Other than saving the planet, what are the advantages of an online course?
1. Online courses are convenient.
The biggest advantage of an online course is that your classroom and instructor (theoretically) are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Your only excuse for missing class is not getting online! Otherwise, everything is available to you. You can get announcements, access notes, review assignments, take practice quizzes, discuss questions, chat with fellow students and study any time you want. Other than certain due dates, you make your own schedule for completing the requirements of the course.
2. Online courses offer flexibility.
You can study any time you want. You can study with whomever you want. You can study wearing anything you want (or nothing if you prefer!) Online courses give you the flexibility to spend time with work, family, friends, significant others or any other activity you like. You still have to complete the work (and this flexibility can be your downfall; see disadvantages) but for many people, with continually changing work schedules or people who make frequent business trips, parents with small children, students caring for others or whose health prevents them from making it to campus on a regular basis, students whose friends or boyfriend/girlfriend drop in unexpectedly, or for those days when the surf and/or snow is wicked, this method of course delivery can't be beat.
3. Online courses bring education right to your home.
Online students often find that their family, friends and/or boy-girl-friends get involved in the course. Oftentimes, a student will study with that special someone present. Children may take an interest in the online environment. Parents may look over the shoulder of an online student while they are surfing across the web. In short, everyone in the household gets involved in learning. Having the support of your family and friends makes you more likely to succeed.
4. Online courses offer more individual attention.
Because you have a direct pipeline to the instructor via e-mail, you can get your questions answered directly. Many students aren't comfortable asking questions in class for fear of feeling stupid. The Internet (hopefully) eliminates that fear (as long as you feel comfortable with the instructor). Many times you think of a question after class or while you are studying. Rather that trying to remember to ask it or forgetting it, you can send an e-mail to the instructor. Your opportunity to learn is enhanced.
5. Online courses help you meet interesting people.
Many of us don't really take the time to get to know our fellow students, especially in large classes. We might be too busy or we're just plain shy. An online course provides an opportunity to get to know other students via bulletin boards, chat rooms and mailing lists. I've had students form study groups online, meeting at a local library or coffee shop. Even if you just converse online, it gives you a type of interaction with ot gher students and other people that just isn't practical in the time-limited on-campus classroom.
6. Online courses give you real world skills.
When you complete this course, you will be able to include e-mail and web browsing as technical skills on your resume. That gives you a definite advantage over someone who doesn't have these skills. Learning how to get information via the Internet opens up a world of possibilities for your personal and professional life. You can find jobs online, get college applications online, make travel plans online, get dealer costs for cars online, comparison shop online, access great works of art and literature online, meet people from around the world online, follow sports and movies online, and so on. The possibilities are practically endless.
7. Online courses promote life-long learning.
Most of the time, most of what we learn in a course is forgotten within a week or two of the end of classes. Having that spark of interest and knowing how to find information online insures that what your learning is always available to you. If you become interested in a certain topic, perhaps because of something you see, read or hear about, or perhaps because one of your children or friends has a question, you can get online and look it up. You will have developed the skills to find information, digest it, synthesize it and formulate an answer to any question that comes your way.
8. Online courses have financial benefits.
Although you may think that buying a computer and paying for Internet access is pretty expensive, consider what it would cost you in gas and parking each month if you were driving to campus. Consider the costs of eating out versus eating at home. Consider the costs for child-care, pet care or any other kind of care that you need to provide while you are away from home. Consider the costs of missing work to make classes or not being eligible for a promotion because you can't attend classes to advance your educational level. These are very tangible benefits of having access to education at home.
9. Online courses teach you to be self-disciplined.
Perhaps the greatest foe of online courses is procrastination. Most of us, instructors included, put off the things we need to do until the very last moment. When it comes to education, the last moment is the worst possible moment to learn. Sometimes that lesson is learned the hard way in the form of poor performance on an exam or assignment. But ultimately, you succeed because you realize the importance of doing things on time or even ahead of time. That self-realization propels your success in an online course. No one is there looking over your shoulder to tell you to go online and study. No one is there to make you ask questions or post responses. The motivation to study in an online course comes from you. It's something we call student-centered or active learning. The online student takes responsibility for their course of studies and matures into an individual for whom learning and accomplishment are highly valued. In short, your success depends on you!
10. Online courses connect you to the global village.
No technological invention in the history of man has connected the people of the world like the Internet. While there is still a huge disparity between those who have access to the Internet and those who don't, the mere fact that any of us can communicate across the globe speaks to the importance of this medium. Many times the web sites you visit in a course will o be based in another country. What better place to find out about the works of Michelangelo than to go to Italy (virtually, of course)? What better way tn learn about the Amazon rain forest or the history of China or the customs of islanders in the South Pacific than to visit those places online? And if you participate in global learning days or other online evts, you may even meet and make friends with someone in another country. It is a small world, after all.
There are probably many more advantages to Internet-based courses, but we think you get the idea. The point is that we live in an dver-changing world that is ripe with new possibility. The ability to learn new information or a new skill whenever you want and wherever you want offers far greater opportunities for education than ever before. The scope and reach of education broadens to far greater horizons that perhaps ever imagined.
© Sean Chamberlin, Fullerton College. Used with permission.