In today’s technology based culture, taking classes online is a common part of our educational system. Many Universities offer online classes including advanced placement courses, continuing education, and major degree programs. This abundance of online classes has made online learning common for many students. Students may find online classes to be a great way to start a higher education, and although the flexibility and reduced costs of these courses is an advantage, distant learning is not without its pitfalls.
One disadvantage of distance learning is that for some students, the lack of classroom interaction and a “live” instructor can make it difficult to learn. In addition, many online courses have flexible schedules which require students to have good time management skills. Online college prep classes can also be difficult for high school students who may not yet have the motivation and focus required to excel in a non-traditional classroom setting. It is much easier to “slack off” in an online classroom where a student feels anonymous, then to slack off in a traditional class where a live instructor is present.
There are also advantages to taking college level courses online. Online college courses are typically less costly than traditional classes, but students will have to learn more of the subject themselves versus being in a classroom setting with an instructor and other students. The flexibility of online learning is an advantage for older adults who may be trying to juggle classes with a family and full time job, but can be a disadvantage to younger students that may miss out on what campus life can offer such as developing friendships, joining clubs, and interacting with students face to face. These advantages and disadvantages need to be weighed by the individual student before they can decide on taking tradition classes, online classes, or a mixture of the two.
For many of us, especially those of us who are older and pursuing higher education while working full time, full online degree programs are becoming very popular. These programs allow individuals to complete whole degree programs without ever stepping foot on a college campus. This makes earning a degree much easier for people with active lives that can’t commit to the rigid time restraints of traditional classes. These online degree programs can however be more difficult for students as many of the course material must be self-taught. This can be an obstacle for many students, especially those who have never taken at least a few traditional courses in their area of study.
The future of online learning is full of opportunity. Web cameras, smartphones, tablets, and high speed internet currently allow students from all over the world to interact with one another virtually within an online classroom. As technology advances, so will these online interactions. Imagine technologies such as virtual reality, holographic imaging, and 3D printing being utilized to make online learning even more interactive. We can only dream of what the classroom of tomorrow may look like, but for now, each student must decide which type of learning scenario is right for them.