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Students take online classes for lots of reasons, although those new to online classes may not fully understand the differences between online and on-campus classes. Do be sure to check next month’s posting to find out about the myths surrounding online classes. The differences in the two types of classes are some of the very reasons that students describe as their reasons for choosing to do part or all of their education online. Here are the top five reasons for choosing online classes.

1. Convenience: The top reason is avoiding the time needed for commuting to and from school, which can save hours throughout the week when managing school, work, and family activities on a daily basis. Some students report saving as much as 5-10 hours a week in commuting time and they can apply that time to studying.

2. Flexibility: Online students have the ability to take classes for various lengths of time. One option is traditional semester scheduling (generally 15-16 weeks), which means less work on a weekly basis. This may work perfectly for students who have multiple responsibilities outside of school. Other options range anywhere from four to eight week accelerated course formats. The format students choose is dependent upon their personal and professional obligations and schedules.

3. Study Time/Place: Distractions are rampant in students’ busy lifestyles. Finding the best time and place to study can decrease distractions. Some of my students have done quite well studying while waiting at their kids’ sports practices and events, while others prefer to focus on their kids and cannot concentrate on school work in that venue. Because there are more hours in the day as a result of no commuting and sitting in class time, they can choose alternate places and times to study. Having a personal study space at home is beneficial to concentration; study places can be as simple as a corner in a quiet room or the dining room table, or as elaborate as an office space in a infrequently used extra bedroom. Some people like to study completely away from home and go to a library or even a coffee shop or other eating establishment. All it takes is some creativity to find a study place that suits individual needs.

4. Interaction: There are unlimited opportunities for engaging in interaction and participation in online classes, at all hours of the day and night, whenever suits individual schedules. In on-campus classes, extroverted students generally participate a lot in discussions, while introverted students tend to be less active. Sometimes the quiet students may wish to participate but get crowded out by the more outgoing students. This is not the case in an online class. Everyone has something important to contribute and because online discussions ongoing throughout the week, students can join in and contribute at any time. A huge benefit of online discussions is that students can review their responses before posting in the discussions. Another benefit is the ability to interact individually with the instructor via email or phone much more frequently than just a few office hours each week in an on-campus class. Online students say that they get to know their classmates and instructors more when communication is open throughout the week rather than limited to class time and office hours.

5. Balance: All students have responsibilities and obligations along with school-related responsibilities. Many students work full or part time. Others have family activities and children’s extracurricular school activities. Some students are caregivers for elderly family members. And sometimes students have a temporary or permanent illness or disability that prevents them from traveling to a campus to take classes. Online education opens opportunities for these students who might otherwise not be able to go to school. With the flexible scheduling and time saved from not commuting, it’s easier to find a balance for all aspects of personal and professional lifestyles.

There are other reasons for choosing online classes rather than on-campus classes, but generally, these are the top five. Some students begin taking online classes not by choice, but by necessity. Perhaps the course they want on campus is not available so they take the course online. Perhaps they live too far away from a campus to take classes or they have to travel for business and would have to miss too many on-campus classes. Whatever the reason, most find that they like it and would not take another on-campus class by choice. Give it a try – you will find that an online degree program is perfect for your personal and professional lifestyles.