Taking online or hybrid college classes


Online technology has made huge advancements and changed our lives in countless ways over the past 25 years or so. How we think about college has been part of those changes. Though the traditional on-campus college experience still remains, there are also online and hybrid options that students can choose from.

What are online and hybrid college courses?

You probably have a pretty good idea of what online courses are. They are courses your student takes completely online without ever having to step foot onto a college campus. The course credit and degree they earn through completing online courses is the same as if they took their courses in person.

A hybrid course is a blend of in-person and online learning. Students might spend one day per week in a classroom and other portions of the week watching an online lecture or participating in some other form of remote learning.

As with most things, learning online has its share of pros and cons. 

Benefits of online or hybrid learning


Maybe your student has family commitments or a non-traditional work schedule. Perhaps your family lives in a rural area far from the nearest college campus. Whatever the situation, online learning offers lots of schedule flexibility.

Comfort of virtual participation

What sounds more comfortable — sitting on a rigid chair at a clunky table or sitting on a couch in a pair of pajamas with a cup of tea? As comfort goes, learning virtually can be as relaxing as your student wants to make it.

Offers both campus engagement and flexibility

Hybrid learning can be the best of both worlds. Part of the time your student can have the flexibility and comfort of online learning, and the other part they can remain engaged and connected to the campus environment and other students.

Suitable for different learning styles

Some students just learn better online. Maybe your student does their best late at night. If so, they can do schoolwork at midnight online but certainly couldn’t take a midnight class on a college campus. Or maybe they do better when learning completely alone rather than having the distraction of other students around them. Online learning is ideal in that situation.

Gain self-discipline

Online learning is all about self-discipline. After all, not having to show up to class at a certain time on a certain day means your student will have to set (and stick to!) their own schedule. If they are successful, they’ll have made huge gains in honing their self-discipline. (Warning: self-discipline can be a challenge, though. More on this in a bit.)

Learn at their own pace

If your student learns online, they’ll still have to learn material and complete assignments by certain due dates, but they’ll have more freedom to learn the day-to-day and week-to-week material at their own pace.

Challenges of online or hybrid learning

Less campus engagement

It can be harder to stay connected to classmates and campus activities if your student isn’t on campus very often or at all. These connections are valuable in helping your student do better and thrive while they’re in college.

Must overcome any hurdles with technology

For your student to take online classes, they need the proper equipment (think: computer, Wi-Fi, internet service, etc.) and often have to act as their own IT person when computer troubles inevitably arrive.

Requires self-discipline

Self-discipline can be either a benefit or a challenge. If your student is already self-disciplined or is pretty good at it but just needs a little more practice, then it’s definitely a benefit. But if they struggle with self-discipline, online learning might not be right for them.

Fewer networking opportunities

Now is the time for your student to really start building their network of contacts — the people they will connect with now and after they graduate to learn about career, leadership and other opportunities. But if they aren’t regularly on campus and having face-to-face time with other students and professors, your student will have a more challenging time building their network.

There are unique factors to each family’s situation, like location and finances, but ultimately the choice between online or hybrid learning versus on-campus learning should come down to what will be the best experience for your student. And the better they know themself, the easier that choice will be for them.