Online education: benefits and drawbacks

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How do you decide if online education is right for you? Consider what makes distance learning unique when compared to traditional education models. Increased flexibility and convenience are often cited as reasons to pursue an online education. The pros and cons of online education can depend on your learning preferences - if you need the college environment to provide structure and routine, it may not be for you. If you prefer to work at your own pace and like being self-directed, it may be well-suited to your needs.

Online education is distance learning that typically allows you to have instant access to course materials. While some types of distance learning require you to take occasional classes in person, online education generally does not feature this condition.

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Flexibility

In a traditional learning environment, being a full-time student might be a requirement instead of an option. Distance learning generally allows you to be flexible with your time and schedule. When discussions take place online, you may be able to engage whenever it is convenient for you, or might choose to attend a session that works well with your schedule. Is now an important time for you to be at home? Are you a working professional? Whatever your situation, distance learning can be a good way for you to manage competing priorities.

If you are self-motivated and good at planning ahead, online education could work for you. In this type of learning environment, it is important to remain on track and pace yourself appropriately. If you cannot structure your courses and homework easily on your own, online education may not be a good fit. Since programs vary, you may be able to find courses that suit your learning style well.

In addition to allowing you to be flexible with your time, online education may also allow you to tailor content to your interests.

Interaction

A major contrast between online education and traditional models is the amount and type of interaction. When you learn online, you may have to consciously seek out interaction with other students and instructors. For those students that find in-person discussion and interaction beneficial to learning, online education cannot provide the same experience. Working on your own could be isolating.

In a traditional classroom, regular contact with peers and faculty is the norm. This might not matter if you are in a course that does not require much discussion, or if you are able to communicate well in the online format. It may even be a benefit for you: if you work best independently, e-learning can allow you to work the way you want to. The advantages and disadvantages of online education vary according to you and what fits your needs.

Convenience

If you have limited access to transportation, the convenience and cost savings of staying at home can be advantageous. The flexibility might allow you to work while you complete your education. You may even find yourself with more time to devote to other responsibilities when your courses can be finished at any time. However, it may be easy to put off assignments and become disorganized when you do not have instructors to check in with in person.

If experiencing campus life is not the highest priority for you, consider how online education could benefit you and your career prospects. Studying from home may allow you to work without distraction, and build confidence in your ability to learn independently.

Computer-based learning

Do you enjoy working with computers? If you have reliable Internet and computer access, distance learning allows you to access materials online. Without reliable Internet and computer access, online education could be difficult to complete easily and on time. Make sure that your computer meets the capabilities required of whatever course you're interested in. The advantages and disadvantages of e-learning depend on the student, but if you are comfortable with computers, the format may not make a difference. Online education can still provide many traditional classroom experiences - listening to a lecture, watching a video or asking your instructor a question.

Conversely, if you are not familiar with computers, distance learning may allow you to learn computer and Internet skills that can be useful in the future.

Whatever your reasons for considering an online education, it may offer just as much or more than a traditional classroom education.

About Anjali Desai

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