Nowadays it is possible to do almost anything online. Internet has enhanced and changed every aspect of our lives, and now it is making inroads into the world of education.
Online education and classes are not just a buzz; they are a new technology that is making a difference for teachers as well as students. Many different types of diplomas, certifications, and academic degrees are available from online institutions.
Though traditional education is still the more prevalent and preferable form of education, the practice of acquiring degrees via internet is expanding.
Internet technology, with its new e-learning tools and software, opens new doors to segments of world population which previously, only a decade or so ago, had limited access to education. However, neither traditional nor online learning systems are perfect; everyone should first consider the pros and cons of both before making a decision.
Many students have to decide between online education and traditional education.
- Is online education (i.e. online learning) a real alternative to campus-based education?
- Is it the ideal learning method for adult professionals who want or need to expand their education, since they need the flexibility that internet can provide because their time is limited?
These two available education methods each have their advantages and disadvantages. But whatever the current flaws of virtual education, one thing is obvious: a few years ago, if you had no time to attend a college or university, you could not significantly improve your education. Today, with the help of internet, it is possible to acquire new degrees at any stage in your busy life.
The verdict is still out whether it is better for someone to join online or traditional classes, as there are some distinguishing points that differentiate between each method. This article discusses both the advantages and the disadvantages of online education.
Five Online Education Pros
Of the many advantages and new possibilities of online education, here are some of its strengths:
- Interactions Using Variety of Teaching Tools
Although distance education lacks face-to-face classroom interaction, it allows access to a large variety of interactive online multi-media tools and methods. These provide many new and interesting ways to learn, as well as certain convenient features, like the ability to watch any section of a recorded lecture any number of times, any time.
They can also address issues, air opinions, ask and answer questions, and make announcements by means of direct messages, forums, chat rooms and email.
- Greater flexibility
Online students have more freedom in choosing their programs and schedules. This allows many busy adults to adapt online courses to their already established everyday life of work and family.
For many, this is simply the only way they can study for that degree which will take them farther in their career and life.
In traditional education systems, students must regularly attend scheduled classes. These classes are given on the campus and require transportation time and money, as well as the public and determined nature of group classes.
Online education, on the other hand, can be pursued from the comfort of one’s home, or from anywhere and at any time of day.
It should be noted that modern colleges and universities have also begun to use online materials, as well as online video sessions and recorded lectures, but still not as much as online education does.
- Saves Time and Money
Online education saves an enormous amount of time and money which in traditional education is wasted on commuting. Commuting is also very tiring, while online education means you can study from home, in a comfortable environment with everything you need close at hand. Tuition also costs less for most online institutions.
An important consideration for students, whether working, married adults or high-school graduates, is the cost of travel, accommodation, and the many expensive textbooks required by most higher-education programs. Online education saves a lot of time and money by eliminating all of these. Moreover, many, most, or even all of its textbook materials are available online, eliminating the need to buy them or to spend long hours photocopying books page by page.
Deadlines for exams and assignments are far less strict in online education. Moreover, any part of the education – classes, exercises, etc. – can be accessed at anytime from anywhere in the world; all it takes is a laptop and a good wireless connection.
This flexibility allows very busy people – from housewives to CEOs – to adapt their latest degrees to their workday.
Traditional education is restricted due to logistical issues; there is only a certain amount of students who can be in a specific place at a given time, whereas in online classes, there is no question of paucity of space. As long as the online classes have the necessary bandwidth, an unlimited number of students can study, all over the globe.
Traditional classes are also expensive, because the educational institution needs to maintain a place and its facilities.
When it comes to online education, all they need to do is to set up e-learning tools, internet connection and a website where people can learn. While this is not cheap either, it definitely costs less than a traditional institution.
- Continuous Education or Adult Education
The segments of society currently most enthusiastic about online education are primarily adults who work full time, and parents.
More and more people are acquiring higher education. Even professionals with full-time careers are getting new degrees, without any change of pace at work.
Distance learning is perfect for organization of all kinds. Parents can now combine higher education with family. Foreign education has never been easier – all it takes is to log on.
Distance learning reaches out to all those segments of population which only a decade or so ago were almost completely neglected by educational systems.
Eight Online Learning Disadvantages
To balance our view of online education, let’s consider some of the disadvantages.
- Hard Requirements
Different online learning institutions have different rules and regulations, and one should consider them carefully before enrolling.
Because it is online, it doesn’t mean that there are no requirements and rules attached. For example:
- There are weekly discussion questions. Their number and topics vary depending on the course, but all answers must be submitted on specific dates.
