Life in general has a lot more to offer than back in the days of our ancestors and as a result, young people are faced with a huge number of choices throughout their lives, from choices at nursery to choices at infant and secondary/senior years, right through to college/University years and beyond. Sometimes though, young people have no choice but to follow a particular path in order to accomplish what they want to achieve in life. It is a path that they might have to travel along due to the constraints of the economy and society, or some other factor such as physical or mental disabilities or through some other factor. Whichever path is taken however, the young person must remain focused, ambitious, and never give up whatever goals and aims that they are striving to achieve. Choices in education during adulthood is no exception to what has been discussed, as there are choices to be made regarding how the education and learning is received by the student. The potential learner will have to assess their own lifestyle before embarking on any college or University course and decide if whether or not their lifestyle allows them to attend University. Sometimes, these learners might find it beneficial to take part in distance online lectures.
There are particular groups of people who might benefit from taking part in online educational courses as opposed to attending a more traditional University campus. Groups include single parents, working couples/individuals, or those who are living in rural areas and have no realistic way currently of attending a University. Online learning environments provide these individuals with the flexibility that their lifestyle requires, because the course material is available twenty four hours a day, seven days a week; therefore, for single parents there would be no need to worry about having to pay for babysitting or financing travel to University. Online learning offers a single parent the flexibility of planning times with their children and planning times to study without feeling that they need to rush. How the time with children, studying and other hobbies is spent however is completely up to the parent. For working parents too, they can fit the course around their working patterns. For those living in very rural areas, online courses can be taken anywhere so long as there is an Internet connection; therefore, online learning brings people closer together and ensures that geographical locations do not prevent people from achieving their full potential.
Not only will students have constant access to learning materials, but also to the lecturers and tutors running the learning programs. This again adds a substantial degree of flexibility to the lives of the single or working parents because traditionally, distance learning (online learning is simply an evolved form of distance learning) very much involved contact with the tutors via the phone. I am sure that there have been many instances where parents have had to end the conversation with their tutor in mid conversation to deal with children that need some form of parental attention. After the children had been dealt with, more than likely the parent would have lost their trend of thought and would therefore take a while to get back into the swing of things again; that is, if the children do not continue to be attention seeking! One way that this problem was solved was to study throughout the night, but most lectures were not available after a certain time during the night as they would have to get up early for work at University, and, naturally, for working parents staying up really late is impossible. With online learning however, contact with the tutor is made primarily by e-mail, which means that the parent can begin writing the e-mail, stop midway to deal with their children as the need arises, and return to the e-mail and quickly read through it to remind them of what they had already said; much more efficient than trying to remember phone conversations of the previous generation of distance learning.
Going back to an earlier point, the learner has access to course material twenty four hours day, seven days a week, with the exception of planned service downtime for maintenance reasons. Online University portals link to the University library therefore giving learners access to most if not all of the journals online as well as ebooks, but I have found that these are not quite as commonplace as online journals and online conference papers. Again, flexibility is key here as the parent and indeed any other online learner would not have to plan trips to the University to acquire suitable resources, therefore also acting as a cost effective method of gaining resources.
Flexibility and greater degree of tutor accessibility are two major benefits for particular student groups; however, online learning is not suitable for everyone. A level of personal assessment needs to take place for any student thinking about undertaking an online course: if the student has a lot of commitments in terms of family and work, then maybe distance learning would be best; however, a student who has no such commitments and has some sort of requirement for social interaction, maybe attending University will be the best option.
Whether or not a potential student carries out a course through either online means or through the tradition approach of attending a University is very much dependent on their personal, financial, family and social circumstances, all of which need to be addressed when carrying out a personal assessment to measure how feasible it is to study through online means at that particular time.