Online learning opens the door to education for many people. But, it’s not for everyone. To decide if online learning is a viable option for you, let’s look at a few key things about it.

The Facts of Online Learning

Online learning offers students high-quality instruction even if they can’t attend courses face-to-face due to their busy work, family, or travel schedules. Courses taught in this manner offer flexibility in that students don’t have to travel to attend class. Additionally, most online courses take place without fixed class hours. Free of those limitations, students have the means to overcome geographic distance and can balance busy work and family schedules with their coursework.

Another feature of online learning is that it helps promote engagement. Online classes involve a lot of reading, writing, and practical application. This offers students a great opportunity to work collaboratively with other peers, as well as network. Students learn from each other and often share their current work experiences in the virtual classroom. Additionally, students have time to process their thoughts and ideas before they share them with their instructor or classmates.

Online learning environments truly cultivate an interactive environment.  Many social barriers are eliminated online. For instance, many students who remain quiet in a physical class often become active participants in an online course.

The Online Learning Myth

A lot of people might think that online learning is easier than face-to-face.

Let’s Debunk the Myth

Online classes take as much (or more time) than a physical class on campus. You see, online courses are never out of session. Students are expected to log on and contribute to discussions several times a week. This also means reading messages every week from the instructor and other students. Additionally, the expectations of coursework and participation remain at a high caliber.

The Real Deal

Learning ultimately depends on the quality of the instructor, course material, and participation of the students. Courses that encourage online discussion and interaction between students, their peers, and the instructor typically demonstrate higher levels of participation than traditional courses.

The Nature of Online Learning

I had a chance to sit down and chat with Dr. Greg Williams, Program Director of UMBC’s Instructional Systems Development Program (a completely online program). He shed some light on why he thinks online learning is beneficial.

online learning

Since our program is an online program, student interaction is always a question that comes up. The interesting thing is that we’ve had some students say that they have more interaction with people in their classes and program than with a traditional classroom.

It certainly helps that our classes are small. For instance, our average class size is about 12 students. And, we have no more than 20 students in a class as a maximum. So students have a very good ratio, offering them a high probability of making connections with other students and instructors.

Furthermore, one of the things that I like to do is have phone meetings with students. So, some students think ‘wow isn’t that this is an online course? Why are we talking on the phone?’ And I do it simply because it works. It’s a technology that people have and know how to use. It doesn’t cost them anything. And, it’s a good way to put in some real live communications.

All of our courses are not cookie cutter courses. So while some courses are asynchronous, where you’re online but not at the same time, we also have a number of synchronous courses. This is when you’re online at the same time as the instructor and other students. During such sessions, you can see your peers if you enable that in the settings. You can also hear other people. And, overall, such an online learning environment provides you with a good opportunity to interact. – Dr. Greg Williams

What are your thoughts about online learning?

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