How Is Online Learning Sufficient? By Maryanne Roller An article by Maryanne Roller on the stakes of higher education.
How Is Online Learning Sufficient
It can be quite frustrating to be bogged down by all of those endless studies, university “demands,” and overflowing term papers. You’ve heard it a thousand times: We’re not stuck in a rut, you just need to do more. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to become a tutor, or start studying in a new location; instead, it just requires doing something every semester to make sure you’re sticking with your chosen field. My parents and their friends say I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t grow into my potential by continuing to take online classes and taking a nip here and there at other universities in hopes of earning a degree. Honestly, I don’t really look at it as discouraging.
When I was young, my parents were always pushing me to take classes that offered a better degree to go along with the job I wanted, so I had a clear idea of what my goals were. When I became more comfortable in my own skin and discovered my love for writing, I decided to pursue a degree in English—I loved writing, didn’t care for the stodgy academics and administrative requirements of law school, and knew I’d be able to land a job with freelance writing and find an editing position instead. But during my time in law school, I noticed that there were just so many side benefits to the online courses I took: The class schedules changed, they became more flexible, and you could simply e-mail your professors whenever you needed to. My in-person classes—which were manageable thanks to my attending on-campus lectures, working a part-time job, and staying active in extracurricular activities—didn’t do much for my schedule; getting everything done in class took up a lot of my free time. Still, the massive lack of physical schoolwork required to complete a degree in law school was appealing—and necessary. Now, 20 years later, I realize that I was exactly the sort of person who should take the online route.
I actually would love to attend some on-campus classes. Perhaps my schedule could be more strictly enforced to allow me to attend—and I’m a good shot at earning that edge to get hired. (In the meantime, however, I’m able to literally leave the door open and continue on with my research.) While there are definitely advantages to going to class alongside fellow students rather than thousands of miles away, I still find that the benefits of attending weekly in-person classes outweigh the ones I get from the online ones, particularly when it comes to work. Going to class in person provides the opportunity to ask professors questions and make connections with other people who may be equally curious about my subject and searching for themselves. Now, when I think about it, if I’m not participating in a specific class I might have missed those connections. I’m currently writing a project and going to lecture every day. Knowing where my classes are takes some of the burden off knowing what my next assignment might be.
But why should anyone be under the impression that pursuing an online degree is inferior to a traditional one? Today, in any time in our history, we’ve been able to manage our schedules to fit class into what was once left alone. Just because we didn’t go to three or four or 10 straight lectures, or don’t take every class offered doesn’t mean we’re becoming lazy or unqualified for a career. If I don’t attend some on-campus classes or classes across a variety of majors in my field, that doesn’t mean that I’m not serious. My choices should show that I’m taking in the things that are most relevant to the professional opportunities that are out there for me. Besides, even if you don’t go on campus every day, you can attend class online and remotely every week, too. I just need to stop feeling like an impostor because I don’t.