Since the invention of the internet, we have witnessed a huge change in the accessibility and flexibility of higher education. Not only can students earn their degrees at a distance and on their own schedule but they can also complete certifications and trade programs with more ease than ever before.

If you’re considering online classes as a means to achieving your goals, you likely have questions. Here are some of the most common ones, with answers!

What Is Online Learning?

So, just what is online learning? This term refers to education that takes place in a completely virtual environment using an internet connection and a computer or device to connect to the school. In the online "classroom," you can do all the same things that in-person students do, such as:

  • Listening to lectures
  • Answering questions from a professor
  • Completing readings
  • Turning in assignments
  • Taking quizzes and tests
  • Meeting as a group

Some schools, programs, or courses combine online learning with in-person learning experiences. This model is known as "hybrid education," wherein students participate online most of the time. However, when learning objectives call for hands-on experience (say, practicing skills for a health profession or laboratory experiments), they can head to campus.

That said, many programs allow their students to complete the entire curriculum virtually. Degrees such as a Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering, for example, may not call for in-person learning at all. You can always contact admissions or the specific department if you want to learn more about delivery format.

Why Online Learning Is Good for Students

Despite the widespread accessibility of remote education, some students remain skeptical about online classes. Are you really learning if there’s not a professor present at the front of a lecture hall? Can you really learn the skills you need without the in-person interaction between students and faculty?

Ease and Accessibility

While some people feel online education lacks the intimacy and immediacy of a "real" classroom, it offers an educational channel to students who might otherwise not have the time or resources to attend. Online access has made it possible for students to enroll and participate in online classes with greater ease, from nearly anywhere, in a way that fits their schedules.


Online courses are usually more affordable as well. According to the Education Data Initiative, an online degree is $36,595 cheaper than an in-person degree when the cost of tuition and attendance are compared. The average cost of attending a private university is $129,800 for an in-person degree and only $60,593 for an online degree.

It’s also estimated that students who commute to college for in-person classes pay $1,360 per year in transportation costs that an online student wouldn’t have to pay. Add in factors such as cheaper meals at home and more time to work, and it’s not hard to see why many students opt for online learning.

Top Questions About Online Learning

Despite the benefits, you likely still have some questions about online learning. Let’s take a look at six of the most common.

1. Are You Able to Earn Your Degree Completely Online?
Yes, many (but not all) schools do offer this as an option. We’re not just talking about certificates or minors, either.

For instance, you can earn a Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering from U of M Online. If you complete the entire program virtually, you will pay in-state tuition costs from anywhere in the United States – a major bonus. A good school should offer you a searchable course catalog to compare options and view which have a required on-campus component.

2. How Long Does It Take to Earn a Degree Online?
Most online programs mirror their in-person counterparts in terms of how long it takes to earn the degree. From certificates and minors to bachelor’s or master’s degrees, you’re looking at roughly the same timeline for equivalent programs. Some programs offer students the flexibility for part time options if that is needed to accommodate work and family responsibilities.

Some schools or programs may limit how quickly you can move through the material. However, given the freedom and flexibility of online learning, it’s possible you can complete more coursework in less time than you could on campus. Talk to your admissions officer or program coordinator about specifics.

When first researching your options, you can again turn to the searchable course catalog. On each degree page, you should find the recommended timeline clearly listed.

3. Is an Online Degree Viewed Differently Than a Traditional Degree?
Among the most common and pressing questions for online learning is whether future employers view online degrees with skepticism. The answer is an emphatic "no." Most online programs appear on your transcript the same as on-campus programs would.

You may also wonder if an online program will impact your plans for a higher degree later. As long as your degree is from an accredited institution, it won’t harm your chances of acceptance.

4. What Are Some Benefits of Online Learning?
When you choose to learn online, you can:

  • Study more, due to the lack of commuting to, from, and around campus
  • Potentially take more classes, again because of the time savings
  • Get more immediate feedback from professors on assignments
  • Leverage the online resources that come with your course portal
  • Spend less money on your degree overall
  • Continue working or caring for family while going to school

5. Do Instructors Offer Help and Support to Students?
Instructors are required to give the same amount of time and energy to their online classes as they do to in-person groups. In fact, many professors are enthusiastic about virtual learning because it means they have more flexibility and don’t have to commute either.

6. Can Students Have Success and Excel in Online Learning?
Lastly, can you learn new skills, attain knowledge, and become successful in online learning? Unequivocally, the answer is yes! Online degree programs still afford you tutoring and career resources as well as full access to academic resources such as the library.

Plus, you will have the ability to transfer credits either to or from the degree program, just as you would with an on-campus one. In other words, you will find yourself and your goals in no way hampered by taking the online approach.

Online Learning

In summary, online learning offers you a ton of freedom and savings. It allows you to complete your work anywhere, from the office to the living room to on the road. And you can rest assured that you’ll get the same level of professorial support as you would from an on-campus program, as well as a degree that’s worth just as much.

Learn More, Today

Ready to learn more? Reach out to U of M Online to ask questions or get information about specific programs today!


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