Online education has grown exponentially in the last decade. From college courses to online public K-12 schools, course offerings have become more diverse as students around the world begin to take advantage of the flexibility online education has to offer. Even as more students and teachers recognize the need for flexibility in terms of time and circumstance, some of the challenges of learning online remain. So, should the role of online education be expanded?
Benefits of online education
Online education can offer both benefits and drawbacks for students. A major benefit is flexibility. In our global economy, the world is working 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week. Business professionals in the past often had to choose between higher education and a career. Online education offers students more flexible hours and deadlines than traditional classroom courses. This means that home schooled students, frequent travelers and working professionals who may have unconventional schedules can still pursue a quality education.
Many traditional students have also faced the frustration of having a class canceled due to lack of enrollment, or being barred from a class that is too full. Online education offers more options here as well. Since online courses are frequently offered nation or world-wide, and because they have more flexibility than brick-and-mortar classrooms, chances of a cancelled or full course are less likely.
Online education may also be of benefit to lower-income students or those seeking courses strictly for the enjoyment of learning. Online education is frequently found to be less expensive than traditional classroom education. This is particularly true at the collegiate level. In some areas, K-12 online public education is offered free of charge. Major universities also sometimes offer various classes – without degree credit – free of charge. So, online education can reach a more diverse student body in more circumstances than ever before.
Challenges associated with online education
Even with these benefits, there are some challenges associated with online learning. Online education requires a certain degree of self-discipline, because students of online courses often participate in a self-paced style of study. This means that the student must be willing and able to set a realistic timetable for completing work and assignments.
In addition, online students often must teach themselves certain concepts and have the ability to work well independently. While online support is offered in most courses, it is often no replacement for those who learn better face-to-face or require firm deadlines to stay on task.
With more than three million full-time students enrolled in online college courses, it seems likely that the trend towards online education will continue. As technology improves and reaches broader audiences, students gain access to more interactive online classroom applications, eBooks for courses and become more comfortable with online learning. In addition, with the frequent career changes associated with our new economy and ever-changing skill sets required, online education offers an affordable option for professionals.
The expansion of online education, then, seems inevitable. In order for it to be most useful, it is important that students and teachers set realistic expectations for what online courses can and cannot do, and be realistic about motivation and ability to set goals. With realistic expectations, the expansion of online education could make learning available to a more diverse population than ever before.
About the Author:
Today’s guest post was provided by T.J. Beasley, professional blogger for Lift Education. T.J. is a freelance writer with a passion for sports among other things. He lives in Florida and tries to go fishing as much as possible.