Twenty years ago, if a college freshman showed up to English 101 wearing a comfy robe and fuzzy slippers, she would have been politely asked to go home and change. But, two decades later, thousands of people are attending classes in their pajamas – from the comfort of their homes.
The advent of the internet has affected the way that people conduct business, communicate, and learn. Having a computer means, literally, having a portal which allows students to tap into resources that were previously difficult to access, or simply out of their reach. Colleges and universities have recognized the value in this, and have adapted their offerings to include degree programs and courses online.
If you are a college student and think you may want to pursue distance learning, you should carefully consider its advantages and disadvantages, and assess if this is the learning method that best suits your needs.
• Flexibility. Possibly the greatest advantage of online education classes is the ability of students to fit classes into their schedules while fulfilling other responsibilities, such as working or raising families.
• Convenience. Online education classes offer a solution for those students who may live in a small town, hundreds of miles away from the nearest college, or who live in a large city and face the burden of fighting traffic in order to get to a traditional class. Rolling out of bed and landing at your desk means you’ll be able to make it to class most, if not all, of the time.
• No travel or boarding costs. Traveling back and forth from traditional classes brings with it the cost of gas and maintenance of a vehicle, so taking online classes at home means less money spent on travel and more money to put towards tuition. Also, being able to remain at home means you are spared the expense of on-campus room and board or the cost of rent for a nearby apartment.
• More choices. Because colleges and universities are limited in what they can offer through traditional classes by physical space and budgets, students may not find the degree they are seeking at a local institution. If you shop around online for degree programs, you’ll increase the likelihood that you’ll find something tailored to your specific needs.
• Shorter time to obtain degree. Many online institutions offer accelerated programs. While these programs are intense and require a high degree of commitment, the pay-off is obtaining your degree much faster than if you had pursued it at a traditional institution.
• No formal structure. There is a high level of self-discipline required when taking an online education class. Make sure to realistically assess your study habits to determine whether or not you’ll be motivated to complete your coursework in a timely manner without having the organization of a traditional class. Don’t be disappointed if you discover that you are a person who needs a more structured learning environment; not every person is a good candidate for distance education.
• Lack of one-on-one interaction. Learning in front of a computer screen at home means not being able to develop a face-to-face relationship with your instructor. This means missing out on interpersonal feedback and encouragement in the classroom, which are things that some students need for motivation.
• Missing out on the “college experience.” Many consider living full-time on a college campus a rite of passage. There are social and personal growth opportunities that students are exposed to with a traditional college experience that a distance education does not provide.
• Potential Technical Difficulties. You must possess strong computer skills before you sign up for an online education class, otherwise you will spend a lot of time trying to navigate around your computer rather than focusing on the content of the class. Also, consider having a backup plan for those times when you experience technical difficulties or power outages. Relying solely on your computer to connect you to your classes means you won’t be able to complete your work if your computer won’t function.
• Cost. Online education tuition can be costly. There is a high price to pay for the selection of programs you can pursue from the comfort of your home.
There are many factors that make online education classes appealing to students. But, make sure you do some research first to make sure that they are the right type of classes for you.