Distance learning occasionally gets a bad reputation. There is a misperception that some employers might not value an online degree as much as one from a traditional college. Often associated with diploma mills, online degrees might be seen as fake and illegitimate. However, online education is becoming increasingly common and popular. According to a recent survey, the number of students who took at least one distance learning class increased from 1.6 million students in 2002 to 5.8 millionin 2014. In fact, distance learning has increased at a time when overall higher education enrollment has fallen slightly. Ultimately, online education has a lot of advantages due to its convenience and affordability and is something from which many people can benefit.

Online learning has often been used to supplement traditional education, with technology having a big presence in the classroom and becoming a lot more mainstream. For example, Khan Academy provides online tools and resources for students through YouTube tutorials and videos. It has over 3 million subscribers and its videos have received hundreds of millions of views, which points to the ubiquity and popularity of supplementary online learning. Even many traditional colleges offer online degrees and classes — some programs might be hybrid and combine on-campus instruction with online learning.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) offer unlimited participation and provide open access to leading colleges. Major providers of MOOCs include Coursera, Udacity, and edX — these providers often collaborate with top-ranked universities. Many of the courses offered can be taken for a certificate, which greatly helps when it comes to career preparation and advancement. Online education can help people develop employable skills, which would give them an edge when it comes to applying for jobs and help them integrate more easily into the workplace. It’s important to stay relevant in a rapidly evolving and fast-paced work environment, especially when career changes are involved.

One of the main advantages of online degrees is that they are convenient and flexible. They fit better into an already busy schedule and make it possible to juggle career and personal commitments while taking online classes. There is no need to commute to campus or plan out a schedule around classes with fixed timings. However, while such degree programs are convenient, they require discipline and self-motivation — it can be easy to fall behind or lose motivation.

Since online degrees don’t require a traditional brick and mortar campus and classrooms with a limited capacity for students, they tend to be cheaper than in-person education. Even full degree programs are normally cheaper — often a fraction of the cost — than they would be if taken at a traditional campus. Some MOOCs providers, including Coursera, also offer financial aid to learners who are unable to afford the course fees. The lower cost of online degrees is one of the reasons why online education enrollment is increasing as compared to traditional, in-person learning.

While online degrees offer many advantages, their value ultimately depends on the type of institution from which they are obtained. Similar to traditional degrees, online degrees hold more value if they are from well-known institutions. It’s also extremely important to only pursue degrees from accredited universities and to check the accreditation status and the rankings of a college before enrolling. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Accreditation is the recognition that an institution maintains standards requisite for its graduates to gain admission to other reputable institutions of higher learning or to achieve credentials for professional practice.” Credits earned at an unaccredited college may not transfer over and might be seen negatively. The myth that online degrees aren’t real or credible can stem from the presence of some unaccredited schools.

As long as they are from accredited and reputable colleges, online degrees can be just as credible as traditional degrees. While employers used to be slightly doubtful of online degrees not too long ago, the stigma has greatly decreased and online programs are a lot more acceptable now. Whether you are signing up for an online class just to learn something new, or then enrolling in an online degree program, there is much to be gained from distance learning.

Author's Bio: 

Hello, my name is Karen Cole and I live in Philadelphia, United States. I am the founder and editor-in-chief of the HealthBenefitAdmin online magazine and I take pride in publishing content that helps my readers to live a happy, healthy and sustainable life.