In looking at this rapidly expanding and viable form of education and training, there are a few basic things you need to consider and some decisions you need to make in order to create the environment that will best suit your needs. You need to know the what, the why, the benefits and the how of the various forms of distance learning.
Advantages and disadvantages of distance learning classes & degrees
On line college courses: are they for you? Here are some advantages and disadvantages to consider before you try distance learning.
Should you take an on line college course? In the past decade, distance learning has taken the Internet and college campuses by storm, as more and more students opt to take courses or complete degrees online. It's a new way of thinking about higher education. "Lectures," assignments, discussions, exams, multimedia presentations, and often even the readings are available online, and there is little to no face-to-face interaction with the instructor.
E-learning works great for some students, but no so great for others. Would you do well in an online learning environment? Here are some advantages and disadvantages for you to consider.
Advantages of online college courses:
Time flexibility. If you are in need of a flexible schedule, online courses can be ideal. There are few or no set times that you have to be on your computer, so you can work the class around your schedule, instead of having to work your schedule around the class. This is great for people in the working world who want to fit college into their lives, and great for traditionally aged college who work long hours to pay their way through school. It's also helpful for parents, especially those with small children. Also, if you're someone who has trouble getting up for morning classes, the time flexibility may be a big help.
Geographic flexibility. Now you no longer have to be in any particular location to take a class. Online courses do not require a commute, which can save time and gas money. If you live in a more remote area, or simply don't live near a school that offers a course or degree you want, this is a great opportunity.
Students don't have to take notes. Is your attention span weak? Is it difficult for you to take notes during lecture? With an online course, the "lecture" is written out. If you zone out for a few minutes, you can page back.
Classes are technologically advanced. The instructor can easily program multimedia learning aids into the courses, including links to relevant websites.
No dress code. Come to class in your pajamas, or hey, come to class naked (assuming the class doesn't include a Web Cam).
Shy students may feel more comfortable. Some students hate to participate in live class discussions. For many students, the online environment can be less intimidating.
An expansion of course options. If you're a student at a college that doesn't offer something you want to take, now you just have to do some Internet research to find a suitable course. Also, if you want register for a traditional class that is hard to get into, an online course might be a good alternative.
Disadvantages of online college courses:
Discipline and time management skills are mandatory. With few time constraints other than deadlines, online course students are fully responsible for sticking to their own schedule. If you are someone who procrastinates too much and has trouble managing your time, an online course may be a disaster for you.
Lack of direct interactionwith the instructor. Some students prefer this, or don't find it to be a problem. But many students thrive from face-to-face interaction and attention from professors and may not do well without that interaction.
Isolation from fellow students. Some students love to sit in their jammies and chat with their classmates online and don't miss the classroom setting at all. Others find this environment to be very lonely. Ideally, classroom settings can become welcoming communities, and it's harder (although not impossible) to replicate that online. If you've been a member of online communities and enjoy this type of interaction, an online course might be for you. If this sounds unpleasant, though, you might be better off in a traditional classroom.
Credits may be difficult to transfer. If you are planning to transfer your online course into an existing or future program of study, be very careful. Before taking the class, contact your school and get a definite answer about whether this class will transfer. Research online courses and degrees carefully! Make sure the course is from an accredited institution.
Access to and knowledge of technology is required. You don't have to have a computer science background to take these classes, but you do need to be computer literate and comfortable with technology. You also need reliable access to a decent computer system and probably a high speed connection. (Contact the instructor ahead of time to find out exactly what you need.) If computers aren't your thing, maybe the traditional classroom would suit you better.