There are plenty of advantages to an online education, like the flexibility and convenience, the ability to choose a school across the country without moving and often, a more affordable price tag. However, no one education path is the right choice for every student, and online college is no exception.

Which Students Might Not Find Online College to Be the Right Fit?

While an online education can cover the same material as an on-campus education can, the structure of online courses can be drastically different. You don’t have to enter a designated physical classroom to begin your studies. Many online college courses are asynchronous, which means you don’t even have to complete your coursework at a certain time.

While this flexibility is part of online college’s appeal, it can also be difficult and even frustrating for students who need structure to succeed, reported Massachusetts-based WWLP-22News. Students who find it more difficult to learn and work independently than in a group, or those who have a hard time focusing, may find it difficult to adjust to the lack of structure typical of online courses. Students who enjoy the personal interaction of learning from an in-person professor with a classroom full of peers might find it jarring, or even isolating, when their only study companion is a computer.

Which Students Is Online College Right For?

Just because there are downsides to an online education doesn’t mean it’s not the perfect fit for many students. For students who are internally motivated and prefer to learn independently, the structure – or lack thereof – of an online college course is ideal.

In particular, online courses are excellent for working students, part-time students, nontraditional students and active military personnel. They allow people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to further their education – like stay-at-home parents and deployed military personnel – earn a degree.

Today’s online course creators are striving to enhance the benefits and reduce the disadvantages of an online education. Many online courses are becoming more interactive, with media like educational videos, animated presentations and virtual laboratory experiences to better engage students. Online courses also encourage, and sometimes even require, participation in virtual class discussions through forums and chats hosted on the online learning platform. Besides changing the landscape of the virtual classroom, many colleges are also adding support services for online students.

What can you do to find out if an online education is right for you without shelling out the time and money to begin taking courses? Some online colleges will allow you to preview programs so you can get a taste of what your education there would be like. Another option is to enroll in a MOOC, a free open online college-level course that doesn’t offer college credit. While the structure of a MOOC isn’t identical to what you’ll find in a for-credit online course, the experience will allow you to test drive the online learning experience to find out if it’s a good learning method for you.