If you have an associate’s degree or are currently working toward one, your future goals may involve enrolling in a bachelor’s degree completion program. However, if you’re hesitant to set a timeline for meeting that goal, you’re not alone. Going back to school to earn a bachelor’s degree can be an overwhelming prospect. Beyond the fact that the investment of time and resources required is substantial, there is the uncertainty. Potential bachelor’s degree completion students often wonder how well they’ll fit into the classroom environment or whether they’ll be able to keep up with schoolwork while employed. They worry that it’s too late to earn a bachelor’s or that they won’t be able to succeed in college as a full-time working parent.
Programs that let students complete bachelor’s degrees online, such as the Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Programs at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, address some of that uncertainty and make it easier to commit to earning a degree. Part-time online degree completion programs are more accessible than traditional full-time bachelor’s degree programs for several reasons. First, there’s flexibility. Working professionals returning to college or adults caring for young children and elderly family members need anytime access to course materials plus the ability to complete some project work asynchronously. Then there is convenience. Non-traditional students often don’t have the time to commute to and from campus for classes.
Those are the most obvious benefits of online education but hardly the only ones. There are numerous surprising benefits of pursuing degree completion online. Below, we explore 11 of them.
How You’ll Benefit from Completing a Bachelor’s Degree Online
1. You Can Engage with Course Content in New Ways
A great deal of online learning happens via interactive video, chats, and project work instead of a more traditional lecture model. This lets students employ different learning strategies than they might use in an on-campus classroom. For example, online students can rewatch lectures, so they don’t have to take notes the first time they sit through a lesson. They can focus more intently on the content and take notes during a subsequent viewing, reinforcing what they’ve already learned and providing an opportunity to engage with anything they miss.
2. You Can Take the Time You Need
In full-time on-campus bachelor’s degree programs, lectures are seldom recorded and students leave class with whatever notes they can take. Students completing bachelor’s degrees online can review complex lesson content as often as necessary to master the material. Many higher education institutions with bachelor’s completion programs break down course content into shorter, easily digestible lessons instead of long-form lectures.
Recorded lectures are also more accommodating for students with disabilities. Online students with hearing or visual impairments can engage with course materials using screen readers, real-time captioning, and other technologies.
3. You Can Collaborate with Peers More Easily
In online degree programs, professors often use class time for discussion and review rather than lecturing. Instead, they employ a “flipped classroom” model. Students listen to lectures on their own time, and synchronous class time involves collaborative discourse and project work. Flipped classrooms benefit students because they promote independent learning skills and students can keep engaging with the material even when life makes getting to class challenging.
4. There are More Ways to Participate in Class
Research shows that classroom participation enhances student engagement and knowledge retention, but not everyone is comfortable raising their hand. The traditional campus classroom environment favors extroverts—particularly in classes that have a participation requirement. Online courses offer students additional ways to participate, including discussion forums and bulletin boards, in-class chats, polls, small group discussions in breakout rooms, and virtual group projects. These additional opportunities to participate make it easier for all students to have a voice in the classroom.
5. The Online Environment May Be More Supportive
Remote learning offers some students new opportunities to thrive. Minority students and non-traditional students may feel more comfortable in online classrooms where they’re less likely to experience microaggressions or overt discrimination. Students from small community colleges may feel more comfortable interacting with peers in tight-knit virtual classrooms than in large university lecture halls.
6. You’ll Learn From a Broader Range of Experts
UT’s online bachelor’s completion degree program is administered by the university’s flagship college, The College of Arts and Sciences—the largest, most comprehensive, and most diverse of UT’s eleven colleges. The faculty are a central driver of student success. However, distance learners at the University of Tennessee also learn from guest lecturers because it is easier to bring in outside experts when courses are online.
7. You’ll Get More Comfortable Working in Virtual Environments
When pursuing online education, bachelor’s completion students navigate Learning Management Systems (LMS), participate in live online classes, submit assignments online, participate in asynchronous forums and bulletin boards, and meet virtually with faculty and classmates. Most graduates of the Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Programs are extremely comfortable using technology and engaging with others virtually—two skills that are now indispensable in workplaces.
