When we think of a typical college student, we envision a young person fresh out of high school. However, the majority of all college students today are adults, either pursuing an advanced degree, returning to college after a long absence, or making up for a lack of opportunity or desire to attend during their teenage years. In fact, EAB states that adult learners now make up roughly 38 percent of all undergraduate enrollments.

Adult Learners

What is an adult learner, and why are so many being drawn back to college? The Southern Regional Education Board describes them as people over the age of 25 who hail from diverse backgrounds and socioeconomic groups. And most are heading back to college for very specific reasons:

  • They're updating their skills and knowledge to stay competitive professionally.
  • They're attempting to change careers.

Adult learners typically have families and work responsibilities, and they often choose online programs to earn their degrees.

Benefits of Online Classes

Why online classes? Why is remote learning so often the top choice for adult learners balancing work, family, and school? Much of the appeal lies in the flexibility online learning offers. But there are many other benefits of online learning for both non-traditional and traditional college students.

1. Ability to Retain a Job While Earning an Education

Working while attending college may not be ideal, but most adults must hold down a job to make ends meet. Work is simply a necessity, and for those already in the workforce returning to school to increase their job marketability or to change jobs altogether, online classes just make sense.

2. Variety of Classes Offered

Online learning options were once the exception, rather than the rule. They were difficult to find and didn't really offer a good range of degree options. In the twenty-first century, however, all that has changed. In 2020, roughly 2,500 colleges offered online learning programs and that number is growing. The number of online programs at the University of Minnesota continues to increase, allowing online learners to take advantage of the vast array of classes available. This means students can earn their degree entirely online.

3. Learn at Your Own Pace

Another major benefit of online classes is that many allow you to learn more at your own pace. In other words, you can decide when and where you'll listen to lectures and do your assignments, making it much easier to study after work and late at night. Asynchronous learning models—those that use prerecorded material and online discussion boards—allow students to tune in at their own convenience, which is much different from traditional, synchronous learning.

4. Eliminates the Anxiety of Traditional Classes

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) currently impacts 15 million adults in America, which translates to roughly 7 percent of the population. Its symptoms include fear, worry, avoidance, and expectations that the very worst will happen. Those who suffer with SAD usually have difficulty completing tasks that most of us would find easy, such as shopping in a store or driving in traffic. Online degree options allow adults who struggle with anxiety and related disorders to study from the comfort of their own homes. They can study the material and interact with the instructor and other students through video calls, online message boards, and forums without the crippling anxiety that can come with face-to-face interactions.

5. Review Lectures at your Own Pace

Online classes provide the unique benefit of allowing students to review class lecture recordings, which offers numerous benefits. By having access to recorded lectures, students can revisit the material at their convenience, enabling them to reinforce their understanding of complex concepts and review any missed or misunderstood information. This proves especially beneficial for students who require additional time to grasp certain topics. Moreover, the ability to review class lecture recordings allows students to pace their learning according to their individual needs, ensuring they can absorb the content thoroughly. This flexibility promotes a deeper comprehension of the subject matter and enhances overall academic performance.

6. Easy Communication with Your Instructor

Online degree programs make it easy to interact with classmates and your instructor. Many offer several options, including email, video chat, and message boards. And if you’re more introverted, you may find yourself more easily communicating with your professors than you would in the classroom, where the loudest voices and strongest personalities often dominate the conversation.

7. Study With Other Online Students

It's as easy to get together with your cohort as it is to talk with your instructor. You'll have plenty of opportunities for class participation, including discussion boards, reviewing class assignments, and study groups.

8. Improve Your Time Management Skills

Having more control over your own schedule can help you learn strong time-management skills. Because there is no set classroom time, it's up to you to review asynchronous lectures, study the material, participate in discussions, and get your assignments turned in on time. If you've ever doubted whether you're good at time management, signing up for an online class is a good way to learn and practice these skills. And if you find you need extra support, help is only a message or a phone call away.

9. Improve Self-Discipline and Focus to Make You a Better Worker in Your Career

Self-discipline is required to earn an online degree because online programs are less structured. It's up to you to keep up with your coursework and safeguard your GPA. In the long run, self-discipline is a skill needed for most careers. Enrolling in an online program is a great way to fine-tune your organizational methods.

10. Can Lead to Career Advancement

One of the top reasons adult learners return to college is to update their skills to remain competitive in the workplace. Online learning may be the perfect stepping stone to that promotion you've been coveting. Employers will appreciate your commitment to self-improvement.

11. Networking

Lastly, earning your degree online can help you dust off those networking skills you forgot you had. It may put you in touch with important connections, including classmates, faculty, and alumni, who can help you advance your career.

Learn More, Today

Learn more about online education at University of Minnesota Online. Offering a plethora of online degree programs, University of Minnesota Online may be the next step in your successful career progression. Learn more today.

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