Online education or learning is gaining ground. In fact, some traditional schools have also started offering online learning options to their students to complement their existing pedagogy. Several colleges have come up with full-time online courses in the recent past and many are expected to follow suit. So what’s all the fuss about? And in what areas are online classes better than conventional or classroom-based teaching methods?
Flexibility and Convenience
The foremost benefit of online learning is the convenience it offers. Students can learn whenever and from wherever they want. However, if the learning is real-time, students would be expected to show up during a particular time in the day when the tutor comes online. Even then, such real-time sessions could be recorded for later learning. This also means students need not sit through a session at one go. They can take multiple breaks in between and pause and resume anytime they want.
What does this flexibility and convenience translate to? Working students, parents, and professionals could learn on the move or without quitting their existing line of work or study. The course-ware would be accessible anytime, and lectures, explanations, comments, and discussions could be reviewed anytime as well. Online learning means students could choose from a variety of learning programs and from different colleges and universities. Moreover, a student can enroll in multiple courses simultaneously.
For quite a few students, a classroom setup could be intimidating, especially during the first few days of class. In the case of an online course, there is no room (pun unintended) for such inhibitions. Chat boxes and email, for instance, make it much more comfortable to interact with teachers and fellow students. Also, students can pause and think about what they want to say when they’re online. In regular classrooms, conversations and discussions are real-time.
Compared to a regular degree or diploma programs, online courses are much cheaper. And since there’s no community involved, students end up saving money on transportation, physical reading materials, and other attached expenses. Generally, regular college classes require students to carry textbooks, which an online course may not necessarily mandate. E-textbooks and other digital learning materials are usually sufficient for an online class. This means several hundred dollars saved annually.
All is not rosy and merry in the world of online learning. If you truly want to benefit from an online course, you must be fairly disciplined. Unfortunately, most are not. To put it in other words, not a lot of people do well studying online. Online learning is more or less an independent form of learning. How much you benefit from an online course depends on how good your time management skills, computer savy-ness, and reading comprehension abilities are.
Several people assume that online learning would be easier compared to traditional classroom learning. But that’s not the case. Often, online teachers assign lot more reading materials to their wards than what’s assigned to regular classroom students, to ensure students stay committed to the online course. An online course’s success also depends on the camaraderie between the students and teacher.
Proponents of regular classes often belittle online learning programs for their lack of structure or proper curriculum. This accusation could have held ground some years ago when the concept of learning online was just taking off. At the moment, thanks to distance learning courses becoming increasingly popular, on-campus schooling-like academic scrutiny are getting meted out to online courses too. There are, in fact, accrediting bodies that review and accredit distance learning institutions and courses just like how traditional programs and colleges receive accreditation.
Online learning definitely has the potential to entice more teachers and students going forward. With growing global population and increasing demand for quality education, it won’t be possible for public universities and colleges to expand existing infrastructure or erect new blocks. Local businesses could also benefit from distance learning. Some colleges work with local manufacturing companies to provide them, future employees.
Online learning not just trains the future workforce – it could also offer a fresh career path to an already employed individual, by helping him learn new skills. Long story short, the online learning realm can succeed only if all stakeholders chip in. This means even instructors should adapt themselves to this medium.
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