KeyboardDue to the recession, many of us are tightening our belts—especially college students. And when one considers that the University of California decided to raise their fees by 32% in 2009, and that the California State University system raised fees by 12% in 2011, it’s no wonder that many people simply can no longer afford an education through traditional channels. In addition, a growing majority of students—young and old—already work full time, yet want to change their career or advance within their field. For these people, and for people who cannot afford a traditional four year university, online education may be the perfect solution.

Using the internet, as well as other forms of technology to facilitate collaboration between students and teachers, online education replaces the traditional classroom with a virtual classroom. In many ways the classroom dynamic is the same as a traditional classroom; however, the dialogue between classmates and their instructors takes place in message boards and emails.

Some of the more popular online degrees include education, business, healthcare careers such as a medical assistant, criminal justice, graphic design, and computer science degrees. Different degrees available online usually include an associate’s, a bachelor’s, a master’s, a PhD, an MBA and even certificates that take less time to earn and can offer specialization in a certain area related to your field.

The advantages of an online degree are plentiful. For one thing, teachers and students are able to communicate easily through email, and the teacher student ratio also tends to be lower. In addition, students can access course materials online whenever they want. This is very helpful for students who can only work on schoolwork at night due to a hectic schedule during the day, such as those who are working full time already and are looking to change careers or supplement their knowledge in a field. In general, online schools and universities are great for those who want to expand their knowledge but who need to have greater control over their schedules.

Online schools and universities are also more likely to take a student centered approach to learning. Students are able to take in information at their own pace, and use the class materials in a way that best fosters learning.

Finally, perhaps one of the most convenient aspects of an online education is that emphasis on attendance is less than in traditional universities and classroom settings.  Let’s face it—some of us cannot go to work all day and then go to class immediately after. More and more students are working full time, and as a result, the flexibility of an online education is gaining popularity.