With the convenience of being able to take courses whenever you want and not having to worry about school schedules or commutes, online learning is a fantastic attractive alternative for many people — yet it does have its pros and cons.
By reading this article, you should be able to easily assess whether online learning is the best solution for you or if you’d be better off in a traditional school setting.
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What Does Online Learning Mean for New Students?
Online learning is an education approach in which students learn at their own pace from a remote location via the internet, while enjoying unrestricted access to information.
There are many benefits to online learning, including convenience, accessibility and cost. Numerous students even report they feel a lot less time pressure in an online setting compared to on-campus classes.
Distance learners are able to complete assignments in a more relaxed manner since they don’t require face-to-face contact with their teacher or class participants.
Online learning also presents the opportunity for working adults who don't want to interrupt their careers to take full classes part-time through night school programs, or have young families and cannot accommodate the commute.
Is Online Learning Right for You?
There are many factors that go into the process of figuring out whether online learning is right for you or not.
You first need to take a close look at your budget, your time constraints, your family responsibilities and last but not least, whether there is an online learning platform that covers your area of interest.
Some may find online learning to be the ideal way to learn because they can study where and when they’re most likely to be energized and focused both mentally and physically.
Online learning could also be a great option for people with a physical disability that restricts their mobility and transportation choices.
However, this learning approach can present some challenges as well.
For example, if you have trouble finding the motivation to attend remote sessions without the need for the peer pressure of a physical environment, you might be better off in a classroom setting with other students.
Also, if you have an extroverted personality, you might find the nature of self-learning too isolating and may need a physical setting in order to thrive academically.
How to Choose the Right Online Learning Platform?
It all depends on what your goals are. If you’re looking for certified career advancement courses that you can take outside of work hours, then you might want to explore sites like FutureLearn, EdX.org and Simplilearn.
In all cases, you want your online learning platform to offer a mix of:
- An intuitive user interface
- Ease of use on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones
- Built-in collaboration tools
- Lesson variety with multiple difficulty levels (e.g. beginner, intermediate, advanced)
- Assignments and quizzes at every level of difficulty
- Feedback from real instructors and fellow students instead of general forums and knowledge bases
What Are the Pros and Cons of Online Learning?
There’s no doubt that the internet has revolutionized the learning industry in many positive ways. However, like anything in life, online learning has both pluses and minuses. Let’s summarize them below:
- Online courses are flexible and convenient; you can take online courses at any time of day
- As technology in your field of work constantly evolves, you're always up-skilling with the latest available training in real time
- There's no need to commute to school, which saves money on gas or public transportation
- You can interact online with your instructors and other students through discussion boards or chats, making it less intimidating than a traditional classroom settings
- You don’t need to take time off work to attend school
- You can work at your own pace
- There are a lot of online course providers to choose from, so there’s always something for everyone
- It’s a lot more affordable than on-site learning
- Online courses are a great way to learn new skills, knowledge and hobbies
- You can take as many online classes as you want without having to worry about scheduling conflicts
- Classes are available 24/7, so they're perfect for those who have busy schedules
- If your learning platform doesn’t score teachers by popularity, you may unknowingly end up with a weak teacher (this is especially true for non accredited courses, like hobbies and general skills)
- There’s no face-to-face interaction with other students or teachers, which may be important for some people
- You could find it hard to keep up with everything that's happening in your coursework without a group of friends to help you out (unless you sign up with friends)
- The instructors can’t always respond in real time when you ask a question as when you are in an on-site class setting
- Many online courses have no personal interaction with the instructor
- You can't easily ask for help from a student or peer after class if you get stuck on a problem
- It can be difficult for some people to stay motivated when working independently
- Online courses can’t offer access to specialized equipment, such as lab equipment, that traditional classes are able to supply
- Online courses are not always accessible to everyone (at a minimum you'll need access to high-speed internet and a fairly modern computer or mobile device)
Online learning is a great way to learn new skills, make yourself more marketable in today's job environment or obtain a university degree. The key, though, is finding the right platform for you out of all the available options.
I've highlighted above some of the pros and cons of online education as well as how to choose a learning platform that can best suit your needs.
Hopefully this post has given you enough information about what online learning means so that you can take full advantage of it.