The 2014-2015 academic year proved, once again, that online learning is on the rise. The alternative teaching structure has quickly become a huge success across the country. More and more students are gaining access to high-quality, valid qualifications from their own home. It has become particularly popular with mature students and stay-at-home parents. Previously, to secure additional education, you’d have to attend evening classes or enroll as a mature student. Now, it’s as simple as turning your computer on and loading up the learning portal.
It’s a fascinating paradigm shift with many positive consequences. Firstly, and most importantly, it democratises the education system. The university structure no longer alienates those on lower incomes or restrictive lifestyles. Online learning is cheaper and accessible from anywhere in the country. You no longer need a huge college fund or mountains of debt. Neither does it require packing up and moving to another state for three years. Quite simply, online learning is changing the face of education for the better.
One of the biggest draws to e-courses and online learning is the choice on offer. There are significantly more options available to you when you choose an online course. Firstly, you can pick just about any university in the country. That means you get access to thousands of potential degree courses. You are not bound to a particular campus and their degree courses. Secondly, due to the ease of delivering the class, there are more niche courses on offer. It allows students to join an online class of just three others in their area of passion. Previously, these courses would be unsustainable on campus.
Another major draw of online learning is the freedom involved. With an online course, you set the schedule around your lifestyle. It’s why stay-at-home parents are becoming a rising student base! They are not beholden to 9 am lectures or seminars at set times. You make time for yourself and squeeze the learning into your schedule. It allows parents to get up early and cram in a lecture before the sun comes up. You can work into the evening or set aside time at the weekends. You can even work the course around running a business or working a full-time job. So long as you meet deadlines and take exams, the learning is done at your own pace.
Thanks to high-speed internet, these courses are now easier than ever to administer. Students get instant access to a portal of learning tools and resources. They can log into university structures and take advantage of the software. All lectures and reading material are available to download and consume at your own pace. You no longer need access to a large university library either. Most of the required reading can take place online through digital academic libraries like Jstore.
The quality of online learning has vastly improved too. As more students flood through the internet door, universities have responded in kind. They have thrown more resources at this area and provided excellent services. The American University of Washington DC, for example, offer audio-visual elements to the e-courses. You’ll get access to the same guest speakers and lectures are often streamed live.
It’s the move towards real qualifications that has made the big difference, however. In many cases, online learning only lead to partial qualifications, foundation degrees or lower equivalents. You can now obtain full undergraduate and master’s degrees through online portals. It gives students a much stronger incentive to enroll and complete their e-course. It is now a valid way to set yourself up for the future.
Many would argue that taking an online course takes away the thrill of campus life. To an extent, this is true. You won’t move into a new dorm and experience the life of a freshman. But, that’s not to say there isn’t a fantastic community to be found. Online learning brings students together online instead. You can conduct online seminars and chat to other students in real time. You’ll still make connections and gain access to a strong support system. Lecturers are at the end of a phone or email and you’re treated with the same respect as a student on campus.
Perhaps the biggest draw of all is the price. University fees are often astronomical; particularly at the Ivy League schools. Online learning lowers the bar a little as tuition fees are significantly lower. Your fees don’t have to cover as many physical resources, so courses are offered at a lower price. You also needn’t worry about the cost of living on campus and supporting yourself. Often, e-learners balance their degree course with a job at home to fund the learning. Price is a major factor in the rise of online courses.
Online learning looks set to rise further as we see more and more students enroll. What are your thoughts on this trend?