As more of our lives become virtual and make their way online, standard ways of doing things are evolving and transitioning online as well. Some translate quite well, and make life more efficient, such as online banking, and online DMV registration.
However, the debate is strong and the jury still out as to how online learning compares to traditional live learning. There are pros and cons to both, as well as hybrid programs that incorporate a little of each format. Let's compare each method, shall we?
Traditional Live Classes
Traditional classrooms give you the type of responsibility to showing up at a regular date and time. You know that in order to take that test, hand in that assignment, or to meet with the group you have to be there during the scheduled time. This works really well for some people. Some people just may not be responsible enough to take the tests, hand in assignments, or participate in online discussion if there is not a specific "date". You can meet a lot of people in the classroom. It's kind of hard to make "classmate friends" just from an online course. Traditional classrooms give you easier access to the professor. What if you are having a hard time contacting him via e-mail or he always seems to be gone during his officer hours? Well, having him in the classroom with you gives easy access to ask your questions and get the help you need.
Traditional Classrooms are not very flexible. Sure sometimes teachers give you "free skip days" but if you use them, you get really far behind the class. And what if your skip day happens to have a "pop quiz" then you are out of luck! You may need to take a certain class for your degree, but it doesn't fit into your schedule. You know how many times I'd have to drop one class to fit in another class? It can be very frustrating. If you live off of campus, you are spending more money on travel and also could be having to pay a nice price for a parking pass. For my college it is $90 per semester. Parking tickets are $15 if you happen to be on the wrong street on the wrong days. I use to park on the side street and then walk 3 blocks to school every day, sometimes after a nice fresh layer of snow fell and would have to walk through it. Not fun!
Simply put, freedom. You are not tied down to when you have to go to bed or wake up for class. You don't have to travel through a blizzard to get to class. And sadly, your online school will hardly ever cancel classes even in the worse snow falls. You can get a job and work at any hours you want, and then during your free time work on your school work.
In addition to this, you can pace yourself...and learn at your own rate. Many times students are more vocal and involved in the discussion because it is online and they feel more comfortable stating their opinion than they normally would if it was face to face. No more spending money on gas to get to class or getting parking tickets.
Online classes also make it possible to potentially get a better job because of being more flexible with your hours. You can spend more time with your family and friends. If you are a mother or father trying to take care of your kids, it is so much easier to be able to stay at home and take a class than have to leave them with someone else if your spouse is at work or you have no one else to watch them.
You will have a hard time (if any chance at all) to make friends in an online class. You are basically just a name to everyone since you never meet each other. You may never even meet the professor in real life. Now some may think this is not a big deal, but over time I think having a few professors you know well and can trust is essential to a college career. It will be the person you know where to turn to when looking for ideas of a new career or someone to help you choose another class. In an online course I could never find this. I don't even know what mine look like! Not to mention, the huge value of networking with your peers that you miss out on, and that can come in very handy not only socially, but professionally in the real world.
It may be very hard to be disciplined enough to take an online class. Since you are never really meeting up on a regular basis, you could forget you're taking one completely. Many people make the mistake of thinking that online learning is easier than live learning, only to find that if you get behind, it can feel even harder to catch up. In many online classes, it is necessary to check daily or even every other day to make sure you are up to date and don't miss anything.
Some people learn differently. Some people have to "hear" it to remember it. Other people have to take notes as the professor is talking to remember it. In an online course, many times you won't hear a professor talk. A few courses may have like a video learning experience, but the ones I took had nothing of the sort. If you are not part of any classroom lectures, there will be no notes to take. The only notes you could take are perhaps ones you find reading discussions or textbook.
Finally after reading all the pros and cons, my personal opinion on the matter...Our verdict? The style of learning you prefer really should be a personal choice, and based on each individual's circumstances. You might find that some classes are helpful to complete online due to schedule limitations, or perhaps the content doesn't require as much hands-on learning. You have to know yourself, the type of environment that suits you and your learning style best, and what your lifestyle will permit.
As with any tool, you must learn to use it. Both teachers and students alike are learning more and more about how to more effectively leverage the power of the internet for learning, and thus better platforms and tools are being developed every day.
Our advice is to spend your some time initally taking regular classroom courses to get into the groove of how college works. Make new friends, get to know a few teachers face to face, and then venture out into the online arena. Only you can know how you learn best and what works for you. Either way, the important thing is that you are open and engaged in the learning process, in that regard, both live and online classes have much to offer!
What do you think?? What has been your experiences with online learning, and is there anything that gets lost in translation?? Please share and comment below!