The Benefits and Challenges of Online Learning
Online Learning Pros
Whether you decide to squeeze an online class into your course-load or are considering an online degree program, you'll get to have a little more control of your schedule. Most online classes allow you to log on and learn from wherever you'd like. As long as you keep up with the course requirements, you'll never have to rush out the door to get to class on time. This option is especially appealing to nontraditional students who are already in the working world or raising families and are looking to change or advance their careers.
It's great practice
Once you're in the working world, you'll have to get used to online meetings, conference calls, virtual presentations, and other technologies. Taking an online class can help you develop a comfort level with such platforms. Digital communication and the ability to use various technology applications plays a huge role in the majority of professional jobs across most industries, and it's only expected to increase over time.
You can learn on the go
Online classes can help students who have jobs and internships fit in more study time. Not only do you not have to report to an on-campus location, but you can attend your online courses from anywhere that has Internet access. You can participate while you travel and use mobile devices in many cases.
The world is your classroom
Taking classes with people from all over the country and the world can be quite enriching, and online learning is especially conducive to bringing people of different backgrounds and experiences together.
Online Learning Cons
It's not a shortcut
Believe it or not, online students often have to participate in class more than their classroom counterparts. Many online courses require a certain amount of chat room, message board, and other virtual classroom assignments to make up for the fact that you're not "in class." Assignments are usually up to par with what is typically expected in a comparable campus-based course.
You're on your own
Only very self-motivated learners can be successful in an online class. You won't have the accountability of strict class times and might be tempted to leave your online classwork last on your to-do list. You also will have to take initiative when it comes to reaching out to your online professor since you won't physically see them during regular class sessions. The same goes for collaboration with your fellow classmates.
Communication skills are critical
Since so much of online coursework is written, you might have to brush up on your grammar and netiquette. You'll also need to be somewhat technologically savvy so that you'll feel comfortable using the online course platform. Knowing how to save and send, upload and download, and create online presentations will be helpful as well.
You might miss out on meeting friends
While there is a lot of online correspondence between professors and students, including virtual study groups, college students who thrive on the social aspects of a campus experience — especially students transitioning from high school — might find online courses isolating.
It's very likely that most students today will take one or more classes online as part of their college degree program while some will choose a fully online degree. Understanding the pros and cons of online learning up front will help you determine if it's a good option for you.