Online education is changing the way people approach college. Between 2012 and 2016, on-campus enrollments dropped five percent, while the percentage of students enrolled in at least one online class increased (Aslanian Market Research and Learning House, 2016). In other words, fewer students chose on-campus programs while more chose options that are available off-campus. Despite the increasing prevalence of online programs, however, concerns about this form of education still abound. How valid are these concerns? In this article, we take a look at some of the benefits to online education and some of the myths that exist surrounding it.

The Growth of Online Learning

As of 2017, six million-plus students were engaged in some type of distance education (Digital Learning Compass, 2017). This number has increased steadily since 2002, a year when fewer than 10 percent of all students took at least one online course. Studies in online education show another trend: the mean age of younger students in both online undergraduate and graduate programs has increased (Aslanian Market Research and Learning House, 2016). In 2012, only 25 percent of online undergraduate students were between the ages of 18-24, but that reached 44 percent by 2016. The message is clear: online education is becoming widely accepted in younger students, who will go on to further normalize it as they age.

This is little surprise, considering how distance education programs continue to facilitate learning in new and innovative ways. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) make education accessible to significant numbers of students, while different delivery platforms and mobile devices make it easier for students to communicate with instructors and to access coursework. Self-guided programs allow students to focus on the aspects of courses that are most relevant to them, and help to teach discipline and drive that can be appealing to employers. In short, there are many advantages to this style of learning, and it's well worth considering.

Benefits of an Online Education

The benefits of online learning are multi-fold, ranging from in-state tuition for out-of-state students, flexible scheduling options and the option to stay close to friends or family. Let's take a closer look at some of these advantages below.

Distance Learning Myths Dispelled

You may have heard unsettling criticisms of online education: difficulties about communicating with professors, classes that lack rigor and degrees that mean little in the workplace. Of course, these criticisms didn't come out of nowhere; lamentably, these are problems that can be encountered in online programs. However, it's important to be aware of where these myths originated and the extent to which they are true today. Let's take the time to examine some of these myths in more depth.

Is Online Learning For You?

While it's true that several of the more dramatic criticisms of online learning are exaggerations or inaccuracies, that doesn't mean online learning is a magic "one size fits all" format that everyone can benefit from immediately or at all. Some people may prefer the face-to-face interaction that comes through a classroom, and others may find they don't have the self-motivation and organizational skills needed to keep up with an online course. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to test online education for yourself before committing to an online program wholesale, such as:


Distance learning has been around since the mid-19th century, when it was delivered in the form of correspondence courses. Today, the medium of the platform has changed, but the idea remains the same: to provide students with the opportunity to learn through an easily-accessible format. Online learning may intimidate some, but it also offers plenty of ways for students to succeed. With graduate-level programming, vo-tech training and certificates being offered online, it could be a good time for students to start considering online education in earnest.