Is it the future of college education?
Online learning (also called e-learning and distance education) is radically changing the way education is delivered. Every year, more schools are beginning to offer individual classes - and even entire degree programs - that have no requirement for on-campus attendance.
Within a few years, 1 in 10 college students will be enrolled in an online degree program. Most of today’s online students don’t fit the typical college-student mold. The average online student currently has a job and / or a family. However, in the future, we’re likely to see an increase in the number of students enrolling in online programs right out of high school.
How Does Online Leaning Work?
Online courses tend to follow the same format as traditional on-campus courses. There are still weekly assigned readings, quizzes, essays and a final exam. What differs is how the material is delivered. There are no scheduled lectures. Students access all course materials by logging on to the course website. E-mail and discussion forums are typically used to facilitate discussion between students and the professor. Other software like Flash animation and Quicktime video are used by some schools as a way to make their online courses more fun and interactive.
Learn on Your Own Terms
Online courses and programs offer students many opportunities that on-campus classes don’t. They allow you to:
- Do your schoolwork at any time. Students can log in to most online courses 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you’re busy during the day and can only do your schoolwork in the middle of the night, it’s no problem.
- Do schoolwork from anywhere in the world. With online learning, there are no geographical restrictions. You can live in Hawaii and take a course at a New York school. If you want to travel, you don’t have to put your studies on hold. As long as you have access to the Web, you can log on to your course website from any locale.
- Learn at your own pace. It’s common for online courses to allow students to progress through the assigned material at an accelerated rate. There’s no need to wait 12 weeks for your professor to complete his or her lecture schedule when you can learn the course materials in 8 weeks on your own. Likewise, if you want to slow down your pace of learning, you’re usually free to do so.
- Avoid the campus. Believe it or not, not everyone enjoys being on a busy college campus. Many students are more interested in acquiring knowledge than partying and find being on campus to be distracting.
There are a few downsides to learning online, however. They include:
- No face-to-face interaction. Many students thrive on group interaction. This isn’t possible in online learning, where all communication must take place in a virtual environment, via e-mail and discussion forums.
- Restrictions. Some online degree programs only accept applications from students who are over the age of 25. Also, preference may be given to working adults.
- Scams. There are many shady companies on the Internet offering “degrees” for sale. These so-called “degree mills” look and act like online universities, but they aren’t accredited, and they require little or no academic study from their “students.” Putting a fake degree from one of these companies on your resumé is tantamount to fraud.