The popularity of online schools has grown over the past several years. As computer technology advances, so does the structure of online courses. Improvements in technology have made online schooling a more accessible option for traditional colleges and universities.
Online schools are a relatively new phenomenon and is constantly evolving. Teachers and students alike are becoming more familiar how to navigate online courses, and programs continue to improve.
Online schools, as with anything, have their advantages and disadvantages. Although students receive just as valuable of an education in online school as in a campus-based school, whether or not their particular learning style is compatible with the structure of online courses determines if the pros outweigh the cons.
Pros of Online Schools
- Time flexibility. Online courses are convenient because students may log into the course material whenever it suits their schedule. Of course there are deadlines regarding homework assignments and discussions, but as long as the student meets these deadlines, they can read and review course material at their leisure. This is particularly great for those also juggling a career and family.
- Availability. There is a growing number of online schools being established each year. This means that people considering pursuing an online degree can shop around for schools, finding the one that best suits their educational needs and desires. Online degree programs are available that offer certificates, online associates, bachelors, or masters degree.
- 24/7 access to course material. In the traditional college setting, students must rely on their notes in order to remember class lectures. With online school, written lectures are available throughout the course of the semester, so going back to review course material is always an option.
- Location flexibility. With online schools across the world, students can now take classes from a different state or country without leaving the comfort of their own home. This also increases diversity among students, as classes may be composed of people with different backgrounds from around the world.
- Zero commute. This is one of the most appealing advantages to online school, as the extra time it takes to commute to classes, could be time spent completing homework, studying, working, or raising a family.
- Self-Direction. Students choose when and where they complete schoolwork and are able to determine their own pace.
- Multi-media presentations. Many online courses use a variety of media, such as CD/DVD's and a Web Cam, to teach lessons and to aid students in completing their homework.
- Variety of course options. There is virtually no limit to the variety of classes offered through online schools. Students are able to take courses ranging from an associates degree in criminal justice to a bachelors in business administration to a masters degree in nursing.
Cons of Online Schools
- Limited interaction with instructor. Online professors usually have a limited role in teaching, as they primarily guide students through the pre-written or pre-recorded course material, rather than teach it. The majority of the interaction with professors comes from class discussions and feedback on assignments. Some students who thrive in one-on-one interaction with their professors, may have trouble with this format of schooling.
- Technology requirements. Not everyone has access to a computer in their homes, or their computer might not be equipped with the latest technologies, which inhibits their online learning experience. Many online schools are still working to build their technical support, so students may be on their own when attempting to troubleshoot problems.
- Social interaction. One of the benefits of attending courses in a traditional bricks-and-mortar school is the peer-to-peer interaction. Although most online courses do have a discussion area where students are required to talk about specific questions pertaining to that week’s lesson, this is done primarily through writing, making it more difficult to form lasting bonds.
- Campus environment. Online schools lack valuable campus resources such as extracurricular clubs and activities that can be both enriching and educational. This is particularly important for undergraduate students coming directly from high school, as they may find that they miss these opportunities for personal enhancement.
- Time management. Individuals who are prone to procrastination will have an especially difficult time adapting to the structure of online school. Hours of self-directed work are necessary to get through all of the material, including course lectures, video supplements, assignments, assigned textbook reading and discussions. Sometimes obtaining your online degree, especially an online masters degree, require a greater amount of work.
- Stigma. Although online schools have gained more credibility over the past few years. There is a common misconception that online school is easier than traditional schools, and employers may not take your degree seriously. However, 60 percent of employers report that they value an online degree.
- Credit transfer. Until the stigma of online school is eradicated completely, it will remain slightly more difficult to transfer online course credits to a traditional school.
- Financial aid. Not all online schools will accept financial aid, so students who will require financial aid to assist in paying tuition should do their research before sending out any application.
Tips & Tactics:
- Beware of online degree scams, or “degree mills”, that prey on those looking to earn an online degree quickly. These degree mills are usually easy to detect, as they offer a fast degree delivery that you must pay for in advance. Another tell-tale sign is being able to choose which degree is listed on your diploma, for a fee. Always check a program's credibility by verifying their accreditation.
- For the best chances of success, make sure that your computer is up-to-date. This will ensure that you have all the necessary tools to complete your online coursework.
- Minimizing distractions around your workspace is essential to providing a productive atmosphere for online learning. Also steer clear of the temptation to surf the Web while completing coursework.
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