We have discussed and considered online learning options during this course and have had some really insightful conversations. I have generally been really pleased with my online learning experiences. Courses are engaging, lively and these experiences are helpful when living in an isolated community.
In general, online learning provides students with more options for their education, and creates new learning environments connecting people all over the world.
It is difficult to know where education will take us in the future, because new technologies are evolving so quickly, we often loose track. Online educational platforms are being constructed to maximize students learning potential at an unprecedented rate. Even still there are lots of things to consider when exploring online learning options. I have gone through my notes on online learning throughout the course and have compiled some points on both the benefits and disadvantages when considering online learning options.
The benefits of online learning:
Flexibility- online learning supports students who don’t often fit the norms of standardized education. It can also allow students to catch up on coursework or take courses that may otherwise not be offered. In addition, online learning provides students with a safe place to explore social interactions.
Accessibility- while online learning is not yet providing accessibility for all, it is moving education in a positive direction, especially for those who are not physically able to attend schools in person. Online courses also allow students to access course material any time. Students are able to refer to material as they need it and refer back to course information and concepts.
Experience- Students can gain valuable insights and online learning offers students opportunities to learn with other learners as well as instructors and guests from different disciplines.
Opportunity- online learning can provide students with the means to personalize their learning, creating unlimited options for learning and should be used as a supplementary or add on, not replacing something that already exists. Online learning options also provide students with more ownership in their learning. It can also provide students with valuable skills to take ed-tech and their valuable skills into the real world.
More opportunity-online learning can also mean more options for coursework in a variety of disciplines. Online courses can provide students with options for equivalently weighted courses offered at educational institutions that are face-to-face classes. In addition, students are provided with opportunities to learn course content from instructors who are highly experienced in their discipline.
The potential disadvantages of online learning:
Student motivation- the level of motivation may be affected by students participating in online course work. Many students choose online learning as an alternative option to high school if conventional schooling has not been a fit. In addition, online learning requires a great deal of self-discipline, as students need to work out time management and organization skills in order to stay on top of their work and ensure they have enough time to complete assignments.
Self regulation- often these skills are lacking, students leave work until the last minute. Students often feel disconnected as they are not interacting with their professors and colleagues face-to-face. Often this idea of not meeting face-to-face can be underestimated and the impact can mean that building relationships with your instructor and classmates require more effort in this online learning environment.
Standards- its hard to say whether the standards are similar from one online institution to another. In addition, when considering options for online learning, it is important to consider whether a program is accredited and recognized by credible universities or colleges.
Accessibility- When thinking about online learning access plays a huge part. While online learning is flexible and provides access to learning, it does not alleviate the issue of access for all. It presumes that everyone has a computer and access to the internet. It also does not guarantee that everyone is familiar with the platform chosen for the course. To further think about access, most schools are not equipped to support students who are participating in distance ed. Furthermore, schools that promote many online platforms for learning do not have alternate options for students who do not have access to technology or whose parents choose for their children not to participate.
Risk- What are the risks of online learning for students? Online courses lack opportunities for hands on learning, which can make reinforcing concepts for students who require practical applications. Online learning also makes us think about the basic needs that are lacking for many students. It does not address basic needs such as nutrition or even additional services that students often can access on campus such as mental health services.
Regardless of whether you are a proponent of online learning options or not, online learning provides students with the autonomy to choose what their learning experience will involve, promotes many transferable skills and narrows the gap of accessibility. While there is still more work to be done in terms of fully addressing accessibility, online learning is a stepping stone in the right direction to see education made more accessible for all.