Some students don’t have a college where they live. Others do, but can’t quit their full-time jobs or leave their family to study at a university. Sound familiar?
In the United States, online education has become a popular way to earn a college degree while balancing family and professional duties. From 2002 to 2010, the number of U.S. students enrolled in at least one online (also called distance learning) class more than tripled, with nearly 20 million logging on from home, the library or the local coffee shop.
While online, these distance learners join in virtual lectures, chat with fellow students, pose questions to professors, take virtual exams, conduct research and much, much more. But why has online learning grown so much so fast? Any why is it spreading beyond the United States to places like India?
Here are 10 key beneﬁts of online learning:
1.) Work from anywhere, at any time
This is the most appealing beneﬁt of online education for students with many duties to balance. Since everything is available online, accessing class materials and submitting work is very convenient. Exactly when and where this takes place is up to student, as long as assignment due dates are met.
2.) Review lectures instantly
It’s easy for minds to wander during a lecture. University of California psychologist Jonathan Schooler found that students lose focus about 5 times in a 45-minute class session. In many online programs, however, students can review words from professors instantly, either by rewinding the audio or video or by reading the transcript that accompanies the lecture.
3.) Less intimidating
Many students in classroom environments aren’t comfortable speaking in public. In an online environment, it can be much easier to share thoughts with others. With 74 percent of people suffering from speech anxiety, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, online education tends to foster better class participation.
4.) More time to think before sharing
Online schooling still has a discussion element to it, often in a forum or discussion board. On-campus students have to choose a stance or formulate a thought in class quickly, and sometimes speak before they’ve fully examined everything. In an online environment, students can spend as much time as they want thinking about and honing their own ideas. This can lead to greater conﬁdence and more elegant discussions.
5.) Focus on ideas
With an estimated 93 percent of communication being non-verbal, online students don’t have to worry about body language interfering with their message. While body language can be effective sometimes, academics are more about ideas, and online education eliminates physical judgments that can cloud rational discussion.
6.) Group communication
Many degree programs today incorporate some sort of group project or teamwork. Working with others on-campus or locally means coordinating speciﬁc days and times so everyone can attend. Distance learning programs, however, foster virtual communication and allow students to work with team members via email, chat rooms and other easy-to-use methods.
7.) Flexible learning schedule
On-campus students may have to endure in-person lectures that last hours. While not all online programs are built the same, many use PowerPoint presentations and other media that students can digest in pieces. In other words, a student can experience the ﬁrst half of a lesson one day, and the second half the next day. This can be especially helpful for those who don’t enjoy sitting in one place for too long.
Although the cost of an online course can be as much or more than a traditional course, students can save money by avoiding many fees typical of campus-based education, including lab fees, commuting costs, parking, hostels, etc. Imagine living in Dhule but going to college in Mumbai.
Traditional students are often limited to courses and teachers close to home. The online student can take a French course from a teacher in France and a travel-writing course from a writer who’s actually out travelling, without having to leave home.
10.) Instructor availability
At traditional colleges and universities, talking to a professor after class can be challenging. Yes, instructors have ofﬁce hours, but it’s often only an hour or two each week, with too many students waiting for attention. While professors who teach online may also have set hours for student interaction, web-based technologies make conversing with multiple students at once much easier. Professors can also hop online at night or during intermissions to address questions, leave comments and more.
In recent years this form of education has evolved and is widely accepted. You monitor your study environment with an online class, which allows you to gain a more profound understanding of your course. New learning models are constantly emerging on the market and give students various ways to fashion their education into something that suits them, not the rest. This also gives individuals a chance to complete a degree that they may have started and have not been able to continue for whatever reason. The future of online learning is exciting and opens education for a significant number of people.
While traditional education will never go away, neither will distance learning. With online enrollment increasing every year, it looks like online schooling is making its mark, causing students to ask, “How important is ﬂexibility and effective learning to me?”