What Are The Benefits Of Online Learning For Students

Online learning companies have been making it easier for students to complete their degree programs than they ever have before. What are the benefits of learning while on the job?

I had recently transferred from a well-known private school in San Francisco, and was trying my best to figure out how to navigate what seemed like a circuitous route to my career in journalism. (Almost all my classes had been at Stanford, where I’d been accepted to a graduate program, so my experience was relatively cut-and-dry—the time to take classes was in the middle of each day when I could pull away from my workload and collaborate with my classmates.) After I was accepted into the master’s program at Stanford, I skipped this portion of my post-secondary education and enrolled in a short two-week online course. (This year, I took a seven-week class and will finish the rest online.)

I had never done full-time graduate work before—my classes seemed rushed, and I was always a little antsy and anxious to be out of class for lunch. This technology-based course made taking 10-15 minutes to grab a sandwich a snap. Even better, I had an English professor I admired teach it—so it felt like I was in good hands.

The benefits for my internship, as well as my work as a freelance journalist, were immediate and tangible. The professor arrived to class with great ideas to teach my group about innovation and team building, and her questions weren’t just required reading material, but crucial connections to my work. One study I did had to do with a conference on diversity in tech, and I’d asked her for an analysis of the gender imbalance at the conference that would give me the data I needed to make an equally comprehensive story on what was happening at other tech conferences (the data turned out to be directly from those conferences and would provide me with direct insight to where I should be looking for the data).

As for study tips and requirements, class was brief, so I could focus solely on writing. And rather than reading text aloud and repeating it, I could read what was on my computer screen directly to my classmates, offering feedback and questions in real time. The instructor was one of the best I’ve ever met in class—someone who’s had real-world experience, an approachability and a willingness to practice their craft with actual students.

Additionally, I’m focused on course management and assessment. By taking the free, non-credit online course, I was able to make assignments on my own time during my free time and be prepared for an online assessment. Having this kind of feedback available to me felt like a huge advantage when I later submitted assignments and discussed my results with my professor and the class. This makes it easier to reach the level of instruction that you want—however you want to get there—and makes it more worth your time and energy to find an instructor you like and want to work with.

When I decided to take the online classes, I didn’t have an idea of what a professor could do for me beyond sitting in a room and talking. There are benefits to doing courses online, and the Stanford ones felt like a great option because of their non-credit nature. Additionally, I picked the Stanford program because I’d been involved with several freelance projects funded by its teaching-and-research initiatives. These fellowships, which are unpaid, help to fund researcher-led research that would otherwise be impossible. Many times, those projects are teaching and mentoring opportunities that students can’t benefit from otherwise.

One day, my professor texted me saying she didn’t think my assignment had enough written material. That came back in one email.

“Dwight!” she wrote. “It’s not too late! I can do a condensed version with extra supporting sentences and footnotes, and you’ll get credit.” The biggest surprise? She’d studied and done her homework prior to coming to class! I’d never heard of that—college professors tend to either see and hear a lot, or don’t give any attention at all.

Of course, I still face a lot of obstacles to success as a college student. Being easily distracted and distracted when I was in class meant that I would take class assignments that really didn’t hold much for me, and I missed some deadlines to do field reporting on campus. But at the same time, there are definitely pros to being able to focus—from getting assignments when I want to work on them to working when I need to, learning while studying—on the types of things I’m already good at.

Not only that, but if you’re a business with several locations and a wide range of locations in order to reach customers, an online course can save you money and make the program part of your work plan. If I ever want to take courses that require more prep work, I can, and vice versa. And for me, it’s an experience that feels like a shortcut to actually leaving the house and experiencing learning firsthand.

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