Pros & Cons Of Online Learning
With the arrival of reliable, high-speed internet, distance learning for university students has become much more feasible. Students can now sign up for single classes or whole courses to be taught online, which may include streaming lectures, live Q&A chats with tutors, and submitting coursework electronically. But how does an online course compare with a traditional course at a brick and mortar university? Today we're looking at both the pros and cons of learning online.
Pros of Online Learning
One of the biggest advantages of online learning is that it is flexible, in terms of the time which is required to complete a course. If you work full- or part-time, and are interested in studying but don't want to leave your job, this is very helpful. You can take just one unit if you have only a little bit of spare time, or more when you have more time. There is also no need to attend classes in a physical location, so you don't need to relocate or set aside time for travelling. This is particularly advantageous for older students who have families and jobs, and for whom moving to attend a university would not be possible.
Learn at your own pace
One issue that many students struggle with is finding classes which are suited to their pace of learning. In an advanced class, material may be presented in a rapid format which is too dense to follow unless you are very familiar with the topic. On the other hand, introductory courses can feel slow and dull to students who have experience in the subject. Online learning alleviates this by allowing students to choose from a wide range of courses and to work at their own pace. If you need to watch a lecture several times to understand it, you can do this easily with online learning. This is helpful for those who have been outside of the educational system for some time and are not fully confident about returning to it.
Wide array of topics and courses
A further advantage of online learning is the large number of courses which are available. At most brick and mortar universities, you sign up for a course and then choose your topics from a set list of options. With online learning, you can pursue a number of different topics from different fields. If you are looking for broad learning, if you want to perform interdisciplinary work, or if you haven't yet decided what subject you would like the specialise in, then you can take a number of courses from different subjects.
Cons of Online Learning
Requires personal discipline and motivation
The lack of face to face time between students and lecturers can present a problem for inexperienced students. Online learners must be able to motivate themselves to work, as there will not be other students around to push them. Also, online students have to be proactive about getting support – for example, if there is something mentioned in a lecture which they do not understand, they cannot rely on time after class for discussions with the lecturer or other students, and they must go and ask for help. This is less of a problem for more mature learners who have experience in jobs which require self-motivation.
Harder to participate in discussions and social events
A big part of the university experience is not just the lectures and coursework, but also the interactions with other students and the social events. Finding other people with similar interests to you and hearing their perspective on your learning material is extremely valuable in helping your learning. These social interactions tend to happen naturally at brick and mortar universities. In online learning, however, it requires more work to arrange these interactions. Most online courses do have some kind of chat or forum for discussions, but learners need to put in the effort to make use of these features.
Online degrees can be less reputable
Although this is changing as online learning becomes more common, there are still some people who consider online courses to be less rigorous and therefore less reputable than traditional university courses. For students who want to continue on in academia or to attend very prestigious universities in the future, this can be a problem.
We hope that this helps you to see whether online learning is right for you!
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