As you begin choosing a school for your distance learning education, you might be surprised at how many online institutions are universities or four-year colleges. What if you only want an associate’s degree at this point in your life, or if you’re looking for the affordability of a local community college combined with the convenience of an online education? Rest assured that you can take online courses, and even entire online degree programs, at the community college level. In fact, there are a lot of benefits to earning a community college education online – but there are also risks you need to be aware of to succeed in attaining your degree

The Advantages of an Online Community College Education

Value, convenience, and options – what more could a student want? Earning a community college degree online provides all of these benefits.

While online college in general can be more affordable, the cost of many online universities is still somewhat comparable to the cost of an in-person university education. Community colleges, on the other hand, may offer an online education for as little as a couple to a few thousand dollars a semester for full-time students.

As with other online courses, students of community college programs can usually complete their work on the schedule that works best for them – whether that means before they leave for work or after the kids are in bed asleep. Not only can they earn their degrees from virtually anywhere, but online community college students may actually enjoy more freedom in course selection than their peers at on-campus programs. States like California and South Carolina are considering creating statewide online hubs that allow community college students to access online courses – and support – from any community college in the state.

Obstacles Facing Online Community College Students

While many students successfully use online learning to get a degree and advance their careers, many others fail their courses. In particular, “research has shown over and over again that community college students who enroll in online courses are significantly more likely to fail or withdraw than those in traditional classes,” according to The New York Times.

Why do students – particularly community college students – fail online courses? Part of the problem is perception. Students who go into distance learning believing that an online class will be easier or less time-consuming than a traditional course set themselves up for failure. Though they can do their coursework on their own schedule, they have to make sure that the work eventually gets done and that it meets the high standards of any college course. Another part of the problem is lack of engagement and support. Online learning requires the motivation and dedication to study independently and seek out help when necessary.

While there are plenty of benefits to earning an associate’s degree online, there are also drawbacks to a distance learning education – and studies show that some of these drawbacks are particularly concerning for community college students.