With all the learning and education that’s occurring today, there’s a common misconception that someone must actually be there in a brick and mortar classroom to be a learning expert. Well, the internet has changed all that.
What Are Two Of The Seven Most Common Myths Of Online Learning?
Still haven’t figured out how to engage with those pesky online learners? Be reassured: you’re not alone. More than 50 percent of the nearly 1,500 students in our recent roundtable declined to answer the question (“How do you communicate with a college or university student online?”). And 73 percent of the 900 faculty members and administrators in the same category also couldn’t give a better answer.
But online learning still continues to grow and thrive. There are more than 13.8 million enrolled in online courses at some 2,300 institutions that are part of the national AcademicMatch online learning database. Our annual survey conducted in March of this year revealed that enrollment of undergrads has increased 72 percent from the 2011-2012 academic year to the 2015-2016 year. The majority of those students are taking online courses as well.
The psychology of online learning
So, why do students choose to take online classes? Our roundtable participants in fact had a few answers to this question:
Ariel Richards, Principal, Imerman Angels Network Learning
“[Online classes are] the perfect combination of independence and collaboration—not only my work and other’s’ work, but also through the way they get to learn, interact, and build intellectual trust,” says Richards.
Angela Dorsey, Ph.D., Executive Director of Education, Innovations in Higher Education
“Online learning makes it easier for students to reach a level of self-awareness necessary to consider themselves a member of society in which they have an important public responsibility,” says Dorsey. “Not only can they handle that responsibility through and through their own confidence, but they can also hold others accountable as well.”
Jamila Iqbal, Education Educator, San Jose State University
“I like being able to learn and to interact with other people on a variety of subjects with different perspectives,” Iqbal says. “My favorite classes [through online learning] are liberal studies. I found it challenging to learn all of the material and take notes and take quizzes, but I found a great way to do that. I really enjoy taking on responsibility and knowing what you’re supposed to study.”
Rebecca Kalb, Associate Professor, Department of English, Yale University
“I think it’s really wonderful to learn by experiencing the experience, having the access to learn in ways I couldn’t otherwise,” Kalb says. “Learning by traveling to other places and different points in time and backgrounds and integrating yourself into that experience—that’s powerful for me and I think that’s really what online learning is about.”
Lauren Spivey, Staff Scientist, Education, Darpa Research
“I think the thing I appreciate most about online learning is that it is not confined to one-size-fits-all,” Spivey says. “I find it endlessly accessible to so many people—one size, one lesson—and I have built a real community where learning happens in many different, different ways.”
Join the conversation
The growth of online learning also means greater flexibility and convenience for the colleges and universities that offer these courses. Why? They no longer have to worry about the cost and drawbacks that went along with using more traditional methods of delivery—guaranteed seat time, large class sizes, etc.
Plus, online learning doesn’t just benefit the institutions: it provides tremendous opportunities for the students who engage with online courses, as well. The ability to take, learn, and apply concepts all through the course material via a digital platform means that the students don’t lose valuable instructional time or skills from being interrupted. And the skills they’ve gained through online learning, which include critical thinking, global awareness, and social collaboration, will have the potential to serve them well when they step into the world of higher education beyond online learning.
In addition to offering the variety of courses they do today, universities and colleges are moving toward a solution that blends online learning with face-to-face interactions. The first in this trend, which is approaching in every sector and both in the public and private sectors, includes telecommuting, which is proving to be both effective in expanding learning opportunities and making it affordable for many.