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If you talk to higher education leaders today, they will agree, at least in part, that the future of higher education lies with online colleges and universities. While there has already been a strong push of private online institutions offering classes and the potential for degrees online, that push is beginning to take shape with long-established institutions as well.

There are many advantages to enrolling in a college or university that runs its classes online. Here is a deeper look some of those benefits.

Benefits of Online Colleges and Universities

Convenience and Flexibility

Overwhelmingly, the number one benefit of online education is the fact that it provides a tremendous amount of convenience and flexibility for students. When enrolled in physical colleges and universities, students have to worry about everything from finding a place to live during the school year to finding a parking spot during class times.

Online education virtually eliminates these issues. It allows students to complete their classes on their own time. This can also be an effective way to help them learn skills related to time management, which is obviously essential for professional development.

Fewer Limits for Courses and Degree Offerings

Another major benefit of online education is the fact that it extends the available options that students have when it comes to the courses and degrees that they can choose from. Institutions that require onsite classes are limited by the number of classrooms and professors available.

With online colleges and universities, however, there are almost no limits as to how many different courses and degrees can be offered. Because professors are able to work from anywhere and are also able to work on their own time, it opens up the opportunity for experts to be hired no matter where they are located. This results in the only limits of course and degree offerings being based upon the professors that can be found to teach them.

Lower Costs

The cost of higher education is a topic that is talked about frequently throughout the world. It is a well-known problem that students everywhere are facing astronomical education costs that result in several years of debt following graduation.

While online education certainly does not take care of this issue entirely, it does help. Because institutions do not have to pay for physical space for classes and professors' offices, they are able to pass those savings on to the students. In addition, students do not have to pay the high costs of room and board that are often incredibly overpriced in university areas.

Ability to Start Working and Gain Real World Experience Immediately

Yet another major benefit provided by online education is the ability for students to start working and gain real world experience immediately. Due to the time saved from not having to commute or be at classes during specific times, students have more free time to commit to professional development. This can significantly help students who want to gain real-world experience in their chosen profession before they graduate.

Employers are often concerned that many university graduates are not yet ready for the workforce upon graduation. The fact that students now have more time to gain that necessary real-world experience can help them become more prepared and more employable. In addition, it allows students to see whether a specific type of job or career path is something that they will enjoy doing, before they end up spending tens of thousands of dollars learning about a career that they do not enjoy.

The only real disadvantage to colleges and universities that operate online is that students are not able to go through the "college experience" that many people feel is important. Those opposed to online institutions say that they do not allow students to develop the social skills that are so essential to professional success.

However, the convenience and versatility of these online colleges and universities allow students to use time that would otherwise be spent in classrooms to develop those social skills in real world situations. In the end, regardless of one's position on the subject, there is little doubt the world will continue to see a rise in online institutions in the future.