The flexibility of online learning allows students to balance work obligations with their education. (Caiaimage/Chris Cross/Getty Images)
Online education is transforming the way students learn.
One 2016 survey found that online undergraduate students are an average of 29 years old and online graduate students are an average of 33, reflecting both the popularity and effectiveness of online programs to help adults meet educational and career goals.
Online education is well-suited to older students often balancing education with work, family and other obligations.
Here are four reasons online education works well for working adults.
1. Course flexibility: Most online courses are accessible 24/7, 365 days a year, so you can usually study around your work schedule from anywhere in the world. If you’re an older student juggling an education with other responsibilities, this flexibility is ideal. You can do your homework all at once or in nuggets between other obligations.
Often, you can study for a degree online at a pace that fits your lifestyle. You can take one or several courses per semester or enroll in an online program with shorter terms that make it easier to concentrate on one course at a time.
Recognizing that many prospective online students have already earned some credits toward their bachelor’s degree, programs might provide transfer credits or credits for life or work experience. Some programs also allow you to test out of certain courses.
2. Learning new skills and improving existing ones: Completing online courses from home or your desk at work can help you develop new skills to boost your earning potential.
If you were hired straight out of high school, you may find you need a college degree to move into management. Or you may simply want to improve or refresh the skills you already have, or learn job-specific skills to meet the changing needs of your profession.
Many companies will pay partial tuition for job-related courses that expand your knowledge base. If technology has been changing the way your industry functions, for instance, your employer might greatly value online courses that help you keep up with your field.
3. Instant relevance to your job: You may be surprised by how much more you enjoy your classes than you did when you were younger because in many online courses, you will find other working adults who you can network with and discuss recent experiences.
Online education is more practical because you can relate what you learn to the job you do every day and improve your job performance. You will also be able to make classes more interesting for other students by sharing relevant work-related examples in online discussion boards, for example.
4. New career opportunities: You may want to take online courses to round out your resume so you can compete for completely new positions with your current employer or at another organization. Earning a degree or advanced certificate online can be a great way to reinvent yourself if you are looking to change careers.
The takeaway: Online courses can provide real value to working adults because they are flexible and can help build the knowledge needed to get ahead while networking with others in similar positions.