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Is Online College Easier or Harder?

Written by Laura Amendola on Wednesday, 03 April 2024. Posted in Online College

Girl sitting on the floor with a laptop writing in a planner.

Since 2020, online school has become more popular. While many students were forced to take virtual classes during the pandemic and were happy to return to campus when it was over, others found that they really enjoyed the flexibility of online education. If you’re someone who wants or needs to be able to fit education around your life, an online college degree could be a great fit for you! But is it hard to get a degree online in comparison to a brick-and-mortar school? Read on to find out the answers to some frequently asked questions about online school!

How hard is online school?

“Hard” is subjective, and there are a lot of factors that can play a part in whether something is difficult. To answer this question, you really need to know what you’re looking for out of the school. If flexibility and school/life balance are important to you, you may find online college easier than going to school at an institution that tracks attendance and requires you to be a full or part-time student.

Adelaide Fordjour, manager of Academic Operations at Ashworth College, has been instrumental in helping students be successful online. She explains that online school can be more difficult for students if they’re not prepared. “It needs a little bit more discipline and commitment because of the freedom and absence of the controlled environment like brick-and-mortar school would have.”

Adelaide also explains that online school can be more difficult because of the lack of structure. “In online school or self-paced coursework, you do have to create that structure for yourself rather than in a brick-and-mortar school.”

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Studying for Online Classes

Can you sufficiently learn in an online school?

Online schooling is one of those things that you get out of it what you put into it. Depending on the school, you have to be more self-disciplined than at a traditional school. Ashworth College, for example, is self-paced, which means there are no due dates. This is great for adult learners who work full-time or have a family they need to take care of, but things can fall by the wayside if you’re not careful. When studying online, you need to hold yourself accountable and stay organized – and committed – in order to get things done.

It’s important to remember, though, that everyone learns differently, and some people may need a classroom setting with an in-person teacher/student format. If you think this is something you need, online school may not be for you, but Adelaide says that “no matter your style of learning, you're able to get something because the faculty and administration at Ashworth College are utilizing many different media types to cater to every type of student.”

Read more: What is Learning Style – and How Can it Help Your Online Education?

Can you get a job with an online degree?

Yes, it’s absolutely possible to get a job with an online degree!

Chief Learning Officer and online learning expert Andy Shean, PhD, says that “today, people really recognize online degrees as comparable to a traditional campus-based program.”

While no school can – or should – guarantee that you can get a job after graduation, online degrees are becoming more accepted by employers. In fact, many employers don’t necessarily look for the name of the school you attended; they want to know that you have the skills to get the job done.

Dr. Shean suggests making sure you take courses that align to specific job skills and knowledge. “We have programs and certificates, and then within those program certificates, curriculum that's very aligned to specific skills that are going to train you for a specific job.”

Can I still socialize and make friends in online school?

Advances in technology have made connecting with online peers more than possible! Social media is a great way to connect with your peers, and many online schools have their own platform where students can connect and form virtual study groups.

Adelaide says “thanks to social media and peer learning communities, now online students can post and say, ‘hey, did anybody complete this assignment? How did you find it? This is where I'm struggling.’” She explains, "I think this really affords students a sense of community, so they don’t feel alone in their learning or struggles.”

Community doesn’t have to be in person, so being open to other ways to build community can help you succeed in online school.

Read more: An Interview with the Ashworth Community Manager

Is it hard to juggle school and life in online school?

Many online students choose online school because of the flexibility. A lot of people, especially adult learners, have more responsibilities than just school, so enrolling in a self-paced online college can be the perfect fit.

One thing that could prove to be difficult when doing online school is not having a separation of home and school. Your home is usually your oasis, your place to relax and de-stress, so not having separate environments for home and school can be a challenge. There are options, however!

If you’re able to dedicate a room in your house to an office, this can be a way to bring separation in and be able to close the door on school when you’re not actively working on it. This is of course not feasible for everyone, but you can always do your schoolwork at a local cafe or even the library! These are great options for those who may not have the best internet connection as well.

Read more: Going Back to School as an Adult

How supportive is online school?

This likely depends on the school, but many online schools have a full staff of instructors and advisors to assist you. There are also often resources to help you succeed in online school like textbooks (or eBooks), program outlines, syllabi, learning centers, etc. If you need help, it’s usually not hard to get it.

Online school graduate Tiffany Whitter gives some feedback on her experience: “There were a couple courses where I was a little shaky. I had a statistics class that I was like, ‘Oh boy!’ But anytime I reached out to [my school], someone was always available... I never felt like I was alone, even though it wasn’t in person.”

Adelaide also sheds some light on this topic: “It comes back to motivation and structure, because it can be difficult if you make it difficult. Once you know what you're getting at and you build a structure for yourself from the beginning, you can spread it out throughout your day. And of course, things happen, life happens, but if you're able to structure it in a good way, you actually create room for that.”

How do you know if online school is right for you?

You’ll never really know unless you try it, but taking stock of your life and responsibilities can help you determine if you need more flexibility as you seek higher education. Everyone has a different threshold for what they consider hard, so online school could be easier for some than others. Read more about online school and decide if this is a good fit for you!

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