Maybe you’ve heard your friends say it, “I’m taking this course online…” It’s not surprising. Changing the face of education for women, online study options have grown in popularity in the past ten years with more and more online accredited colleges cropping-up. Even Ivy League brick-and-mortar schools are increasing their online presence, offering everything from single courses to full degrees—all from the comfort of your home.
Given the flexibility of online study options—after all, you can study at any hour of the day or night, even while wearing your pajamas—it should not be shocking to learn that the majority of online students are women. According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), over 60% of those currently studying online are women, most of them over 25-years-old. Online education for women, more so than men, is perceived as a viable learning option.
Women Education Statistics
The AAUW Educational Foundation states that women—already well known for their multi-tasking ability—are now adding what is being called a “third shift” to their day. Women are taking advantage of the current online learning trend and earning degrees that will help facilitate personal growth, their careers, and their long term job security.
According to a report on women education statistics by the AAUW, the image of an online student as a dabbler, searching for one or two “fun” courses is inaccurate. In fact, most women who are studying online have a specific degree plan and have educational goals and aspirations that are similar to most freshman students at brick-and-mortar colleges and universities. Overall, education for women has taken an upturn, and they are embracing all of the various online study options available.
Cheris Kramarae, the author of the AAUW study says, “Online students are seeking the same intellectual engagement and richness that students seek in the traditional context. It’s important that online learning not give short shrift to these goals and priorities. Women studying online are looking to improve their careers, not just dabble in crafts.”
Benefits of Online Education for Women
Undoubtedly, there is a difference in the class structure when the classroom is on your laptop. Many challenges exist, such as not having face-time with your teachers or difficulties in collaboration (after all, it is tough to meet at the library when one student is in New York and another in Kansas). However, for many, the benefits outweigh the challenges.
According to the same AAUW study, online learning is a preferred education option for women because of four factors:
- Family and Flexibility– Many women love the fact that with online continuing education, they can eat dinner with the kids, help them with homework, and then bundle them off to bed before they sit down and study. Not having to cope with the commuting and time constraints of traditional classroom learning makes the online study option far more flexible than traditional instruction.
- Saving Money– No need to hire a babysitter or pay for parking, gas or tolls when you can plop down on the comfy couch at home and go to class. While tuition and fees may not be substantially less than traditional classes, the flexibility of learning at home translates to financial savings.
- Fulfillment– Many women set aside their personal goals to start or support a family by entering a career field that isn’t fulfilling. The number one reason most women cite for going back to school is to not only increase their knowledge and expertise, but also to take steps down the path to that dream job they abandoned earlier in life.
- Anonymity– Additional statistics revealed by the study indicate that older women prefer online learning, because it helps them to feel less out of place in a classroom full of 18-year-olds. One 31-year-old legal secretary in the study said, “Because of my age, compared to the average college student, I feel I don’t need the social aspect as much as someone younger may feel they need it. In fact, on some levels, I’m happy not to have to deal with other students.”
Online Learning’s Impact on Women
Online education for women has begun to open many doors. It’s not just career-oriented women who are benefiting from online study options. According to the Center for Women and Work in New Jersey, the New Jersey Department of Labor piloted a workforce development program that helped poor single working mothers receive skills training at home.
The program had a retention rate of 92%, with every single woman saying that it was the ability to study at home that made it possible. These women went on to better jobs, increasing their salaries by 14% in the first year after the programs. States across the nation have taken note of this program’s success and are considering similar ideas.
With the women education statistics that the AAUW Educational Foundation has gathered, there is little doubt that online learning can help clear many of the hurdles for women returning to school. While it can be challenging and stressful, most women who earn an online degree are proud of their successes and recommend it highly to others. If you’ve been contemplating a return to school but were worried about how you would fit it into your busy schedule, an online degree program may be your answer.