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The pros and cons of online learning: exploring the good, the bad and the WiFi drops

So, you’re thinking about diving into the world of online learning? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Boise State University offers adult students a flexible and convenient alternative to the traditional classroom experience through more than 100 online degree programs and 800 online courses.

We have a lot of experience and have worked with many online students over the past few decades. Let’s explore the pros and cons of online learning and the benefits and drawbacks of the digital education revolution.

Online Learning Pros

Flexibility and Convenience

Picture this: no more rigid schedules or trying to make everything fit in a typical 9-5 day. With online learning, you call the shots. You can create your own schedule and prioritize your educational pursuits while juggling work, family and everything else life throws at you. It’s like being the boss of your own academic destiny.

Anytime, Anywhere Access to Education

Say goodbye to geographical limitations and hello to the world of learning without borders. Online learning lets you access education from your cozy couch, the local coffee shop or even that exotic beach you’ve been dreaming about. As long as you’ve got an internet connection, you can dive into the virtual classroom wherever your heart desires.

Learn how Kris Pruett pursued a Boise State Online cyber operations degree from her small town in Idaho while balancing her responsibilities as a mom. This video is available with captions and a video transcript.

Learning at Your Own Pace

No more getting left behind in the academic dust. Spend extra time on those tricky concepts that make your brain sweat and breeze through the stuff that comes naturally to you. It’s all about personalized progress and mastering the material at your own speed.

Diverse Course Selection

Prepare to feast your eyes on an array of exciting online courses and programs. Explore your interests and dive into those niche topics that might not be readily available in traditional educational institutions. It’s like having a buffet of knowledge at your fingertips.

Access to Expert Instructors and Industry Professionals

Online learning isn’t just about textbooks and virtual lectures; it’s about learning from the best in the biz. Many online platforms feature instructors and professionals, like adjunct instructor Sandy Dunn, who bring real-world knowledge and experience straight to your virtual doorstep. Get ready to soak up their wisdom, guidance and mentorship, and take your understanding of the subject matter to the next level.

Customizable Learning Paths and Degree Programs

Online learning isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. It’s more like a choose-your-own-adventure book where you get to be the protagonist. You can design your own learning path and tailor your degree program to match your interests and career goals. With a variety of elective courses and customization options, your education becomes a personalized journey that’s all about you.

Many Boise State Online degree programs offer customization options, from the Bachelor of Arts to Interdisciplinary Studies to the Bachelor of Science in Advanced Medical Imaging to the Master of Business Administration and many more. Prioritize your interests and professional goals to craft a degree that’s meaningful to you!

Collaborative Learning Opportunities

Who says online learning is a solo journey? Think again! Despite the distance, online learning platforms offer a whole bunch of opportunities for collaboration and connection with your peers. You’ll have virtual discussion boards, forums and group projects to dive into, allowing you to exchange ideas, challenge each other and create a sense of community.

Cost and Time Savings

Say goodbye to commuting nightmares and hello to cost-effective education. No need to spend your hard-earned cash on gas or public transport. And guess what? Many online programs offer flexible payment options and affordable tuition rates, making education accessible to a wider range of people. Plus, if you’re a speedy learner, you might even finish your degree in record time and save even more. Talk about a win-win situation.

Online Learning Cons

Lack of Face-to-Face Interaction

Okay, let’s be real for a second. Online learning does have its downsides. One of them is missing out on those face-to-face interactions with instructors and fellow students. Sometimes you just need that physical presence, those non-verbal cues and the immediate feedback that can make the learning experience extra immersive. But fear not, intrepid learner, there’s a whole world of digital communication waiting for you.

Limited In-Person Networking Opportunities

Online learning might make networking a tad trickier. Those in-person events, campus mingles and chance encounters with classmates can be valuable for building professional connections and expanding your social circle. But don’t despair! You can still network like a pro. Find virtual networking events, engage in online communities and use social media to connect with like-minded individuals. You’ve got this.

Reduced Non-Verbal Communication

Let’s face it: non-verbal communication matters. Those gestures, facial expressions and body language cues help us understand messages on a whole different level. In the online learning world, we rely more on written or verbal communication, which can sometimes lead to reduced non-verbal cues. But fear not, my friend. Emoticons, GIFs and good old-fashioned words can help bridge that gap and keep the communication flowing.

Potential for Feelings of Isolation

Online learning can get a little lonely sometimes. If you thrive in social learning environments, the virtual nature of online education might leave you craving some human interaction. The lack of physical presence and limited social engagements can make the learning experience feel solitary. But remember, you’re not alone in this. Reach out to your peers, connect with instructors and join online study groups to create a virtual community that will keep your motivation soaring.

Self-Motivation and Discipline Required

Online learning isn’t for the faint of heart. It demands a hefty dose of self-motivation and discipline. Without the structure and accountability of a traditional classroom, you’re the one at the wheel. You need to be the master of time management, the organizational wizard and the guardian of your own focus.

Reliable Internet and Technology Required

To fully embrace the online learning adventure, you’ll need a trusty internet connection and access to compatible devices. It’s true that not everyone has reliable internet or the latest gadgets, and that can be a bummer. Reach out to your institution or explore community resources that might provide solutions. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Digital Platforms Dependency

Online learning relies heavily on digital platforms and learning management systems. They’re like your trusty sidekicks, delivering content, course materials and assessments right to your virtual doorstep. But here’s the catch: sometimes these platforms hit a snag. Technical difficulties or system failures can temporarily restrict access to essential resources.

Limited Hands-on Experience

Let’s be real: not all learning can be done through a screen. Some disciplines thrive on hands-on experience and practical skill development. Think healthcare, laboratory sciences or the arts. It can be challenging to replicate those experiences in the online learning environment. However, there are still ways to nurture your practical side. Seek additional support, explore local resources or consider hybrid learning options that combine online and in-person instruction.

Just because Boise State’s Master of Social Work and the Bachelor of Science in Advanced Medical Imaging are fully online doesn’t mean they skip out on the hands-on experience. Instead, these programs work with you to find local opportunities for clinicals or fieldwork in your community.

Which One Is Right For You?

Well, there you have it! The ups and downs of online learning laid bare. It’s a journey of flexibility, convenience and boundless opportunities, but it also comes with its fair share of challenges. Online learning empowers you to take control of your education, offering the freedom to pursue your dreams while balancing work, family and life’s many demands. With the right mindset, self-discipline and support system, you can navigate the virtual classroom and emerge with a wealth of knowledge and a shiny diploma in hand.

Learn More About Boise State Online Programs

Boise State University offers nearly 100 online programs and 800 unique online courses to help you realize your educational dreams – whether you need a bachelor’s degree, a graduate degree or a single online class.

Learn More About Boise State Online Programs


ChatGPT, personal communication, June 29, 2023