There’s no question about it: technology dominates our lives. It changed the way we shop, work out, eat, learn… it changed the way we live. If any question emerges from the back of your mind, you know what to do: type in few keywords to Google and get the answer at that very moment. The fact that we have instant access to knowledge is pretty amazing, isn’t it?
The way technology affects learning processes has an impressive effect on the overall educational system. In April 2015, the American Association of Community Colleges released the results of a survey, which showed a 4.7% increase in student enrolment in online courses from fall 2013 to fall 2014.
The benefits of online learning are immense, but there are great advantages that cause students to drop out. The retention problem is a serious issue, and it imposes the question: is online learning really such a good idea?
The Advantages of Online Learning: The Perfect Confluence
Learning is a life adventure. It’s a journey of discipline, but it also needs some fun into it. With online learning, these two aspects of learning achieve the perfect confluence. The classroom environment is based on strong discipline. Without it, it would be difficult for a professor to maintain order in the class and present the lecture within the given time.
However, discipline also takes the fun away from learning. It unifies the process for every single individual, so that system contributes to loss of creativity and special interests. Online learning supports the educational process in a much more flexible manner. The student can discover new interests and develop them further, while keeping track with the traditional curriculum. That’s possible with proper organisation. In addition to the fun aspect of online learning, there are other benefits that convince students to take at least one online course per semester:
- Students can use their smartphones and tablets to access online lectures at any time. Whenever they have some time on their hands, they can learn something new. They are not obliged with specific class hours, so the entire process of learning is much more flexible when it’s transferred online.
- Thanks to online courses, everyone has access to knowledge. There are tons of free courses on sites like Coursera and edX, which bring knowledge closer to a wider audience.
- Corporations can easily provide training for their employees through online programs, without the need to pay for accommodation and other expenses related to skill upgrades.
- Writing becomes easier when students get help from online services, such as Australian Writings. When the students struggle with academic projects, they can get the assistance they need through an online program that connects them with professional writers.
- The learners can follow their own pace when they take an online course. If they need more time to comprehend certain issues, they can proceed with slower pace. If, on the other hand, they are able to learn much faster, they can go through the course while the initial spark of enthusiasm lasts.
Can Online Learning Be a Bad Influence?
If we lived in a perfect world, we would all start taking a great number of online courses, we would become smarter, and we would have the lives and jobs we’d always wanted to have. Unfortunately, things are never black or white in reality.
The biggest disadvantage of online learning is procrastination. Flexibility is great, but it can also lead to a problem. Researchers from Universite de Rennes found that the performance in online courses was directly or indirectly affected by procrastination. When someone pays for on-campus education, they do what they are expected to do: attend the classes, write the projects, and take the exams. In online learning, it’s all about self-regulation, and that’s exactly where most learners fail. Upon the initial enthusiasm, many of them lose their interest and they drop out of the course.
In addition to that major disadvantage, online learning has other flaws we have to be aware of:
- There’s not enough control in online learning. Students can hire people to take online classes, write projects, and take quizzes in their place.
- People are not as tech-savvy as we would want them to be. When colleges impose at least one online course to their students or organisations require their employees to commit to online learning, there’s a big problem: some of these learners don’t feel comfortable in the online environment.
- There’s no face-to-face interaction with online learning. Sure, there are discussion groups the learners take part in, but this type of communication cannot replace direct contact.
- The flexibility is not that great, after all. Everyone can take the online course they like, but these courses still have structure that has to meet the needs of a larger group of students. No one will tailor a specialised course just for you, although that’s exactly what you would assume when reading the claims on websites that offer online courses.
Is Online Learning a Good or Bad?
Here’s an answer you’ll just love: it depends! When online courses are strategically implemented in one’s education, they have the power to make the learner a better achiever. However, the great flexibility also comes with disadvantages, so we have to develop immense self-control before we can master the skill of online learning.
By Jessica Freeman, a passionate content writer and a journalist. She finds her calling in making others interested in topics of education, leadership, and modern technologies through freelance work. You can follow her on Facebook and Google+.