Is Online College *Really* A Good Way To Go? The Cons

In a previous post, I reviewed the 'pros' of pursuing a degree online.

Now, the 'cons':

Lack of personal interaction. Some people (like me) need a certain amount of adult interaction that they may not get otherwise. About 90% of what I learned in college-how to deal with people different from me, time management, etc-came from outside the classroom. Most of you may already have these skills, so it might not be a problem. Still, some people learn better when they can bounce things off of other people face-to-face.
If you post a question on the forum, you'll probably have to wait for an answer. This may not be a problem in some classes, but it might in others. Group projects may or may not be used because it can be really difficult getting people coordinated if they aren't physically in the same place. Since there isn't any face-to-face interaction with the professor, it can make networking that much more difficult.

Self-Discipline. It can be difficult for some people to focus on an online class at first because they don't see it as, well, a class. This can't happen; you have to take it seriously. You need to be self-motivated and able to focus your attention if you're going to succeed. This means no television, no kids, no cooking...just class. Not everyone can do this, or at least not in a solitary learning situation. I couldn't. Some people say this track taught them discipline, though, so it might not be an issue for you.

Expectations. Contrary to what some may think, 'online' does not necessarily mean 'easy'. In fact, some subjects such as math or statistics that have a visual component can be more difficult online because the prof isn't there  to explain what s/he is 'writing'. If you're like me and have issues with this, stick to 'in-person' classes.

Dependence on technology. If your computer dies or a storm knocks out your internet connection, you're at a major loss. While you can and should keep a backup of all your assignments, you won't be able to access lectures or forum discussions until you can get back online.

Transfer. Some course credits you earn online will not be accepted if you later go to a traditional university, and vice versa. Consider this if you're getting a bachelor's or lower degree online and think you may want go further later on.

What Employers May Think. Some online schools have a reputation for being 'diploma mills', sort of like online churches that let anyone who logs on become an ordained minister. Sure, you have the piece of paper, but what is it worth? While employers are starting to be more open to online degrees, some still have reservations. The fact that your networking opportunities are limited when you don't have face-to-face interaction with classmates and professors certainly doesn't help.
Exactly how an online degree will be received depends a lot on the particular hiring manager and the industry you're in. Fields like technology or accounting that are based on raw knowledge are more likely to be accepting of online degrees. Fields like medicine or chemistry that need hands-on training tend not to be.

When you get down to it, everyone learns differently. What works for one person might not for another, and online colleges give you more flexibility. Before you start an online program, though, do some checking around to make sure the university is accredited and/or that any credits you've earned before will transfer. If it makes you feel better, perhaps it would be a good idea to look for an online program that is affiliated with a 'brick-and-mortar' university. Nowadays most have some sort of 'distance learning' program and, while you may have to still do some things (labs, etc) on campus, they are usually willing to work with you. It's at least worth looking into.

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