10 Surprising Benefits of Online Learning

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Whether you want to learn a language, strengthen a specific technical skill, or earn a full academic degree, there have never been quite so many options to learn online.

[Featured image] A woman wearing a yellow sweater and glasses sits at laptop working on an online degree course

In recent years, more students have been taking advantage of those choices. Forty-four percent of undergraduate students and 52 percent of graduate students in the United States were enrolled exclusively in online courses in 2020 [1].

Online learning is a popular alternative to in-person learning for a reason. Students don’t have to traverse great distances to access their education because online learning can remove those barriers, making education more equitable and accessible for those with the ability to connect to the internet. 

10 benefits you gain from learning online 

Let’s go over some other surprising benefits of online learning.  

1. You don’t have to relocate or commute.  

With online learning, the classroom comes to you. No matter what type of credential you’re interested in achieving—degree, professional certificate, qualification—you can access some of the most renowned educational institutions or industry leaders online. What’s more: you’re not limited by borders. You can find programs across the country or even across the globe, without having to factor in relocation costs to study elsewhere. 

Many colleges and universities also require students to pay parking fees to access campus, which can be costly. But you won’t have to worry about that additional cost, or the cost of commuting, with an online program. 

2. You can decide your learning space. 

Whether you’re learning synchronously or asynchronously online, you don’t have to worry about the hurdles of getting to class. All you have to do is turn on your computer. That may be a more comfortable option, especially if it means you don’t have to carry books, a laptop, or other necessities around. Instead, you’ll have what you need right in front of you.  

Tip: If you’re learning from home, create a dedicated learning space—whether that’s the corner of a room or the corner of a table—so that it’s easier to shift into learning mode when it comes time to sit down and study

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3. You can keep working while enrolled. 

A lot of students work part-time or full-time while attending college or completing other programs designed to enhance their education or skill set. But the rigid scheduling of many in-person programs can make it hard to balance your professional obligations with your educational ones. 

With online learning, courses are often designed to be more flexible so that you can work them into your work schedule. That way, you don’t have to put your professional life on hold while you pursue your education.  

4. You can build upon skills you already have—or learn something entirely new.

You can change your entire career trajectory from your couch. Thanks to the range of courses, certificate programs, tutorials, and more that have been designed to teach you timely, career-relevant skills, you don’t have to go far to make a big change. Given that kind of focus, you also don’t have to spend time learning something you don’t need. 

Beyond a career change, you can strengthen your existing skill set by taking similar offerings designed to teach you a specific workplace skill or technical skill that will help you advance. And you’re not limited to the course catalog of any one particular school—the options for online learning are nearly endless. 

5. You can learn from top universities or industry-leading companies. 

Many prestigious colleges and universities now offer online degree options. An online degree from a major institution typically has the same value as one you earned in person and may even expose you to more rigorous coursework or skills development. On Coursera, you can find degrees from the University of London, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, Penn State, and HEC Paris. 

In addition to universities, many major companies now offer programs designed to help you learn a new aspect of a career—or bolster your skill set. Google, IBM, Meta, and Salesforce all offer Professional Certificates on Coursera. These focused programs can be an excellent way to expand your industry knowledge or get started in a new field. 

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6. The schedule tends to be flexible and you can learn at your own pace.

Online learning structures vary, but generally, they’re designed to be more flexible than in-person classes, which means you can access your program on your own time and, more often than not, work at your own pace. Studying takes time, so when you can fit it into your schedule, rather than adjust your schedule around your learning, it may create the flexibility you need to establish an education plan that works for you. 

7. You might save money compared to in-person learning. 

Beyond tuition and fees, there are a lot of costs associated with attending college or university—or a workshop, course, or certificate program—in-person. With online learning, you tend to benefit from lower overall costs because there’s less overhead associated with operating each program. While the average cost for one tuition credit in the United States was relatively the same for online and in-state students at the same institution, according to the Education Data Initiative, that doesn’t take into account the additional fees typically associated with the full cost of in-person attendance, such as housing and transportation [2]. 

8. You can choose between self-paced and accelerated options.

Thanks to the pace you can often set with your online coursework and the growing spate of accelerated degree programs, it may be possible to complete an online education faster because you can move through courses more rapidly, as opposed to waiting for a new lesson each week. 

Learn how else you can speed up the process of earning your bachelor’s degree

9. You can engage with a global peer network. 

Diversity yields greater perspectives and insights. Thanks to the global availability of online learning, you may find yourself enrolled alongside students from around the world, which may in turn foster broader, more diverse opinions and learning. Moreover, depending on your program, you may have the opportunity to engage with your classmates as much as you want. Use the resources available in your program to connect with other students or maybe even start a virtual club to help stay in touch or keep each other on track.  

10. You may strengthen important transferable skills.

You can not only bolster your subject knowledge when you learn online, but you can also hone  transferable skills, like communication, critical thinking, adaptability, and more. Specifically, learning online often requires greater time management and self-discipline because you are responsible for logging in to complete your lesson rather than following an in-person class schedule that dictates where and when to be. When you learn online, you also sharpen your ability to work independently, or without supervision, which is a valued skill among employers. 

Next steps

There’s never been a better time to learn online than now. Explore an array of educational options on Coursera, including bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees from leading universities around the world. If you’re looking to gain career-ready skills, check out a Professional Certificate in computer science or IT, data science, business, or marketing.   

Alternately, check out a number of free courses, like the popular The Science of Well-Being from Yale University, which examines the nature of happiness, or something more career-focused like Introduction to User Experience Design from Georgia Tech.

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Article Sources

1. College Board. “Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2021,  https://research.collegeboard.org/pdf/trends-college-pricing-student-aid-2021.pdf." Accessed January 13, 2022.

2. Education Data Initiative. “Cost of Online Education vs. Traditional Education [2022]: Comparison, https://educationdata.org/cost-of-online-education-vs-traditional-education." Accessed January 13, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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