The Benefits & Challenges of Online Degrees For International Students

Published on: June 16, 2024

With some of the top academic institutions worldwide offering online degrees accessible to international students, it has never been easier to get a quality education. Online degrees have removed many traditional boundaries and transformed the landscape of higher education in the process. However, despite the unprecedented opportunities for international students to pursue their educational goals, there are still plenty of challenges that must be overcome. Here are some of the biggest benefits as well as the most significant challenges for international students to be aware of when opting for an online degree.

Benefit: Online Degrees Are Much More Accessible

Since students can enroll in online degree programs from around the world without having to travel or relocate, education is much more accessible. Additional benefits, such as asynchronous classes, also make online degrees accessible to students who are in different time zones. Many online degree programs also allow students to study at their own pace, meaning they can focus more on subjects they find challenging and waste less time on ones they already know. 

Challenge: Online Degrees Can Negatively Impact Physical and Mental Health

One drawback of online degrees is that they can increase the risk of prolonged screen time and a sedentary lifestyle. Studying online can also take a toll on international students as the lack of in-person interaction coupled with the pressure of managing their studies independently can cause feelings of isolation, stress, and anxiety. 

Benefit: Online Degrees Can Be More Cost Effective

Along with sometimes lower tuition fees compared to on-campus equivalents, online degrees can also save students money that would have been used on relocation or commuting. In many cases, students can also access financial aid for online programs.

Challenge: Online Degrees Are Susceptible to Technical Issues and Barriers

Although online degrees are often more cost-effective than on-campus degrees, they are still susceptible to technical issues and barriers. International students must have access to the necessary hardware and software as well as a reliable internet connection to complete their degree online. In addition, international students who encounter technical issues might have to deal with time zone differences when it comes to receiving the necessary support. 

Benefit: Online Degrees Offer Access To More Opportunities

A significant benefit of online degree programs for international students is the availability of courses and specializations that they might not be able to access in their home countries. These not only help broaden their horizons but also allow them to network and collaborate with diverse students from around the world. This exchange of cultural and global viewpoints can help international students become familiar with working in diverse workspaces. In addition, completing an online degree from an international institution can help students with their global employability. 

Challenge: Certain Online Degrees Could Pose Regulatory Issues For International Students

International students generally don't need a student visa to enroll in online degree programs, but they could face issues if the course requires practical components. Often, these practical assessments must be done at private exam centers, so international students have to ensure that they have access to one nearby if it is a requirement of their online degree. 

Benefit: Online Degrees Help Hone Valuable Skills

Technical skills and digital literacy are vital in the modern workplace, and students who participate in online degree programs hone both of these. Online learners also become proficient in self-discipline, time management, and independent learning, which are all skills that can help them in any career. Online degrees also make it easier for students to update their knowledge and skills continuously, which can be a significant advantage over other job seekers who fail to do so.

Challenge: Online Degrees Can Be Difficult To Navigate for Non-Native Speakers

International students may struggle to master the academic language and terminology featured in their online degree programs. If not managed carefully, this can negatively impact their academic performance. The asynchronous nature of many elements of online degrees also increases the chances of miscommunication between international students and their instructors. Finally, some international students may find it challenging to adapt to the academic culture of a foreign institution.

Benefit: Online Degrees Are More Sustainable

Many people value sustainability, and completing an online degree can help students do their part. Online degrees can also help students reduce their carbon footprint by lowering travel-related carbon emissions. This is especially true for international students who might have had to relocate to a different country to earn a degree at a prestigious institution. Another benefit of online degrees for the environment is the use of digital textbooks and resources, which reduces the need for printed materials.  

Benefit: Online Degrees Offers Effective Learning Tools

In contrast to on-campus learning experiences, online education platforms tend to incorporate tools and elements that enhance students' learning experiences. These may include multimedia elements, virtual guest lecturers, webinars, and more. 


As evident by the challenges above, an online degree is not the perfect solution for all international students. However, there are also significant benefits that have made it easier than ever for students to achieve their academic goals and be better prepared for professional careers in a globally connected world.

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