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Online Learning: Affordable Upskilling in a Recession

Online adult learning is one of the hottest trends in education. In fall of 2020, 75% of college students took at least one online course, and 44% took classes exclusively online. Although the pandemic is waning, this trend is not.

Online education offers the flexibility to attend classes on your terms in a setting that feels comfortable to you. Employers are much more accepting of online degrees, especially from accredited institutions with strong reputations. This means that it’s up to you which path you choose, and there are many benefits of online learning for adults.

Here are some reasons an online degree program might be right for you: 

Control Over Your Schedule
Less Stress 
A More Affordable Degree Path 
A Commitment to Lifetime Learning 

Control Over Your Schedule 

Online learning isn’t just for kids taking classes remotely. In fact, for many adults, it may be the best or even the only way to go back to school. You’re an adult now, meaning you’re juggling numerous responsibilities. Adding college into the mix means another ball to keep in the air. So the last thing you need is someone else telling you exactly when to juggle that ball. 

Online learning gives you control over your schedule so you can learn on your own time and terms. Not only does this reduce stress, but it also: 

  • Helps you gain time management skills. 
  • Allows you to continue working, parenting and pursuing hobbies while going to school. 
  • Empowers you to establish your daily priorities. 
  • Lends significant flexibility because you don’t have to go to school at the same time each day. 

Less Stress 

Consider what a typical day of in-person classes might look like as a working adult. You duck out of work early, jump in the car and hope you can get to school on time. You may have to fight traffic, look for parking and then dash to the classroom. Or if you’re coming from home, you may have to shower, get dressed enough to look put together and then face the long commute. 

These small stressors add up over time, and they’re unnecessary. You don’t have to get in the car — or even get dressed — to attend classes online. Just head to your cozy workspace and learn when it’s most convenient for you. 

A More Affordable Degree Path 

You may worry about your future, even if you have a great job. A college degree opens new career doors, boosts earnings and reduces unemployment, helping to recession-proof your life. 

Online learning is more affordable, making it an ideal choice during economic downturns — whether in your own home or the wider economy. At many schools, you’ll pay less for an online degree. And even when tuition costs are the same for online and in-person learning, you can potentially save thousands on secondary expenses such as: 

  • Gas 
  • Wear and tear on your car 
  • Childcare 
  • Parking fees 
  • Lost wages from taking time off of work 

A Disability-Friendly Option

Twenty-six percent of American adults live with at least one disability. These challenges can make it harder to go back to school. A mobility impairment means that it may take longer to get to class, or that you’ll have to contend with inaccessible class spaces. ADHD, autism or sensory processing disorders can make the traditional classroom feel overwhelming, undermining learning. But online learning offers a workable accommodation.

Mental health conditions are common too. If you live with anxiety, large classrooms may feel overwhelming. People with depression may struggle to get out of bed. And those who experienced extreme trauma may find that certain settings exacerbate their PTSD. 

Online settings are more inclusive to people with physical disabilities, learning disabilities and mental health conditions. SNU values diversity, equity and inclusion, including for the disabled community. As a military-friendly school, we also understand that soldiers frequently live with physical and mental health challenges, so we have built our online courses to be as accessible as possible. 

A Commitment to Lifetime Learning

If you have kids, you probably know that instilling the value of hard work is beneficial. In fact, research shows that kids benefit more from praise for hard work than praise for innate talents like intellect. This type of praise cultivates a growth mindset, in which children learn that hard work pays off and they can learn more and do more if they apply themselves. 

What does this have to do with online learning? Plenty. If your kids see you showing up for classes, working hard and bettering yourself and your life, they know that they can too — at any age or stage. You’re modeling a commitment to lifetime learning that your kids may remember when they encounter their own adult challenges. 

Less Time Away From Work and Family

Consider the hidden time costs of commuting to school several days a week. Even a relatively short 20-minute commute can suck an hour out of each day when you factor in parking and traffic. And let’s not forget the time involved in getting ready, lining up childcare and getting sucked into conversations after class. You could easily spend three or more hours a day on a class that lasts an hour. 

Online learning costs less time, and time is a precious and finite resource — one of the few we can’t earn back. That means less time away from work, and with it, less job stress and fewer lost wages. It also means spending less time away from family, friends, pets and other loved ones. Your time matters. Online learning helps you reclaim it. 

Managing the Challenges of Online Learning

Though online adult learning offers many benefits, it also poses some challenges. Schools with extensive experience building online programs often put in significant work to offset these difficulties, so consider choosing a school with a long history of online learning or a program specifically for busy adults. 

Some of the ways SNU helps online learners include: 

  • An innovative cohort model that helps you build your professional network.
  • Student services that provide plentiful resources to boost professional skills. 
  • A strong sense of community, thanks to our Christian model of education and leadership. 

We know that adult learners face unique challenges. We’re here to help you with: 

  • Financial aid decisions, including how much debt you can safely take on and what to do if you’ve defaulted on student loans. 
  • Classes taught by experts who can help you quickly gain the skills you need. 
  • Rolling admissions so you can start school when it’s convenient. 
  • No admissions tests. 
  • A six-week, one-course-at-a-time model that allows you to focus on a single class and graduate as quickly as possible. 


Online learning is not a walk in the park, and that’s the point. We learn by challenging ourselves, and online coursework can be just as rigorous and challenging as in-person learning. Online learning requires a deep commitment to professional networking and the development of soft skills. But for most people, the convenience far outweighs any challenges. 

Southern Nazarene University’s School of Professional and Graduate Studies offers online and in-person classes. Not sure what option is right for you? We have an infographic to help you choose!

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