by Emma Sturgis: There are more options for college today than ever before in history…
Increasing costs has forced many college students to work while they attend school, and many older adults are returning to school to get degrees they need for a changing career.
The traditional college experience often does not work very well for busy adults with full-time jobs and families at home. The education system has responded by offering online classes and even entirely online degree options. The question remains if these online classes deliver the same quality of learning as the traditional college experience.
Increased Flexibility and Speed
The biggest advantage to online classes is that they give students a much greater amount of flexibility. Students can do work at their own pace anywhere. If a student’s only option is to work late at night or very early in the morning, they may not be able to attend a traditional class without sacrificing their income or family responsibilities.
Sometimes online classes are integrated into a schedule with traditional classes so that a student takes both types of classes. Scheduling conflicts for required classes may delay a degree or force a student to choose a class they otherwise wouldn’t. Online classes can solve important scheduling problems and allow students to get the credits they need without waiting.
Speed and getting a degree as fast as possible has also become paramount in the modern college scheme. Since online classes are student-paced, they also allow for the option of completing those classes faster than would be possible otherwise. A student may be able to take more credits online than they would be able to if they had to attend physical classes. As long as they can handle the workload, they may finish their education much sooner.
Less Connection With Peers and Teachers
A major downside to online classes is that students are not going to join a classroom community of peers they can meet and interact with. While it is true that many online classes integrate discussion boards and some forms of peer interaction, this is often minimal or secondary, and students may not need to do hardly anything with the other members of the online class in order to pass it. This robs the student of potential professional connections to others in their field. They may go as far as graduation without developing the career relationships a more traditional student would have.
Less direct interaction with a teacher is also a possible downside. The majority of online classes provide information through reading or possible online videos provided by the instructor. However, this is not the same as the social interaction students get when they work with a teacher directly. Feedback about their learning and performance is less fluid and dynamic than it would be in a traditional classroom.
The Importance of Learning Styles and Degree Type
A final issue to consider when deciding between an online or traditional class is the individual student’s learning style and what degree they are pursuing. Online classes present students with a far different learning style and environment. A student who is highly self-motivated, requires little peer interaction and can absorb almost all of their information through reading and research is likely to excel online. In contrast, a student who is a social learner, or who must learn by doing things directly or watching others is likely to learn much less from an online environment. Students are wise to consider how best they learn before making the choice to go online. If you are interested in online classes and degrees, click here to learn more.
The desired degree is also important. Some degrees lend themselves more to reading-based online learning. While other degrees lend themselves more to classroom-based interactive learning. A degree in business or English, for example would probably thrive in the online environment. A degree in education or nursing, by contrast, may not.
Some students have little choice in whether they take an online or traditional class. For those that do have a choice, careful consideration of which classes to take online and which classes to take on campus may result in better learning overall.