What Is Online Education?

Online education refers to the process of taking a course, earning a degree or participating in any other kind of educational endeavor via an internet connection rather than in person.

What Is the Online Education Definition?

Online education encompasses a tremendous number of topics, subject areas, disciplines and degree programs. In its broadest terms, online education simply means acquiring knowledge through the use of instruction provided via the internet. More specifically, this education is acknowledged to be pedagogical rather than self-selected. In other words, reading an article about birds in a periodical online wouldn’t be classified as “online education,” but enrolling in a video course about ornithology given by a teacher would be considered online education.

What Does Online Education Look Like?

The online class definition has changed over several years, and in terms of format, the online learning definition can take many forms. Some online educational programs are conducted exclusively through assigned lessons and assessments administered online. Others take the form of remote lectures where students join the class via the cameras on their laptops, and the instructor teaches or lectures from his own computer. Other courses are a combination of the two, requiring students to do a fair amount of independent research.

The benefits that come with online learning depend a lot on the individual. While some students simply enjoy the convenience of studying in their pajamas, others must choose online education in order to stay home with their children. Still, the biggest perk that comes with online degree programs has to do with location. Simply put, when you pursue online education, you don’t have to uproot your life to do it; you can just stay home.

“The primary benefit of an online program is flexibility,” notes Monroe. “In a well-designed online program, students are not limited to programs physically located near their home.”

Staying home to pursue a degree can not only make earning a degree possible, but also less time-consuming. For example, students who pursue online degrees may not have to:

  • Quit their jobs to attend school
  • Commute to and from their college campus
  • Plan their day around their course schedule
  • Spend money on parking or babysitting

At the same time, it allows them to study and take tests at a time and place that works best for them, learn at their own pace, and transition through their courses faster.

Of course, nothing is perfect, and while there are many benefits, online education does have one drawback — the lack of a personal connection.

“The primary benefit of a campus-based program, compared to an online program, is the opportunity it provides for personal interactions with your professors and your fellow students,” says Monroe. “For many, learning is fundamentally a social activity and these person-to-person interactions are a very important component of their education.”

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