- Student answers must meet word-count and substance requirements.
- Active participation in organized discussions with classmates is graded.
- There is a minimum of days per week that students must participate.
Other requirements typically include essays, worksheets, reports, and various papers, all to be submitted by a predetermined date. There may also be midterms and quizzes, the date and time of which cannot be chosen.
Regarding reading material, online institutions supply students with e-books and assign reading schedules, just like traditional courses. Students are responsible to keep up with the reading program if they want to be able to follow lectures and discussions.
This is only a sample of online college course requirements. There are, of course, others, which may or may not make online education suitable for you.
It should be mentioned that for most people, reading for hours from a computer screen is uncomfortable and tiresome, entailing reduced reading speed and fatigue.
- Requires Self Discipline
The greater freedom of online classes requires greater self-disciplines, but not everybody has it.
The comfort of studying from home may also reflect negatively on your motivation to do your best. Depending on your personality, home can provide as many distractions as traditional campus facility (designed especially for studying).
For many, a significant advantage of traditional education is that it leaves little room for procrastination. You have to show up on campus and be in class, and for many this is a great motivational aspect and the reason for their eventual success.
With online education the student has much more freedom. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. For many it is a disadvantage because it encourages procrastination. This leads either to unnecessarily prolonged studies or even failure to fulfill requirements, simply because there was too much freedom.
- No Campus Life and Less Human Interaction
Many people remember their college days as the best time of their lives.
Part of it is the campus life – during and after classes. One of the disadvantages of taking online education rather than a traditional one is that in online education you will not have the atmosphere of campus lawns, corridors and classrooms, huge libraries with real books you can hold. There will be no campus buddies and no campus culture.
Online education means no live, face-to-face classroom and office interaction between students and teachers. For many this is highly significant. Consulting lecturers in person and being able to discuss matters in groups, in and outside the class is, for many, an important motivational activity and learning strategy.
Moreover, for many programs, interpersonal communication is crucial, but it is not easy to seriously practice online.
Many people also prefer traditional campus-based education simply for the on-campus atmosphere and the opportunity to meet many people there face-to-face between and during class, conferences, campus parties, concerts, fairs, and various cultural events.
- Lack of On-Campus Resources and Educational Tools
Online institutions provide all or much of their material online, which may be convenient, since you have to buy and photocopy less.
But while online information in general is, of course, extensive, approved and trusted scholarly academic material is not easily found online.
The resources of online universities and colleges are not yet as extensive as those of traditional institutions with their on-campus libraries (and the private libraries of generous lecturers who will always lend you that hard-to-find book you absolutely must have for your paper).
Science degrees, especially the natural sciences, require lab hours. Online education as yet cannot provide a substitute for actual hands-on experience that students find in the laboratories on campus.
Such experience is crucial in general, and it is often noted in particular by employees. One reason why graduates from traditional institutions are preferred is that they have extensive and relevant lab experience.
- No Feedback – How Well Have You Learned
With online education, the students have a greater hold on the education process, and that is not always a good sign.
For example, in online education, though the teachers set up the audio and video clips with the same dedication, it remains to be seen whether the students study it with the same dedication that they would in a classroom.
- Internet Connection and Integration
Effective online learning depends on effective internet connection, which may either be expensive for some users, or may be damaged, disabling the entire network.
Therefore, specialized online maintenance is required for innovative online environments. In addition, extremely effective online security is absolutely essential. Online education entirely depends on the internet connection.
Though many countries have robust internet infrastructures and others are getting it soon, there are still countries, and areas in countries, that do not have reliable access to internet and other advanced technologies. It would be difficult to get online education in countries that have a limited online presence.
Lack of direct human interaction must be compensated or minimized and that is done by the internet network.
Online services must support great numbers of users engaged in multi-media learning processes, downloading and uploading of files, and sometimes real-time online classes. It requires good internet connectivity.
- The Value of an Online Degree
The value of an online degree can potentially be an issue, depending on whether the degree was earned from a nationally accredited educational institution or from a non-accredited institution.
For most employers, a DETC accredited online degree is no different to the value of a traditional, regionally accredited institution degree. However, some employers, looking to fill specific positions, would be skeptical about the value of the online degree, if received from a nationally accredited institution and not from a regionally accredited one.
Online education is becoming increasingly popular since online services in general are revolutionizing Internet activity and the business industry.
It is not merely a new trend – for many people it is the only convenient way to acquire education. Online education already provides unique new opportunities which haven’t existed before.
Distance/online education has not come to replace traditional education yet. The number of online universities and colleges is still relatively small and their services are not as well established as the services of traditional institutions.