Inside Higher Ed Online Learning Who Benefits

In the rising popularity of online learning, students sometimes worry that their options are limited and their educational options are limited. Some colleges and universities are eager to capitalize on the student interest that online learning now attracts by giving away free online courses on their web sites.

Scattered around the country, there are Higher Ed education programs that are delivered online. We need to remember that even the more traditionally online programs offer alternatives to the traditional classroom approach and have outstripped the advancement of social science education within conventional academic institutions and elsewhere.

Much of this innovation is driven by Americans’ increased reliance on technology to help complete their higher education needs. The shift to online learning has given many undergraduates an opportunity to learn by having access to a diverse group of highly-qualified, high-quality instructors. These online programs increase the likelihood of getting both an experienced and sought-after instructor and increased enrollment in courses with strong track records.

Data collected by The Schack Institute shows that students enrolled in the MediAcademy and Becker are able to complete their courses with considerably greater academic proficiency than those enrolled in traditional traditional universities, including in the humanities, math, and science. Enrollment for Becker students is more than five times the size of students enrolled in traditional universities, meaning they can likely complete their courses more quickly. The technologies used by many online programs maximize attention to what the instructor is teaching, and they help faculty engage with students as much as possible, allowing for more one-on-one interaction and enhanced learning.

Because online programs are typically smaller in size, they can also add more experiential components to their teaching experience. The high volume of course activity required to handle the volume of students enrolling in online courses means that professors have greater flexibility to customize and amplify their course experience by inviting their students into sessions and guest lectures, including those about current academic topics. Traditional universities need to keep that in mind when creating online learning programs.

Higher education institutions need to realize that they can reap the benefits of the movement toward online learning by creating a learning experience that encompasses online and brick-and-mortar, and by varying the level of activity necessary to accommodate the capabilities of their students. Complementary teaching methods, such as a range of study and work groups, can be effective and allow for deeper engagement among students than can be achieved in classes just for the benefit of the instructor alone. Combining all of these learning methods with technology, especially technology that allows interaction and specialization between instructors and students, can allow for a more complete learning experience, particularly for students in the various disciplines who may otherwise struggle to work together.

When it comes to online learning, institutions often neglect to think about the needs of the students in-person, as well as online. Traditional classrooms are notorious for limiting the ability of instructors to understand the full context of their students. While a single faculty member might teach multiple units of several subjects, that faculty member is also limited in his or her ability to connect with students because of the restrictions of the classroom. Schools need to think about offering specialty offices for faculty who focus on certain areas. Faculty in these offices could not only help students in different courses, but could assist students struggling with a particular aspect of their studies. Such faculty positions could be offered at any number of institutions.

While online learning classes are often targeted at a particular subject area, students can benefit from customized courses. It is especially important for students who enter college in a nontraditional work or residential situation, whether that is a residence hall or a halfway house, to be able to pursue their learning aspirations.

Regardless of the form the courses take, online programs should incorporate flexibility in the course structure, as well as the like of homework plans and studying support. Access to software that supports student learning could make a significant difference in the experiences of students who are juggling a myriad of personal and family commitments in addition to their course work. Enrolling students in such programs are an excellent way to increase graduation rates in a competitive educational landscape. Schools that build such an approach into their offerings should leverage their existing strengths and introduce others to them, as online education is a growing area of business and the educational experience itself has never been as important.

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