Online education is sweeping the nation. Online enrollments alone grew by 9.7 percent in the last five years, significantly more than the 1.5 percent growth of higher education in general. What was at first perceived with caution is now touted by some of the nation’s most prestigious universities.
With the constant innovation that is required by the medical field, let’s take a look at the advantages to a healthcare administration degree online in contrast to on-campus learning and examine the role each plays in educating future healthcare professionals.
There are a plethora of options for administrative healthcare positions—from entry-level jobs like medical secretary and health information technician to more advanced opportunities in healthcare management. But we can come back to the career tracks later. With so many potential pathways, let’s first explore the degree tracks necessary to find these careers.
If you feel like a future in healthcare is your calling, let’s start with the basics—should you earn your degree online or on campus? Perhaps a combination of both makes the most sense? By weighing the pros and cons of these options you will be able to narrow down your college choices and ultimately find the right field for you.
Online vs. on campus: time commitment
The first area to consider when weighing these two options is the amount of time you can commit to the program. This is the best place to start, according to Jolyn Brand, professional consultant at Brand College Consulting, an organization that helps students choose a college.
Ask yourself, are you able to go to school full-time or will you be working during your program and require more flexibility?
This an especially important question for healthcare students who need to participate in an externship toward the end of their program. The flexibility of an online program was a major consideration for health information management graduate, Jennifer Knutson, who also needed to work while going to school.
How to decide…
- Online: This is a great option if you have a job that requires you to work during the day, children with a set schedule or other unmovable time commitments. The online classes allow you to log in at a time that works for you as opposed to making it to a specified lecture time.
- On campus: This will work for you if you have more wiggle room in your schedule. Many colleges offer classes during the day or evening so you can still have a job. You also may want to consider your proximity to the campus so that you can factor in your commute time in your time commitment.
Online vs. on campus: structure
The next question to ask yourself is how much structure you require to be successful in your learning process. Brand advises students to be honest with themselves about their ability to self-motivate when considering taking classes online.
When considering a career in healthcare administration, this is not only an important question for your education but for your work environment as well. One critical skill for healthcare administration is self-discipline, particularly with so many health information jobs allowing employees to work from home. Knutson feels confident that the diligence she learned through the online structure is helping her to be successful working outside of the hospital.
How to decide…
- Online: Online options will work well for you if you have the ability to self-motivate. Your classes will likely have a couple of deadlines per week to help organize your study schedule, but without set classroom times, you are responsible for logging in to your activities.
- On campus: A campus environment will be best for you if you need physical interaction with your instructor and environment to be successful. The direct face-time with your instructors can allow for real-time dialogue which helps some to further their understanding of the material.
Online vs. on campus: tools & learning methods
A final area to consider when weighing the differences of an online program versus a more traditional campus experience is what types of tools will help you succeed.
Campus classes rely on the standard model of lectures to relay information and quizzes to determine the students’ comprehension of the material. Online classes often use a variety of tools from interactive graphics, self-paced quizzes and flash cards to help reinforce the material. Healthcare students may find the extra tools useful considering all of the terminology included in primary courses like anatomy and physiology.
How to decide…
- Online: You will need to be able to read and digest material from the text since there is typically not a lecture associated with online modalities. Along with that, there are a lot more interactive tools available in the digital world to help you retain the information.
- On campus: This option is better for you if you require more a more hands-on approach to your learning style. On campus works best if you process information in lecture format better than reading subject matter at your own pace.
To sum up …
There are pros and cons for both sides when it comes to online versus on-campus education. It’s important to weigh all of the factors so that you identify the best modality for your learning style and career focus.
These opportunities are especially relevant in the healthcare industry where major companies like Google and Johnson & Johnson are recognizing the importance of medical professionals being technologically savvy. There is currently a "digital divide" in healthcare that is seeing companies favor those with technological expertise over those without it. It’s a growing problem in the industry and one that will continue to rear its ugly head as healthcare careers at all levels begin to require more advanced technological skills.
Online classes are one potential way for you to gain a competitive advantage in your own digital fluency. The digital competence gained by earning a healthcare administration degree online can open doors to job opportunities across the healthcare industry.
To find out more about the possible areas of study in healthcare head over to our School of Health Sciences program pages for details on classes, completion times, and potential career outcomes.