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Benefits of Online Programs in Computer and Information Science

March 07, 2024
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If you want to distinguish yourself in the world of computing and information science, online education can fast-track your career growth. In 2023, nearly 15% of all postsecondary learners in the United States—roughly 2.7 million students—are opting for online learning instead of traditional education.1

During the pandemic, many institutions had to quickly put together online offerings out of necessity. That led some to question the effectiveness of online education. Since then, the industry has grown and learned lessons along the way to improve student outcomes. And, while not all online learning programs are created equal, research shows that multimedia elements can accommodate different learning styles, enhance retention of information and boost student engagement.2 

In this blog post, we explore the many benefits of pursuing online education in computing and information science, including flexibility, affordability and career advancement.

The flexibility, accessibility and convenience of online learning

Whether you are balancing a full-time job or managing a household, online education puts you in the driver’s seat of your education journey. You will be in good company, joining diverse students who range from career changers to first-generation students and military veterans. While students in courses may come from different backgrounds and lived experiences, each of them want the same thing you do: to balance their personal and professional life with flexibility over how and when they learn. 

Most online degrees allow you to tailor your learning schedule, so you don’t have to worry about missing a lecture because of work or family commitments. In addition, course modules are designed to be accessible to a wide range of learners, including those with special needs. That benefits all students, including English language learners, individuals with hearing loss and those with caregiving responsibilities.3 With materials available anytime, work on readings and practice problems at your own pace. You can also replay videos and review transcript materials as often as needed to understand concepts and be successful in the course.3

Global participation

With part-time and full-time course loads available, online learning allows individuals to engage in a university education without being bound by location. Students from different corners of the world converge in online degree programs bringing diverse perspectives to discussions and enriching the overall learning experience.4

Additionally, there is a growing demand for multilingual professionals with a computer science background.4 It’s important to understand how cultural values impact technology use. The more opportunities you have to interact with students from different cultures, the better prepared you will be for roles that require cross-cultural knowledge or experience.4 

Interactive online learning environments

Many students learn best "by doing" and collaborating with others, especially in creative fields. In online courses, you don’t have to sacrifice these opportunities for the sake of convenience. Online courses can go beyond the physical classroom and use various methods to promote student engagement with course materials and each other.4 For example, collaborative forums and discussions provide opportunities to learn from faculty and peers while building a sense of community. Virtual labs, which cost less than traditional computer labs, provide the most up-to-date training in cybersecurity tools, machine learning environments and more.5 Hands-on projects also help students develop business skills, such as designing information science solutions that work for actual clients.

Multimedia rich content

Online courses are credited with increasing student retention rates by anywhere from 25 to 60%, according to the Research Institute of America.2 Multimedia content such as videos, simulations, and interactive modules have done wonders to engage learners and maintain their interest. This online learning environment not only caters to different styles but also provides a more immersive and dynamic educational experience.

Collaboration and real-time feedback

Here are some ways that collaborative learning can be intentionally integrated into online education: 

  • Hands-on learning: Virtual labs and simulation tools allow learners to practice technical skills in a safe and controlled environment5
  • Project-based learning: Real-world projects allow learners to apply the skills they’ve acquired, reinforce learning and create a portfolio of work to share with potential employers
  • Interactive coding challenges: Coding challenges have become an integral part of technical skill development, providing a fun environment where learners compete, solve coding problems and get real-time feedback6

Access to expert instructors

Online learners benefit from direct interaction with experienced instructors and industry professionals in computing and information science. You will be exposed to global perspectives and diverse teaching styles, which only serve to enrich your educational journey. Live Q&A sessions and personalized assignment feedback foster a more supportive learning environment. 

Additionally, it’s much easier for universities to form partnerships in the business world and bring in virtual guest speakers who are experts in the field. That opens doors to greater networking opportunities within the professional community.

The cost-effectiveness and affordability of online learning

Traditional degree programs often require that students attend school full-time, which can require leaving a job to pursue an advanced degree. With the skyrocketing college costs, it should come as no surprise that affordability is the number one reason why students choose to learn online. Nearly 77% of participants in a recent Statista survey identified affordability as the most influential factor in pursuing an online degree.7   

With an online program, students can also avoid additional education-related expenses, such as commuting and housing, which can add thousands of dollars more a year to the price tag for continuing education. To further ease your financial burden, find out if you are eligible for financial aid or scholarships, such as the Department of Defense Cyber Scholarship Program.

Skill enhancement and specializations

One way that online learning can enhance your career is through specialized courses and certifications. These personalized paths allow you to acquire in-demand skills in information technology fields, such as artificial intelligence and cyber defense. 

Personalized learning paths

Many online instructors are leveraging AI capabilities to promote inclusive learning environments where every college student can reach their full academic potential.8 Industry experts like Udemy CEO Greg Brown, say the wave of the future will be personalized learning.9 

To stay competitive, universities offer innovative continuing options that come with name recognition and are cost-effective. They have shifted their focus from a one-size-fits-all model to customized online experiences that match your skill level, goals and previous education. 

Skills for specialized knowledge

Today, employers seek information science candidates with more than traditional computing knowledge and IT expertise. To stand out among hundreds of applicants, you need to be a strong communicator, critical thinker, and problem-solver with specialized knowledge.10 Regarding online programs, choose wisely because not all programs are accredited or may have a solid reputation in your area of interest. While some online programs don’t require specialization, choosing a focus that aligns with your career goals is still important. By doing so, you carve out niche expertise in your chosen field and open the door to more lucrative job opportunities.

Popular specializations include: 

Career advancement and industry relevance

The industry-aligned curriculum of online programs ensures that learners are equipped with the most relevant and up-to-date technical skills. This not only enhances employability but also opens avenues for career transitions and advancements within the ever-expanding IT sector.

Get the skills you need to lead in computing and information science

Marquette University develops critical thinkers who have a solid understanding of fundamental concepts and theories in their field. Marquette graduates take that foundational knowledge and apply it to ever-changing technologies and practices. That’s one of many reasons why the online program is ranked the No. 20 Best Online Computer Information Technology Master’s Degree by U.S. News & World Report.11 

Designed for maximum flexibility, Marquette’s online Master’s in Computer and Information Science program is taught by expert instructors and serves students with diverse backgrounds. With its rigorous curriculum, the program can provide a pathway into the profession for career changers or help current computer science professionals advance their careers. Choosing a specialization, such as cybersecurity and data analytics, prepares students for successful careers in high-demand areas.

Don’t wait to start moving up. Schedule a call with one of our admissions outreach advisors today.