January 13, 2016 - Posted to Tips
Competition for Traditional Schools and Colleges
Some students have never been cut out for traditional schooling. This has been true since the first school was built in this country. In the past, we just let them drop out; for others, getting through high school was such a chore, they never considered college. These were kids who, for whatever reasons, did not learn well in the typical classroom environment. Those same kids today have other options, and that is why, in the last few years, online education is growing by leaps and bounds. For many, it is a much better way to learn. Online education is a rapidly growing method of learning, and it may one day replace traditional schooling for many reasons. Here’s 10 of those reasons.
We now know that students, like adults, have many different biorhythms. Some are morning people; some are afternoon people; and some are late night people. As well, many students from high school on have part-time or full-time jobs and family obligations. In a traditional setting, their course schedules had to revolve around their work and family needs. Not so with online learning. Students can access their classes when they have the time and the right environment for learning (e.g., after the kids are in bed), and when they are at their peak alertness. And if interruptions occur, the course can be paused and returned to without missing anything. In a traditional environment, a missed class is forever missed, and then there is a scramble to find someone else who took good notes.
Some people travel with their jobs; others may work a flex-time schedule with a couple of hours off at work in the middle of their overall work time. For these individuals, having access to their coursework online is a great thing. Rather than lying around in a hotel room watching boring re-runs of some show, that laptop can come out, and the coursework can get done. During that two hour break at work, rather than play video games and surf Facebook, a student has a nice block of time for coursework.
Vacations can be planned without school schedules to content with. The course goes with the student wherever s/he may be. Sitting in a doctor’s office for an hour no longer means thumbing through boring magazines. An essay can be written; a problem set can be completed. Many students prefer to work away from an active, loud household, and the library or a coffee shop can substitute for their “classroom.”
The beauty of access from anywhere cannot be over-estimated. It allows students to make use of “down” time wherever they may be, and it allows them to find the right environment for their personal needs.
This is just a fancy way of saying “cheaper.” Some online course tuitions may be as high as a course taught on campus (though usually not); however, there are other savings to be considered – room and board, travel, textbook costs (most online course have online texts and course materials), student fees, parking permits, and so forth. With all things considered in, going to school online is a much cheaper option.
Mastery at One’s Own Pace
This is a huge benefit. Respected educational psychologists tell us that 95% of students can learn what we must teach them – it is a matter of time involved to master concepts and skills. And most of us know this to be true from our own experiences. Those of us who love English and writing can whip out assignments quickly, can grasp grammar and composition skills, and can analyze themes in novels really well. But we hit a wall when it comes to math. Other students are just the opposite. They love math and science but must always get help writing a paper, because they have never had the time to master composition skills. Curricula for courses is meant for a semester or a year, and instructors must get through their curricula in that amount of time. The learner who needs more time doesn’t get that time. Online coursework provides that time, because the course is completed as the student masters the content and skills, not when a calendar says “time’s up.”
Of course, traditional classrooms and courses do provide for interaction among students, both in the classroom and on group projects outside of the classroom. The early “correspondence course” that was the precursor to online learning was, indeed, a lonely way to go. Our magnificent digital age has changed all of that. Not only will there be online discussions, even through the use of such tools as Skype, but those discussions can occur with students enrolled in the same course all over the country or globe. More exposure and much greater perspective.
Students With Handicaps can Thrive
Especially for students with visual and auditory impairments, online education with all of the great new tools allows students with handicaps to get a true quality education without the stigma of “special education” classes. Visually and physically impaired students have voice tools that allow full participation in the course. Hearing impaired students have full visual access to all content.
Online learning is a Godsend to students with long-term illnesses and diseases who cannot attend traditional schools. What a wonderful world has opened up to them through this new educational delivery system.
More Elective Options
Because of flexibility of time and scheduling, students will have access to far more elective courses than they would on a regular campus with specific times and days for courses. There are, quite simply, no scheduling conflicts. So, for that math major who really always wanted to take that class in Farsi, the option is now there.
Earlier Focus on Career Field
Students who know for certain what their adult career field will be now have the opportunity to begin coursework in that field at a much earlier time. Typically, a college requires that all of the general education requirements be taken early on. Students get frustrated with this and really want to get into the “meat” of their major coursework much earlier. Online coursework allows a mix of coursework to occur. A student might take the required English and history courses but then grab a couple of courses in his/her major field at the same time. This adds to a student’s motivation, and motivation is a huge factor in ultimately getting that degree.
The same applies to high school students. Through MOOCs and other college online programs, a high school student can combine finishing up the requirements for that diploma and taking a few college courses at the same time.
There is a lot to be said for comfort in one’s learning environment. In fact, there is an entire body of research (Dunn & Dunn) that speaks to the wide differences in student environmental needs for optimum learning. Some need absolute quite; some need background noise; some require greater warmth while others need cooler temperatures; some need to eat. Students can set up their own best learning environment.
Professional Development Opportunities
Many career professionals do not want to return to college for another degree. In order to make themselves more attractive for promotion within their own organizations or to other organizations if they consider a career change, certain online coursework can be invaluable. Having the opportunity to get this coursework in on their own time and to pick the specific courses that they need is a great advantage.
The benefits of online educational programming cannot be denied, and as technology continues to improve, so will the experiences that students have with online learning. Indeed, many educational leaders predict that’s why online education may come to the fore in the near future. The traditional classroom simply cannot offer the experiences that a digital one can.