Online learning seems to be everywhere these days but still people are hesitant about taking the plunge. There are a lot of misconceptions out there that online learning isn’t as good as traditional methods. However, as with any course, some are going to be better than others. It’s up to you to know what you want to achieve from your studies and to find the course that best meets those needs.
Advances in technology have made E-learning a rapidly expanding industry with thousands of people signing up for online courses every day. This is for many reasons, but mainly because it offers people the ability to learn in an environment that is often faster and cheaper.
Online learning is the process of delivering or learning information through the use of electronic means or electronic learning. It is a process of formalised teaching and learning designed to be carried out remotely. It is typically conducted via the internet using a computer to conduct the entire course, or part of that course. However, it can involve the use of a wide variety of equipment and that’s before we start to look at future technologies such as virtual reality which will have a massive impact on online learning.
Online learning provides the opportunity to consume material in different formats such as videos, slideshows, word documents, mp3, DVDs and PDFs. It is commonly used by businesses as means of training their staff, by colleges as part of a blended learning course, or online distance learning providers.
Basic online courses are carried out using a simple slide share presentation whereby the individual can navigate forward and back at their own pace, whereas other course providers offer a more interactive experience with their students. Some course providers offer web conferencing, live online classes, and the option to communicate with professors through the use of chat or discussion forums.
Most online learning courses will involve some level of testing, ranging from quizzes and multiple choice questions to assignments and end-of-course exams. The majority of these courses have a set period of time to complete the course, but some offer lifetime assess with no such time limit. Most courses can be completed at your own pace which is one of the main benefits to online learning. On top of this, a person can participate in a course from anywhere in the world and this overcomes many problems associated with traditional learning such as timing, travel difficulties and attendance.
In this article we’ll look at the benefits of online learning vs traditional learning methods and try to dispel any of the common misconceptions associated with online learning.
Benefits of online classes
No matter what you’re looking to study, you will find an option that suits you online. There is a large variety of courses and programs that students can take which suits their needs best, from certificate level courses to degree programs right up to doctorate level. Although not all programs and colleges have an online option available, the majority do, which means most programs and courses are nationally or regionally accredited. In some cases, course providers offer options and programs that are not yet available in colleges.
One of the biggest benefits of taking an online class is the flexibility it offers. Online classes provide an opportunity to those who have existing commitments to get an education and progress towards the qualification or career they desire. By taking a class online, people can still meet their work and family commitments.
Additionally, there is less travel as attendance at a physical college is not required. This means it is more feasible for people with work and/or a family to pursue. The courses are usually available to students to pursue at their own pace or available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Therefore, people can study when suits them best. All students need is their computer and internet access.
Online classes provide students with the opportunity to learn from instructors around the world which also broadens perspective.
The course content is available as and when the student needs it. One of the major benefits of this is students can review explanations and lectures until they gain a deep understanding of the topic, or if they have missed a point they can go back and view the lecture again. They can also develop their understanding by engaging in online discussion groups or putting what they’ve learned into practice.
4) Lower costs
Taking a course online can be a much more affordable option for many students today. While obtaining a degree online can still incur a substantial cost, the costs of accommodation and travel can be significantly lowered. Most online programs have a lower cost per credit hour than traditional courses. This combined with the ability to study from home (so a parent does not have to incur childcare while attending a college etc.) makes it a more attractive option.
Online classes often do not require physical textbooks which further reduces costs. Reading material may be provided through an e-library or e-textbooks may be purchased or borrowed from a library which can amount to huge savings.
Attending a brick and mortar college will be accompanied with a rigid timetable, leaving very little flexibility and choice of study time. Taking online classes provides students with the opportunity to study at times that work best for them. Whether it is late at night or early in the morning, it is completely up to the student.
On top of this, attending a course means you have to sit in a college for however long the class(es) last for, which can sometimes be an entire day. Conversely, online classes can be stopped and paused as you please. This makes learning much more manageable and enjoyable.
Learning online provides students with the opportunity to learn in a style that bests suits them. Many courses are provided in a multitude of ways meaning that if a student prefers to consume content in a certain way, he or she can.
For example, some students will prefer just reading content and textbooks, whereas another student may learn best by listening to an audio version of that same content. Consuming the content in different ways can further boost studying and enhance memory.
Online classes offer students the flexibility to choose where they would like to learn and study. This means that you can choose to learn in an institution that best suits your needs. Many online courses can be taken at the your own pace, allowing you to structure your study to your own needs..
You can study early in the morning or late at night. This way you can find when and what works best for you and really maximise your potential. It also gives you the opportunity to meet your other commitments and schedule your study around them.
