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Online Education Advantages and Disadvantages

Employers are wrestling with the value of an online education.

| BY Kent McDill

The influence of the Internet on the American educational system continues to be discussed, but there is no argument on the numbers that show how prevalent online education classes are.

The Learning House, a Louisville-based company that assists colleges and universities in creating online programs, reported this week that 48 percent of state colleges offer at least five fully online degree programs. Fifteen percent of private colleges do the same.

According to the Babson (College) Survey Research Group, nearly one-third of all students in higher education take at least one course per academic year online.

“There has been a lot of discussion about the impact of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses),’’ said Learning House Chief Academic Officer David Clinefelter. “But we discovered that institutions, private and public alike, are more focused on offering additional online programs.”

Online courses have the advantage of being available at anytime, anywhere, and allow students to complete course work while balancing other life issues such as work and family. Online course discussions promote a student’s writing ability, as they have “conversations’’ with other students and professors in course chat rooms. Obviously, online courses allow students to avoid the hassles of attending a college, dealing with classes that get closed due to weather, or being slowed in study by other students who don’t understand the material or aren’t doing their assigned homework properly.

The disadvantages include procrastination, Internet or computer-crash problems, the communication issues that come from faceless conversations, and the uncertain quality of education one receives in an online class. Laboratory work is almost impossible to accomplish properly in an online class.

There are a lot of questions asked about the quality of an online education. An October 2013 Gallup poll revealed that 43 percent of Americans think online education is worse than on-campus education in providing high-quality instruction from highly qualified educators. Forty-five percent think online education is worse at providing rigorous testing and grading that can be trusted, and 49 percent say an online education is less likely to be looked at positively by future employers.

“If leaders in the field want online learning to have equal status with campus-based programs, they need to do more to demonstrate high standards for instruction, testing and grading, ‘’ the Gallup report concluded.

The nonprofit organization Public Agenda issued a report in 2013 that showed 56 percent of employers prefer an applicant with a traditional degree from an average university to one with an online degree from a top university. Seventeen percent said they would prefer an applicant with an online degree.

Employers that prefer students with traditional college degrees believe those students are better suited for interpersonal relationships and are better at time management, as opposed to applicants with online degrees who “attended class’’ whenever they could fit it into their schedule.

Nearly half of the employers studied by Public Agenda said online courses require more personal discipline, and 82 percent said a combination of online and on-campus education would be best for most students.

"How [employers] view online degrees, though, will probably depend on the quality of the new hires they encounter from online programs, and how these hires compare to those who have gone through traditional programs," the report said. "Their lingering skepticism may also indicate a general need for better communication between colleges and employers about the knowledge and skills the latter seek in their employees."

Public Agenda also asked students about online classes, and 62 percent said online classes were harder to pass.

About the Author

Kent McDill

Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.

In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.

McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.

McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy  Buffett and all things Disney.