Oh, the wonders of the Internet… It’s a place where you can find every possible piece of info you need. You want to learn more about the universe? There’s an online course for that. You always wanted to explore literature but you didn’t do enough throughout school? You can keep learning at your own pace.
E learning is also a bit tricky. It demands time and crazy commitment. Let’s face it: when you sign up for a course, the chances for dropping out are much higher than the odds for completing it.
We’re all guilty of trusting stereotypes about online learning, so it’s time to clarify things. That’s what this post is all about. What are the advantages and disadvantages of e learning?
Let’s go step by step. First, we’ll wonder: “what are the disadvantages of e learning?” Then, we’ll talk about the good things. Finally, we’ll go through few tools that make learning more accessible than ever.
E learning is a systematic process of learning supported by electronic technologies, which give you access to curriculum outside of the classroom setting.
That’s the usual definition I think of when people ask what this is.
Let’s solve another dilemma: is it eLearning, e-learning or e learning? Well, it doesn’t really matter as long as you use the chosen spelling consistently when you write. If we take the Oxford Dictionary as an authority, it’s e-learning.
Let’s compromise: online learning is a pretty acceptable term, too.
I would like to focus on a particular word from the definition above: systematic. That’s an aspect many people neglect when trying to figure out how e learning works. Online learning is not something random you do in your free time. It’s not about googling different topics and reading whatever information you can find. You might as well do that, but you won’t be learning systematically.
With proper online learning, you’re making progress through a well-planned curriculum. Yes, there are assignments, too! It’s just like college, but the course is much more affordable or completely free.
So let’s get that out of the way: googling is not online learning by definition. Here, we’re talking about taking actual courses.
E learning is usually Internet-based, but it can also be based on a network or Intranet. When you enter a program, you’re getting coursework material that’s much different from the traditional textbooks we used to get at school.
How does it work?
It’s simple: you choose a course you like, you sign up and you start following the curriculum.
Online learning is flexible. Even if you miss the deadline for an assignment, most programs will allow you to submit it later on.
Peer-based evaluation is an important element of most courses. Depending on the course, you might need to review the assignments of other learners, and they will give feedback on yours.
Some courses require payment. When you complete them, you get a certificate. Others are entirely free, but they still offer high-quality learning.
Now, it’s time to get to the main point: exploring the advantages and disadvantages of e learning.
It’s Not What You Get from a Traditional University Setting
The first and foremost disadvantage of online learning is pretty obvious. You’re getting pre-filmed lectures. The professors are pretty cool, but these videos are not spontaneous. They are scripted.
In a traditional classroom, the professor senses the vibe of the students. They throw in a joke and wait for the response. They are getting feedback throughout the lecture and they can adjust accordingly. If someone didn’t understand something, they will explain it with other words. Questions are allowed even if the teacher is talking. With online learning, you’re simply following a video. You can play it back if you didn’t understand something, but you’ll still get the same explanation. If you don’t get it, you’ll have to google it.
When the students engage in a discussion, the professor gives direct feedback and supports the development of arguments. Yes, online courses have platforms where the participants can enter discussions. However, you get a completely different feeling when you speak up in a real classroom.
One Word: Procrastination
No one is pushing you to complete an online course. You’ll have to take that role and start motivating yourself. Needless to say, that’s a hard thing to do.
Lack of self-discipline is a serious problem with online learning. Since the courses are flexible, the learners keep delaying the scheduled lessons and assignment. That’s exactly why the dropout rates are so high.
I’m not saying that you won’t complete an online course. I’m just sharing the fact: when you’re not in a classroom setting with scheduled lectures you have to attend, it’s easy to start procrastinating.
Les Serious Assessments
When you take an online course, you’ll need to complete assignments. You’ll notice that most of the questions are only objective in nature. The team has no time to grade subjective opinions of thousands of students taking the course.
A Traditional Degree Is Still More Valued
Online learning is victim to stereotypes. People think it has no value and they don’t even try to compare it to the real thing. It’s a problem, because many universities offer online programs of great quality. However, it’s hard to convince all employers that your education is equally valuable when you get it online.
If you get a degree through an online program, you might face issues during the hiring process. Not all employers will have this attitude, but some of them might prefer the applicants who graduated from a program in a classroom setting.
Now that we covered the most important setbacks, it’s time to explore the good part – the advantages of e learning.
There it is, I said it. The most important advantage of online education is that people can afford it. If you want to learn something, you can even do it for free. If you want to get an actual degree from a famous university, you’ll invest a much lower amount of money, considering the fact that you’ll be studying from home.
Traditional education is getting way too expensive. Expensive is a small word for it. This is absolutely crazy! Normal people can’t afford it, and that’s exactly why online courses are an absolute necessity nowadays.
Online Learning Is Much More Convenient
You don’t have to wake up early, dress up and go to class. You have no travelling involved. You can watch a video at any time and organize the progress of the course in a way that works for you.
If you’re committed and motivated enough, nothing will stop you from completing the course. Yes, it will take more effort for you to turn learning into a habit when you don’t have people around you to push you through the process. If, however, you infuse online learning into your daily schedule and you stay focused on your goals, you’ll definitely get the results you’re after.
You Get Various Formats of Content
With online learning, you’re not doomed to listening to a boring professor speaking for hours. You get the content in various formats. Videos, infographics, presentations, white papers… you name it. You get access to discussion boards and charts, and you’re able to interact with the other participants.
The creators of online courses are trying hard to keep the learners engaged. They infuse various visual elements into the content, so they will capture and hold your attention. They are trying to make this interesting for you, and you’re the one who benefits from that effort.
It’s Learning, After All
With online learning, we’re slowly breaking the concept that students have to learn for the sake of degrees and grades. Now, people are learning because they want to. We’re finally getting to the point of learning for the sake of learning.
If you decide to take an online course, you’ll need the right tools to support the process. That’s the only way to diminish the disadvantages and enjoy all benefits this type of education can offer. First of all, you’ll need to choose a course. Coursera, Udacity, edX, and Stanford Online are only few of the many platforms you can explore.
When you find the course, you’ll need few tools that keep you committed. I’ll list few I found really useful:
It’s important to use different memorization techniques when you’re taking an online course, just as you would do if you took a traditional course at college. Flash cards are still effective, especially when you create them with a fun tool like Anki.
If you’re serious about online learning, you’ll put it in your schedule. When you plan how the course will fit in your daily routine and you stick to that rhythm, you’ll be on your way to success. Google Calendar is a simple planner, which allows you to schedule activities and assignments. You can set reminders before important due dates, so you won’t allow yourself to procrastinate.
This is an effective tool for blocking out distractions. You’ll stay focused on the course and you won’t be able to check social media even if you want to.
Do you consider online learning to be beneficial or would you stick to traditional, classroom-based education? Share your thoughts and experience!