Learning online is a growing trend among students who choose distance education to complete their education. Here’s why some people consider it more effective than attending the traditional college.
How Does Learning Online Helps Student Develop Better
When I was a student, learning online felt like a strange luxury. Learning would move swiftly, free from the overwhelming burden of geography, textbooks, grading, and so on. But being online meant studying alone, complete with its own perks. Students of course (like you) found their online courses more satisfying.
In an era when questions of diversity and inclusion loom large, digital platforms are increasingly supplying degrees of study on a global scale. Their ubiquitous nature adds a vibe of openness to learning that we often see around in-person programs, but only seen online, ironically.
When the feds and states began restricting higher education due to fraud, online learning was in a negative (if perhaps temporary) light. But the pendulum has swung upward. Now digital learning is accepted for its ability to create a new brand of learning: immersive learning.
Studying alone benefits students because they can develop proficiency in skill areas and they do not have to rely on a professor’s grading system. Expertise spans areas such as composition, business, public speaking, etiquette, medicine, engineering, computer science, and marketing. In more and more programs, students can enroll in a course online and focus on one of these skill areas.
Researchers focus on the characteristics of immersive learning; the powerful results of such courses; and the unifying characteristics of immersive learning systems, such as data sharing, continuous feedback, and de facto competency-based and merit-based models.
An isolating future?
When I first wrote an article about isolation and online courses, some of the feedback was interesting. Many students (those who chose to enroll alone) used the post to explain why. My article drew attention to a study that found students in immersive courses avoided impromptu class interaction and students who had a degree weren’t required to attend. Many would say that should be a part of the class and they didn’t know if the class would fit their schedule.
But, the student who wrote post felt isolated. She was sick and didn’t have time to hang out with classmates on the side or participate in chats and quizzes.
She mentioned her fear of assimilating to an unfamiliar or failing class, and said, “Bias of peer relationships and superficial mastery; the loss of self-reliance, support systems, and accomplishment, and/or the rejection of those most closely connected with you by your peers (de-valued or even denigrated). The loss of the roots and roots of your identity.”
And indeed, researchers discuss the ways that immersion changes the learning experience and any interaction students have with peers and instructors (see this post for more details).
But what about the virtual instructor?
Alyssa Ciancio, the experienced leader of Michigan State University’s M-Lab and other online learning initiatives, says immersive learning isn’t about a remote instructor – it’s about an individual’s ability to master the subject matter.
According to her, studying alone is a traditional practice – being alone and failing alone isn’t necessarily what we would call unique. “You won’t feel isolated and lose friends in digital learning because at the end of the day the goal is to master something,” she said. “It is not about internalizing the material but to learn something you cannot master at face-to-face.”
When the professor assigns subjects, a student understands that it is a team effort between professor and students. There’s never a situation where a student gets cut from a class or the professor shows up late. She respects the work – if a student does a bad job of it, she will address that and offer feedback. Her work in the online learning space is collaborative; she’s part of a support system, not just a lonely professor.
She has in her mind what type of student might be engaging in a big online learning session. She says, “My personal feelings about those students are, “What was the point of having a lesson if the outcomes don’t change? My wife and I have spent time in dark rooms and we know how bad that feels.”