For better or for worse, many people underwent major career changes in 2020. As people’s needs and public life changed in ways we never foresaw, life in the modern workplace adjusted to match.

If you feel like you need to brush up on your skills, you’re not alone. Going back to school as an adult is a timely choice right now, and the many benefits of online classes make doing so easier than ever before.

Take a look at this list of what virtual learning can do for you.

1. Everyone Qualifies for Many Online Classes

An unfortunate barrier to education is when schools require prospective students to meet strict qualifications to get in.

There are various reasons someone may not have done well in high school, and tests like the SAT can be expensive and hard to access. In the same vein, colleges and universities also cut people off from learning by asking for high school graduation or a GED.

Quite a few online courses don’t require any qualifications. Any adult can take online classes, whether or not they have good grades, high test scores, or a diploma.

Some online schools take this flexibility a step further by letting you take classes without making an account. You might be able to attend without so much as giving the school an email address.

2. Don’t Break the Bank to Get Back to Class

Perhaps the most notorious barrier to higher education is the cost. While traditional college tuition continues skyrocketing, many online courses are 100% free.

If you choose a good program, the class quality hardly differs from major schools. The best programs employ experts and instructors from those very schools to create their free online courses. This gives all kinds of people the chance to access, for example, Ivy League instruction. 

Without online school, that’s an unrealistic goal for the majority of people, often for financial reasons.

3. Set Your Schedule for Maximum Flexibility

Those with kids, pets, and other responsibilities at home may miss traditional offices and in-person learning. To a degree, these issues will subside as businesses like schools, daycares, and even doggy daycares start offering in-person services again.

Yet, distance learners and work-at-home employees without access to a private home office or separate rented space can’t avoid some distractions.

Many online schools have a built-in fix to this problem: There’s often little to no strict schedule students have to follow. It’s a lot easier to plan your day and juggle responsibilities without, say, an hour and a half of class from 10-12:30 and another two hours from 2-4.

One of the biggest benefits of virtual learning is that setting your schedule and pace opens up possibilities for busy learners.

4. Take Time to Figure Out What You Want to Study

When you’re enrolled in a traditional school, you have to stick to a schedule each semester and every day. Those schedules are part of a larger plan, in which academies push students to graduate on a strict timeline.

Schools expect students to get in, get degrees, and get out within four years. They also don’t allow room for many more credits past what you need for your degree. The way financial aid works reinforces the pressure.

This makes school a challenge for disabled students, parents, and others who need a more flexible schedule. All students suffer from this because it pushes them to choose a course of study early on. What an 18-year-old freshman wants to do may be nothing like what the same person prefers as a 22-year-old graduate.

The flexibility online school provides (and how easy it is to afford) gives people time to explore what they want to study before committing to a program.

It’s a good tool for those thinking of going to a pricey brick-and-mortar school. Everyone can use the extra time to choose a program whether or not money is an issue. Realizing you don’t want to complete a degree you started isn’t pleasant, so take advantage of online courses and avoid the issue.

5. Don’t Worry if You Can’t Finish

It’s a chaotic time to take classes and many students failed or had to drop out for personal reasons. Some people overestimated their ability to work under the stress of the times, while others dealt with personal tragedies.

As much hope as there is for a post-pandemic future, chances are that these issues will be more common than they used to be—at least for a while.

Along with easier day-to-day scheduling, dealing with online classes when you face difficult circumstances is easier than ending in-person classes. If you’re studying outside of a degree-seeking program, dropping out of a class won’t have much, if any, impact on your long-term record.

6. Rediscover That Learning Is Fun

Most people’s studies all took place in grade school and a laid-out degree program. If they attended a college or university, the goal was to learn career skills and secure a healthy financial future.

Yet, heading back to school is good for more than advancing your career. 

Learning makes people happier and can lead to a longer life. If that’s surprising to you because you never enjoyed school, think about how little control you had over what you learned and when and where you studied. Taking time to learn about things you enjoy improves your quality of life.

On top of the control you have over your studies and circumstances, online classes come with less stress because they’re affordable or even free. Most people can’t afford to pay for traditional classes for fun. Virtual education opportunities let everyone do it. 

Combine the Benefits of Online Classes With Great Career Advice

If you weren’t already on the online learning train to improve your career, these benefits of online classes should bring you on board. 

Online classes by themselves give you a leg up over your colleagues. Combined with quality advice, they make you unstoppable.

Pick up more great tips and tricks for work success right here. Click on another article to learn what else you can do to boost your career success.