Online classes provide all students with a sense of equality as each student has the same opportunity to contribute and speak their ideas by posting comments and messages without the typical classroom distractions
On top of this, monetary value, entrance requirements, and other factors are also much more equal. The online course at more prestigious universities are usually cheaper which means you can get a top quality education for less.
Online classes often provide a better environment to learn as some students find that there are fewer distractions due to no other students being around. One of the biggest aspects of attending a traditional college or university are the social events. While many students manage this well, a lot don’t, and their grades suffer because of it.
Studying online means you certainly have the opportunity to meet people and make friends, but you won’t be under the social pressure to ‘act like a student’ and go on nights out when you know it’s a bad idea. Now, if you socialize a lot already then this may be a factor but it is up to the student to prioritize their studies in order to get the grades they’re seeking.
Online classes can be less intimidating for people and can actually encourage interaction. Students that are generally shy by nature often find it easier to interact in an online environment in comparison to a traditional classroom. A lot of people don’t speak up in crowded settings for fear of looking stupid, or getting something wrong.
While this should never be the case, it unfortunately happens.This may be due to the fact that they have more time to structure their comments and think about what they are going to say. Online learning presents a separation from other people which allows the shy among us to feel more confident in sharing their opinions.
Students may also feel more comfortable asking professors questions in an online environment through the use of email or chat for example rather than face to face. Online classes offer students the opportunity to network and interact with others from a wide range of backgrounds and locations.
10) Career advancement
Studying and earning a degree while working can look really good on your resume. It demonstrates to employers your ambition and ability to manage time effectively. As we previously mentioned, if you’re looking to boost your career prospects then you need to make sure that the course you are doing is the best for that purpose. Sometimes accredited courses are more expensive but if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll need to spend that little bit extra.
11) No commuting
A lot of money can be saved by not having to commute. A lot of time as well! If you live in an area where the weather can be quite volatile, this can affect physical classes from actually taking place. This isn’t a problem with online learning where you have access to the course no matter what the weather. All though if the power goes out, that can be tricky.
Overall, there is more consistency with online learning and less chance of something happening that will affect your ability to get to classes on time.
Research carried out by the US Department of Education found that students in online conditions performed modestly better, on average than those learning the same material through traditional face-to-face instruction.
Learning outcomes for students who engaged in online learning exceeded those of students receiving face-to-face instruction. They found that online students tend to spend more time on a topic in comparison to physically located learners. This is important to note, particularly when people try to tell you that the standard of education offered online is not as good as other methods.
13) Additional skills
Taking an online course will inevitability better your computer skills, no matter what you’re studying. While courses are generally provided on easy to use platforms they still require you to become familiar with different learning management systems, software, internet and typing skills. A lot of the time, you’ll have to navigate these issues yourself. There’s nothing quite like learning a new skill then when something goes wrong and you’re the only one there to fix it.
Additionally, you may be required to use Microsoft word and excel for assignments and projects. Online discussions with other students in the course may also involve the use of skype, google+ hangouts etc. By taking an online class, you will learn how to master your time effectively, while enhancing your ability to communicate using the latest technology.
14) Transfer credits
For students who want to attend summer classes, but live too far from college or work summer jobs, you might be interested to know that you can take online classes from an accredited college and transfer credits to your primary college. Students will be able to earn college credit while still enjoying their summer vacation or fulfilling the responsibilities of their seasonal jobs. Similarly, if a college or university is unable to offer enough open sections of a required course, students can take the course online at another college and transfer the credits.
Many colleges and universities have begun to accept credits earned via free massive open online courses (MOOCs), the most recent advance in online education. Free online courses such as these can help students fulfil general education requirements at little to no cost.
Disadvantages of online education
1) Lack of accreditation
Proper accreditation can be an issue with some online classes. Before you decide to enrol in a class online, be sure to check out the accreditation. You can verify whether or not a course is accredited by checking with the accrediting agency. This information should be easily available online for you to check.
You may not need accreditation, in fact many people don’t when they’re looking to learn a new skill. However, if you are looking to learn a skill to boost your career prospects then accreditation is something you will need.
Online classes can involve little or no face to face interaction, which means building relationships with other students and the professor can be more difficult than in a physical classroom. Some people prefer the social aspect of being in a bricks and mortar classroom and can find it easier to have their questions and queries answered. A classroom environment can provide healthy competition which can motivate students to learn.
Successfully completing an online class will require a student to be independent and confident enough to approach professors via email and chat if they have a question. Getting clarification and queries resolved can take longer than in a traditional course setting.
