The current pandemic has changed a lot about how people are going about their daily lives. Students on the road to a higher education degree are not exempt from this change either. With the pandemic causing schools across the country to close their doors last spring and limiting what they can do this fall, online degree programs are seeing a rise in enrollment.

Pre-Covid Perceptions

Before Covid disrupted everybody’s lives, the perception of online universities was more common among non-traditional students. Such students were older than the traditional high school graduate, had families, jobs, and other types of life variables that conflicted with traditional academics.

Online degree programs or online only universities were seen as less adequate options for obtaining a degree and a solid career.

Degrees from these institutions did not carry the same weight as their traditional counterparts. This is because some of the most prestigious degrees could not be obtained through online education.

Peers, employers, and even some educators viewed an online degree program as inferior to face-to-face degree programs. This is due in part to some of the first universities to offer fully online degrees we more like “degree mills” than anything.

Instead of providing quality and effective education, they were providing a bare minimum experience and trying to increase their graduation rates to make themselves look better. Or simply printing a diploma and shipping it to the “customer.”

However, in the early 2000’s the perception of online education started to change. Employers started seeing online degrees as similar in value to traditional degrees.

Post-Covid Perceptions

In the spring, when Covid-19 caused traditional college campuses to close their doors, nobody was sure what was going to happen. By the time summer semesters hit, most schools had temporarily moved all classes to virtual learning.

Since most summer semesters see a smaller number of enrollments compared to fall and spring classes, this was not as big of a deal. However, with fall semesters creeping closer with no sign of Covid going away, some people began to wonder how it was going to work.

Most universities have turned to a hybrid learning experience to keep within Covid regulations and safety protocol. However, many have seen a significant rise in completely online degree program enrollment.

Covid has led some institutions to begin migrating more programs to fully online.

Last year Georgia Tech launched an online program for their Master’s in Computer Science degree. Where earning this degree traditionally would cost around $40,000, the online program costs a mere $7,000.

With the changing of perception of online degree programs slowly beginning before Covid, the pandemic is changing it even more.

Now, with about half of traditional students switching to online programs, whether due to university regulations or personal reasons, employers are starting to see these degrees as equals to the traditional degrees.


Through the years the perception of earning a college degree online has changed. In the early days of online learning, this method was not seen to be as credible as the more traditional face-to-face method.

However, with institutions beginning to advance their programs before Covid, and then Covid forcing many to turn to online instruction, online degrees have come to be seen as just as high quality as their traditional counterparts.

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