Pros & Cons of Online Education
In the era of COVID, many of us are immersed in online learning. As we are hoping and preparing for the world to open up again in the future, students are considering whether or not this is a format they prefer. For those of you currently enrolled, this might influence you to change schools or programs. As for prospective students, considering the pros and cons will help you select the program that offers the learning environment which is the best fit for you. Read on for the benefits and drawbacks of online classes.
The most obvious benefit that appears to most people is the flexible schedule and environment that online learning provides. This means that you do not have to spend time getting ready, sitting in traffic, finding parking, finding the right building on the campus map, and sprinting to class. Instead, you can make yourself a cup of tea and slide into a comfortable chair in your pajamas from the comfort of your home and click a link to join the class. For many, the time commitment with online classes is also preferable. If you need to step away to use the bathroom, there is no need to disrupt class. You can simply turn off your camera and do what you need to do. You can make dinner and prepare lunches for your kiddos all while listening to a lecture from your laptop. Some programs might even allow you to complete courses through modules going at your own pace.
Aside from the obvious, online classes can effectively facilitate creative, multi-faceted learning by using the screen share function. Professors can share videos and PowerPoint presentations in a way that is easy for students to view and access later. Content, assignments, and discussions are all housed within online course hubs. Another key benefit is the ability for professors to easily record classes and post those recordings. Did you miss a class due to a family emergency? Don’t stress; you can view the recording of the class and it is almost like you were there. Furthermore, online learners also experience what the University of Illinois describes as a “Level Playing Field”. As they state, “In the online environment, learners have a certain measure of anonymity. Discriminating factors such as age, dress, physical appearance, disabilities, race, and gender are largely absent.”
Well, of course, the most obvious drawback to online learning is that technology is notoriously unreliable. Wifi is spotty and always seems to fail us when we need it most, like when we have that big presentation worth 30% of our final grade. This can present difficulty for students in showing up, being able to hear, and being able to contribute to the class conversation. And that is when students are comfortable with using technology. For students who are not as familiar with new software and programs, online learning can be especially daunting.
Depending on the subject, it can be a real loss that there is no real hands-on learning in the online environment. If you are in a biology class, virtually looking at things under a microscope really is not the same experience. A lot of students learn by doing and online learning caters to students who learn well through viewing and listening. Zoom does provide the option of breakout sessions, but it certainly is not the same feel as sitting in a circle with people in person. The group work is far less engaging and it can be harder to build relationships, even with your professors. Part of the flexibility is being able to participate in an online class without being seen, but this also provides challenges. Professors are likely to feel less connected when they only experience students as a black box on a screen. Additionally, this lack of a visual makes it hard to read cues such as facial expressions, which can inhibit our ability to determine how people are receiving what we are saying. This could lead to misunderstandings and potential conflict in discussions.
The Bottom Line
If you are considering participating in an online program, think about what is most important to you. Is your top priority to build lasting friendships and form a wide network that you can call on as professional contacts in your industry? If so, you might want to be in person. If you value flexibility above all due to all your other responsibilities, you might be willing to sacrifice some of that interpersonal connectivity in order to learn from your living room. No program is better than the other. It is all about what serves you best. Consider your learning style, your availability, your priorities and goals, and then let Insuravita help connect you to the program that best aligns with your needs.