8. You’ll Become More Disciplined
Remote undergraduate degree programs usually deliver course content through a mix of synchronous (live) classes and asynchronous materials (e.g., videos, readings, quizzes, and other coursework). The extra flexibility online learning offers makes it possible for busy working adults to pursue degree completion. Students take online courses at set times but complete the rest of their work when it’s convenient. Making time to watch pre-recorded lectures, study online readings, complete online assignments, and participate in online forums requires planning and time-management skills. That takes a great deal of self-discipline. Studying online sharpens online students’ organization skills, time management skills, and work ethic.
9. You’ll Grow a Global Professional Network
The University of Tennessee provides students completing bachelor’s degrees online with numerous opportunities to interact with faculty members, classmates, potential employers, and alumni. UT has built purposeful interaction (e.g., virtual office hours and interactive online classes) into the Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Programs curriculum. Students in the online bachelor’s degree completion program also grow their networks in virtual career development events attended by potential employers and university alumni. The University of Tennessee boasts over 400,000 living alumni—more than half of them in Tennessee.
10. You’ll Save Money
Most students enroll in online bachelor’s degree completion programs for the flexibility, not because these programs cost less. However, distance learners may pay less than students on campus for the same degree. Studying in a traditional bachelor’s program can require frequent trips to campus, which means on-campus learners pay commuting costs (e.g., gas, parking, vehicle maintenance, and public transportation fees) on top of tuition.
11. You’ll Benefit from Your Bachelor’s More Quickly
Pursuing college credits full-time can accelerate the undergraduate experience, but part-time students in online bachelor’s degree completion programs have an edge when applying what they learn. Being able to earn a college degree at their own pace means they can keep working and use the career-ready skills they’re learning in their classes right away. Some degree completion students receive promotions while completing bachelor’s degrees online. Others transition into new organizations or fields before graduation.
Why You Should Earn Your Online Bachelor’s Degree at UT
The University of Tennessee’s bachelor of arts degree completion program is for students with qualified associate’s degrees from eligible Tennessee community colleges. These non-traditional learners are among the 60 percent of adults who don’t have undergraduate degrees but want to go back to school. People associate the undergraduate experience with full-time, post-secondary school study, but research shows close to half of all college students are over 25.
Adult learners in degree completion programs tend to be focused and goal-oriented and may even be more likely to finish than other bachelor’s candidates when they already have credits from an associate’s degree program with accreditation. Their higher graduation rates may come down to feeling motivated to finish what they started. New enrollees in the interdisciplinary studies program can bring in up to 90 transfer credits—they only have to complete their last 30 credits at UT. The University Admissions Committee evaluates transfer credits when applicants are under review for admission, so students know where they stand before they begin.
Don’t mistakenly assume that liberal studies programs are not career-oriented. UT offers two areas of emphasis: Public Policy & Administration, which can lead to careers in education, policy analysis, politics, and community organizing, or Cultures & Societies, which can lead to careers in human resources, journalism, law, research, and public relations. Online degree completion students also go on to work in healthcare, criminal justice, business administration, human services, elementary education, the social sciences, and other fields. Both program tracks teach transferable skills such as interpersonal relations, communication, critical thinking, and writing as well as career-specific skills.
Because this program is so flexible, you can earn a bachelor’s degree online on your schedule. How long that will take is entirely up to you. If you choose full-time enrollment, you can take a minimum of 12 credit hours or as many as 19 credit hours in the fall and spring semesters plus up to 12 credit hours of courses in summer sessions. Part-time enrollment involves taking at least six credit hours per semester. That means you can earn a bachelor’s degree in less than two years or over three years or more if you need more flexibility to finish.
Ultimately, having a bachelor’s degree pays off in more ways than one. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workers with associate’s degrees earn $938 on average per week. Employees with bachelor’s degrees earn closer to $1,305 per week, which adds up to an additional $19,084 per year. However, that’s only the beginning. Once you have your bachelor’s degree, you will have more career flexibility and more career stability plus the kinds of skills that will help you stand out in increasingly competitive markets.
Financial aid and scholarships are available. Start your application online today.