In 2014, nearly 6 million students took at least one online course. The popularity of distance learning options has been growing steadily in recent years. Many full-time students are mixing on-campus classes with online courses, and others are shifting to entirely online educations. It’s not surprising that so many students are comfortable taking courses online and outside of the classroom when so much of our day-to-day lives involves technology. Having the freedom to work at your own pace and learn on your own schedule is an especially great option for non-traditional students who cannot devote their lives to being on campus.

For those students who are trying to decide whether an online class will work for them, there are plenty of factors that weigh on the positive side. Here are some things to consider if you’re thinking about pursuing online learning.

Your tuition may be lower.
Especially if you attend a traditional university and plan to add one or two online courses to your roster, which is called “blended” learning. You might end up paying a little less per credit hour for the online courses than for your traditional classroom courses. This might not hold true for colleges and programs that are entirely online, or for-profit. Check your school’s tuition schedule to find out the exact difference in pricing for online classes.

You will have more flexibility in your schedule.
While you’ll probably still have tests and due dates for essays and assignments, you will be able to “attend” lectures and view lecture slides at your convenience. This means anytime and anywhere—if you want to click through those anatomy slides at Starbucks, or on your phone while you walk your dog, you can. For those students who are trying to balance full-time jobs, careers, or even parenthood, that kind of flexibility is a great prospect.

cell phone studying

You might feel more confident in discussions.
As a college instructor of traditional face-to-face courses, I had plenty of students who ended up doing poorly on their participation grades because they were reluctant or nervous about volunteering during discussions. With online courses, the discussions are mostly written, allowing you to type out your thoughts and post them to a discussion board rather than having to raise your hand and speak in front of a class. If you are on the shy side, this might seem like the more appealing option.

You can avoid the commute to campus.
One of the most frustrating parts about being a full-time on-campus student and instructor was the constant struggle with my busy commute, and then trying to find a parking spot in time for class. Parking was so bad at my campus that it was practically a blood sport—I witnessed plenty of people physically get out of their cars to shout at each other if someone stole the parking spot they were scouting. With online learning, you don’t have to go to campus for class, which saves you that hassle.

You don’t have to put your life on hold.
For students with jobs and careers and kids, going back to school full-time can sometimes mean putting their other priorities on the back burner while they pursue their degree. With online learning, this doesn’t have to be the case. Since there are so many options for online degree programs, there is more freedom for these students to still pursue higher learning while continuing with their lives.

You can go home during the summer and still take classes.

If you are a traditional full-time student who leaves campus during the summers, online learning is a way for you to keep taking courses towards your degree without having to stay on campus all summer to take them. With so many universities pushing the completion of degrees in 4 years or less, taking classes during summer is a great way to finish your degree on time and avoid taking out extra loans or spending more time in school.

online course

Online learning teaches organization and academic discipline.
With online courses, you don’t have that element of a face-to-face class to serve as a constant reminder of the responsibilities you have in it. Basically, you don’t have your teacher there in person constantly reminding you of assignments and due dates. You have to learn to take initiative, become more organized, and work towards a stronger academic work ethic. Those students who struggle with these skills should consider how much they will need to step up their game before enrolling in an online course.

You can tack on a few more credit hours in one semester.
If you are a traditional student looking to take an extra class but can’t fit it into your schedule, you can take that class online and not have to worry about whether you’re available for its meetings. This is an especially great aspect of taking an online class, even if you are only taking one or two in a semester, in conjunction with your traditional face-to-face classes. Just make sure you have the time outside of your regular classes to sit down and work on your online coursework.

Something important to consider before enrolling in any online courses is how willing you are to put in the extra effort that these types of courses require. If you think taking an online course will be easier or require less effort, you’re both right and wrong. Sure, you won’t have to put forth the effort of physically attending class, but online courses still require a certain level of discipline and involvement. You will have to feel comfortable with taking the initiative to set aside time for going over online lectures and completing assignments on time. Setting up online calendar alerts is usually pretty helpful when taking on your first online course.

With a bit of focus and effort, online learning could be exactly the thing you need to supplement your academic career.