The workload associated with online courses tends to be greater than traditional courses. Online courses involve a significant amount of reading and assignments. Most courses will require at least 10 to 20 hours per week. There is also a risk that students may feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work required and the amount of information that is attainable on the internet.
As a result, it is important to look at the course curriculum and develop a structure for what is required to avoid consuming too much information on a particular topic. To avoid information overload, students should begin a course by looking at the course outline, curriculum and what is required, and then email the professor with any queries so they’re answered at the beginning. The student will then have a greater understanding of what is required of them and provide them with enough confidence to successfully complete the course.
Taking an online class will require you to be highly organised and efficient with your study. To ensure that you meet your assignment requirements, it is important that you can organise & take efficient notes and complete coursework on time. You will be responsible for deciding when to study and how you plan out your day so the ability to effectively organise is a fundamental aspect of successful online learning.
Nobody will be watching over your shoulder ensuring that you have all the necessary notes, guiding you, or providing you with reminders about relevant projects and coursework that is due. To successfully complete an online course it is essential that you plan in advance and stay organised.
Set up daily planners and reminders for important assignments and due dates. Establish a study schedule and time for revision. Online courses will vary in level of commitment required but it is a good idea to allocate from 8 to 15 hours a week to your course, some can even require 20 hours a week. This is important to consider on top of your other commitments. Good time management skills are essential to online learning. It is important to allocate an appropriate amount of time to complete each task and balance your coursework with other commitments.
To help you create a study plan, grab your free template below.
Online classes will involve a great amount of discipline and commitment on your part, to sit down and do the work, especially when deadlines for tests and assignments are approaching. You need to be disciplined enough to commit to doing the required work and not put it off.
It is important to avoid procrastination. If you find yourself being pulled in this direction, it is very important that you master focus before attempting an online course. If you do not have a strict schedule set for yourself, both your grades and learning are likely to suffer.
When completing online tests it can be very tempting to look online for the answers which can defeat the purpose of education. If you want the real learning experience and to make sure you are expanding your knowledge on a subject, you really need to make sure you avoid this temptation.
Sure, you might get all the questions right but ultimately it will come back on you. Treat online learning as you would traditional learning, if you wouldn’t do it there then you shouldn’t do it here.
7) Tech Savvy
To get the most out of online classes it is important that students are aware of all the options and apps available to them. While some students are tech savvy, others may not be. Therefore, these students may not be able to fully utilise all the features available.
There are also people located in areas that have poor internet connections, which can make online learning quite difficult. This leaves these individuals unable to exploit all aspects of virtual learning. In these areas, people may be less tech savvy and who have not had adequate exposure to technology.
For some people, online learning can actually provide more distractions, especially with children in the house or others laughing and joking. These will always pose as potential distractions and will make reading text documents or write an assignment more difficult.
The traditional classroom environment has been designed purely to maximise the learning experience. It is more disciplined and others that are there are also there to learn. To get the best from your online learning experience, you need to designate a quiet study are and make it as distraction free as possible.
9) College Experience
Pursuing your education online means missing out on the college experience. Many students choose to go to college to develop their social skills, find themselves, and identify what they want to do in life.
Students can find ease when surrounded by others in the same position and the college amenities, libraries, study areas, computer labs etc contribute greatly to that college experience. Students can enjoy the feeling of safety through the support and facilities offered by the college as they tackle with their studies. You need to ask yourself if the college experience is important to you. If so, traditional learning might be where you are best placed.
What Format of Education is Best for You?
So, there are the benefits and drawbacks of online learning. However, before you make your decision as to whether online learning is for you, you really need to dig deep into the reasons you want to study.
Are you just looking to learn a new skill, develop an existing one, or delve deeper into a hobby? In this regard, online learning is a great option because it allows a lot of flexibility. If your location, work commitments, or financial situation is an issue, online learning also would appear to be more in favour.
The only areas where online learning might not suit you are you’re looking for a college or social experience, you don’t have the technology or right environment for self-study, or you know you don’t have the discipline. Many people when they’re honest with themselves know they need someone to be accountable to in order to get their work done.
Only you know what method of learning best meets your needs. However, if you have been turned off online learning because you thought the standard wasn’t good enough or it wouldn’t teach you to the extent a traditional course would, these fears are unfounded. As we’ve seen, online learners tend to develop a deeper understanding and accreditation levels are the same, whether they’re taking online or physically – they will always end up with the same award.
If you’re considering online learning and want some more information, make sure to check out Useful Tips For Taking Online Classes.