Online teaching degrees typically mix online coursework in education with real-life experience in a classroom setting. These programs usually lead to a preliminary teaching degree, some form of which is required by every U.S. state before an individual can be hired to teach in a classroom. Every online teaching program is different, but there are similar pros and cons for each one.
Online education offers students a lot more flexibility than traditional schools. Though most programs have an in-person student-teaching requirement as the final step toward earning a degree, much of the coursework is done online. Aspiring teachers pursing an online degree usually have flexibility to build schedules that fit their busy lives. With the exception of the student-teaching requirement, online learning can save students plenty of time by eliminating the need for a daily commute. However, with this freedom comes responsibility. Online courses require extra more self-discipline than is the case with traditional classes; responsibly is placed on the student to keep up with course reading and assignments. Individuals who generally have procrastination issues may soon find themselves falling behind.
When taking an online course, students are at the mercy of their computer and Internet connection. Where this wouldn’t pose much a problem for online learners accustomed to completing their class requirements on time, procrastinators can conceivably run into trouble. If students wait until the last moment to submit an assignment through the appropriate online channel, and the Internet picks just that moment to go down, they could miss an important deadline. And where online learning is concerned, a shaky Internet connection is not the only potential danger. Depending on the age and health of their primary computers, students can experience ill-timed computer crashes while in the middle of an important online lecture. But that’s not to say that there’s no plus side to taking courses over the Internet. Since class materials are often available through secure online servers, students have the flexibility of accessing coursework through alternate computers, if available.
Though there are plenty of highly respected online programs for teaching, such as the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, some school districts may prefer to hire teachers who earned their degrees from a traditional four-year university. Thanks to their requisite general education requirements, brick-and-mortar bachelor degree programs can offer students a more well-rounded academic and social education. Some employers, whether right or wrong, may subscribe to the stigma that online teaching programs are not as effective as traditional degrees. However, considering the costs associated with attended an average university, aspiring teachers may decide that the risk of dealing with the “online stigma” may be worth it.
When taking a course exclusively online, students trade flexibility and convenience for social interaction. While most online teaching programs feature direct interaction with teachers and classmates via live chat rooms and bulletin boards, students can have a difficult time making lasting, meaningful connections. Brick-and-mortar classrooms offer students a healthy dose of social interaction and better networking opportunities. However, some students may have chosen online-learning specifically to avoid such fraternization. Students truly eager to get started on their teaching careers may favor a “just the facts, ma’am” approach when it comes to coursework.
Bill Reynolds holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from Rowan University. He has written hundreds of articles for print and online media, drawing inspiration from a wide range of professional experiences. As part of the UCLA Extension Writer's Program, he has been nominated for the James Kirkwood Prize for Creative Writing.