Long before the business world figured out how to monetize the Internet, educators realized this new communication medium could be an excellent conduit for delivery of a post secondary education. Twenty years later, almost every college and university in the U.S. provides an online curriculum and a whole new venue of for profit universities, institutes, and technical schools are cashing in on the education bonanza as well. The biggest winners, of course, are students who without online education choices might not have the opportunity to get a college degree or certificate at all. While and online education offers many advantages, it also poses challenges not found in the classroom environment.
Perhaps the most advantageous aspect of online learning is convenience. There is the obvious time saved in getting to and from school, but class scheduling for online courses is usually a whole lot more flexible as well. In many cases lectures are prerecorded and can be viewed by the student at any time. This allows online students to complete work on a self-paced basis and many good instructors will work individually with the student via e-mail, Skype, or some other medium. A lot of online classes take more traditional form where student participate in an online interactive format. This can work well if the instructor is trained in the use of the technology and can seamlessly converse with students. In some cases, a technician handles the equipment while the instructor just does his or her thing in front of a blackboard. Either way, when it works well, it’s almost like being in the classroom and when it doesn’t a lot of time can be wasted and the at home students patience and attentiveness in the class may be tested. One thing for sure, the online student need not worry about catching whatever virus or other contagious pestilence the person that would have been sitting next to them in the classroom might be harboring.
When it comes to economy, the student isn’t really going to reap any savings by learning at home. Course and registration fees are generally the same, regardless of whether one attends an on-campus class or takes the same class online. However, for students who will live on campus the savings can be substantial, as more than half of the expense of a college education can be tide up in billeting and subsistence costs. The online student will also miss out to a large degree on the atmosphere of on campus life, the parties, the communal spirit, and for some the first experience of being away from mom and dad. For the more mature, later life student, college attendance is less a case of adventure and more a last shot at getting a degree, and with it, perhaps a better paying job or these days a job at all.
Like anything in life, what you put into it is largely going to determine what you get out of it. The earnest student choosing a course of online study can get just as good or bad of a post secondary education as he or she would in classroom. Learning isn’t about the venue, it’s about the quality of the curriculum, the instructors who teach it and the institutions which facilitate it. The worth of a diploma is best evinced when one presents a college transcript along with resume to a prospective employer. Most employers and they human relations staff are well aware of the colleges which produce above average graduates and those who’s product is mediocre or worse. Perhaps a good example of this is the Veterans Administration who has black listed some online so called accredited universities, because the quality of the education they offer is sub-par when compared to traditional acedemic institutions. In the long run, you money will buy you a better online education if you choose a school of high reputation, but it doesn’t stop there. In many cases, there may be several instructors to choose from for a given class and doing a little checking around may land you in the preferred professor’s online session. Also, many schools in states which don’t regulate online education programs use uncredentialed teachers and charge you the same price as you would pay for a credentialed professor in the subject. In such case the school profits at the students expense, both in cash outlay as well as the quality of the learning experience.
There can be no doubt that online education is the way of the future. In the long run, and considering looming state and federal cut backs for education funding, online education may provide the most cost effective way for academia to deliver post secondary courses. From the students perspective online education offers additional convenience and the opportunity to get a post secondary education from almost any location and pretty much irregardless of the circumstances of ones life. Even if there is no room in ones personal budget for registration, course fees, and books there are other avenues of support such as Pell Grants, http://www2.ed.gov/programs/fpg/index.htm scholarships, employer matching funds, and other resources to help defray the cost of an online education. As we face challenging economic times many including senior citizens have found that without a college degree, jobs offering good pay and benefits are out of reach. Online education offers a great opportunity to remedy a deficit of education credentials on a resume, but it is up to the individual to get the best value for there investment in post secondary online education. In the final analysis, the day they hand you that associate, baccalaureate, or masters degree, it’s not going to matter whether you earned it in a classroom or whatever room you choose to use your home computer in to attend the college of your choice online.