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5 ways online courses trump paper-based options

woman taking an online course on a laptop
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Online courses have been around for a while, but have risen in popularity in recent years. If you are thinking about taking on a course to study, whether to help your career or just for the pleasure of learning, here are five reasons to choose an online course over a more traditional paper-based option.


An online course is, by its nature, easier to access than a traditional paper-based one. In-person courses are restricted to those students within reasonable travel distance or require a student to move to be where the course is, even temporarily.

An online course allows students to access and take the course regardless of their location. In many cases, this includes being in a different country or continent entirely. What this means in practice is that students looking at online courses have a much greater range to choose from, so can always find the perfect course for their needs.

Taking an online course is also more practical for students who have additional needs due to disability or illness. They do not need to compromise on the courses they can take due to site accessibility or timetables, with an online course providing the flexibility to fit into their lives, including treatments and other needs if required.

Improved Retention Rates

Education providers around the world have found that online courses offer higher retention rates than traditionally delivered courses. There are no conclusive studies as to why this is, but it is thought that because online courses offer improved flexibility to fit into busy lives, students find fewer issues along the way that force them to drop the course.

In addition, being able to study when it suits the student can help with hectic schedules. Students who work in particular may find some days too challenging to fit study in. If they have a classroom to attend they have no options, and may simply not go, but an online course means they can study at a better time, without any issues.

Less time investment for students

That same idea, of being able to fit online studies around life, rather than having to attend specific classes at specific times, is a benefit in itself. Time in class, alongside travel to and from the course and everything else involved, is a significant time investment every week.

Students taking an online course can take similar classes and study just as much with significantly lower time investment. With the pressure of work and other commitments only increasing, this makes online courses a more practical approach for many students, and for others, it gives study options where a traditional class would simply be impossible.

More effective and frequent feedback

One of the challenges for students, and something that can lead to people leaving courses, is the lack of assessment and feedback on performance. In a traditional course, tests and feedback are often irregular, but an online course can provide almost continuous assessment and feedback through shorter tests about specific educational content.

Studies show that this kind of constant assessment increases student engagement and improves content retention significantly. That level of engagement keeps students interested and motivated, leading to more students completing courses, with students achieving outcomes they may not have done on a more traditional course.

Sustainable education

Studies by the UK’s Open University have shown that a student attending an online course uses around 89% less energy than one attending a traditional, in-person course. From eliminating the need to travel to dramatically reducing paper consumption and so much more, an online course represents a sustainable future for education.

Using fewer resources in this way is good for students, good for education providers and good for the planet itself. Online courses represent a sustainable future for the education of all kinds. 

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