart from online community colleges. The minimum attendance requirement of traditional programs is lower than that of online programs, and the average time spent on campus for students who are transferring in from two-year programs is significantly less than for those who are attending online classes full-time.
One of the biggest benefits of online courses is the cost of attendance. It’s simply more affordable for many students to attend online community colleges than it is to attend a traditional college. Many students have reported saving hundreds of thousands of dollars by attending these schools. Even when factoring in the cost of textbooks and other supplies that are required by many online courses, the actual cost of the tuition itself is much less than that of traditional schools.
Another benefit of online community colleges is that the curriculum is more flexible than that of the majority of colleges. For instance, there are often more options in terms of how a student learns and teaches. Students at these schools often engage their professors directly, meaning that they will be receiving individualized instruction. This type of hands-on learning experience is not necessarily found at every college. In fact, many people believe that it is beneficial for students to receive individualized instruction at this sort of college because it tends to make the learning experience more productive and meaningful.
Online associate degree programs are also often reported to be more respected by employers than those that are held on campus. Employers report that employees who have taken a course at an online college are more likely to receive higher salaries and have more opportunities for advancement within the company. The ranking methodology used by most employers will consider a student’s total GPA in order to determine his or her standing. In addition to the GPA total, employers will consider the ranking methodology used by the school, the student’s participation in thericular activities, and other factors that are related to the school’s ranking system.
So which is the best value? It really comes down to what your individual goals are. For many students, earning an associate degree online is the best value simply because it is time-efficient and allows them to move quickly through education. Other students, who may prefer to get a bachelor’s or master’s degree while still working full or part time jobs, may find that online courses are not the best value. The ranking methodology used by employers is probably going to vary from student to student, so it is important to think about your own goals before you enroll.