Is online learning right for you? Read about the main benefits and issues with e-learning, such as cost and technology. Then start obtaining your new degree with the click of the mouse!
Non-traditional college students are vastly benefiting from obtaining degrees online rather than going back to the classroom. Online learning, or e-learning, allows for certain advantages that the traditional classroom does not. Online learning also raises certain concerns for those who are not technologically savvy, or do not like the idea of a virtual classroom. Below are three main advantages of, and three potential problems with, taking college courses online.
The greatest advantage of online learning is time. Although most schedules are strict regarding turn in times, the work can be done on your own timeframe as you have an entire day to turn in an assignment in most cases, as opposed to one class period when attending a physical class. If you need to pick up children from school, you do not have to worry about missing class or asking permission to leave early. If an emergency occurs, you can attend to it immediately. In short, you can go back to school while still maintaining a real life.
While the online classes themselves cost as much as regular classes, the extra costs that are normally incurred from regular classes are not a factor for online ones. For example, special housing costs, recreation center use fees, campus computer use fees, meal plans and gasoline costs are eliminated when taking online classes. Most online classes still require textbooks, either in regular or e-book format. But usually, as long as you have a reliable computer and Internet connection, there are very few extra costs for online classes.
Online learning is appealing to older students because classes can be attended without going back to school proper. Although the thought of going back to college can be inviting and exciting, most non-traditional students are not able to truly become college students again; most have jobs, families and other obligations that prevent them from focusing solely on school and the “carefree college life”. Online classes and degrees are welcomed alternatives for the non-traditional student who wants to further his or her career and knowledge skills in a more mature and realistic environment.
Technology: Virtual Learning Environments
Some students are concerned about all-virtual learning environments being isolating and ineffective for group work and discussion. However, in the past decade, many technological leaps have made virtual classrooms as inclusive as physical ones. The combination of email, webcams, chat features and source sharing creates an ideal, virtual e-learning atmosphere. Colleges and universities use virtual learning environment (VLE) systems for e-learning. The most common commercial VLEs programs are Moodle, Blackboard, Democrasoft and CyberExtesion. These programs use synchronous (real time audio and visual link-ups) and asynchronous (e-mail, message boards, etc.) systems to connect students and instructors to each other and the college system. Lessons and demonstrations are conducted through this medium as well as assignments, such as homework and tests. Most institutes provide training on using their particular VLE programs. However, moderate to advanced computer and Internet skills are required to effectively and comfortably use these programs. Practice using the system as much as possible before classes begin; take advantage of extra training sessions and read all literature from the instructor on the subject. It is also important to know what to do in the event of a power or Internet failure in regards to accessing lessons and turning in assignments. Be sure to save a print copy of all instructor, IT and help desk contacts.
Many accredited universities and colleges offer online degrees that hold the same amount of credit as regular degrees. Professors and instructors who teach virtual classes nearly always teach regular classes at the actual institution as well. Depending on how the individual instructor runs the course and how you as a student take advantage of the leaning system, e-learning classes can be just as effective and beneficial as those in a physical classroom environment.