Online education has become very popular. You can study just about any subject online, without ever stepping foot into a classroom. Everywhere you look there are advertisements for online programs to get your Masters of Business Management or your law degree online. Before you enroll in an online degree program, you have to consider some things.
Depending on what you want to study, online education may not be right for you. Many of the online programs that are offered today are provided by for-profit schools. For-profit schools exist to make money for their owners, often their owners are stockholders who expect a dividend to be paid or the stock price to increase. The fact that an online program is provided by a for-profit school doesn't mean that the program doesn't deliver a good education, it is simply a factor to consider when researching different programs. The reason I mentioned for-profit schools is because I believe that certain subjects should never be taught entirely online, they just do not fit into the online format.
A perfect example of a subject that does not lend itself to the online format would be chemistry. Chemistry requires students to spend time in a laboratory. The laboratory has specialized equipment and is set up to allow students to conduct experiments, these lessons cannot be taught online with the same degree of competence. A student can watch videos of other people conducting experiments but it is not as effective as actually conducting the experiment.
Other subjects that are difficult to learn online are law, architecture, and medicine, to name a few. If you are unsure if the field you are considering is conducive to online education, check out U.S. News and World Report's College Rankings. If you cannot find an online program in the field that you are researching that is ranked by U.S. News, then that field is probably not appropriate for online education.
Another reason online education is not right for some people is the discipline required. The attractive flexibility of online education also means that a teacher will not tell you when you should start working on your final project or when to read the required reading. It can be tempting to procrastinate and fall behind in class. It is very difficult, if not impossible to catch up once you have fallen behind in an online class.
If you need the structure and guidance of in-class instruction to avoid procrastination, online education is not right for you. Your going to have to be realistic with yourself, only you know if you are the kind of person that can stay focused and disciplined for the couple of years it is going to take to complete the program.
If you are looking for an easy way to get a college degree or you are not willing to put in the effort that it will take to get a college degree from a well respected program, online education is not for you. Although you may find online college programs that require less work than in-class programs, you will not find a program that is as respected and academically rigorous that is easier just because it is online. Top online programs require just as much work as classroom programs.