What Do People Not Like About Online Learning

Zappos on the negative aspects of online learning.

In a recent conversation with some people who actually have student loan debt, my questions were all about what online learning really means.

When we look at the rapidly changing education landscape, we can see that online learning is among the trends we are seeing as the fast approaching future of higher education. This shift is being driven by several things, as outlined in these posts:

Nearly one quarter of the U.S. college population (23 percent) is enrolled in courses that are delivered to them by technology, according to a recently released report by Cengage Learning. Higher education remains hyper-competitive, and in many parts of the country, where the cost of education is low, students choose to take classes to get more-relevant credits, or because there are not enough courses offered locally that their needs meet.

High-tech learning tools are improving dramatically. Because of higher quality content, their flexibility, and other factors, higher education students are increasingly looking to the web for their coursework. This is creating a demand for higher-end services that provide more robust learning programs. So, higher ed is relying less on lectures and more on higher-quality content delivered by advanced, online teaching strategies.

More students will be seeking out larger, elite institutions. As technology improves, students are going to want higher-quality classes they can take at a fraction of the cost. Moreover, students who work or volunteer long hours and return home from their college work looking for something to do, online learning can provide them with something they simply can’t find elsewhere.

The last decade has seen the transformation of everything in higher education with the most notable change being the abandonment of traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms. The old, stodgy way of learning has become the antithesis of the new, interactive, cutting-edge technology of learning. For many, it comes down to a lack of resources and those who can afford them. Others wonder why they can’t go back to their passion; and many want to continue on in their chosen profession, particularly those pursuing the civilian-equivalent of a graduate degree. Finally, as higher education needs to cope with increased competition, money is increasingly a factor. Online learning provides multiple paths to education and, if used properly, can be a less expensive and more reliable way to attain a degree or additional credentials.

The way digital learning has been implemented has improved greatly over the last ten years. This has led to what we think of as “a la carte” classes. Rather than having to pay full tuition for all of your courses, some might choose to pay just for some, or perhaps a few more. There are a number of concerns about this approach that need to be addressed as online learning grows.

The first concern is cost and potential burdens to the students themselves. In some cases, universities are making the decision to charge much higher tuition and much more for online courses than they do for the same course in a brick-and-mortar classroom. This isn’t necessarily necessary and it can be a solution for some students, but if it happens, it is going to be a huge cost in dollars and time. Additional work and effort can be given to promote ways to save time and money for students.

The second issue is the logistics and logistics of e-learning. It can be frustrating for many students to navigate to where the class is taught, be it virtual, online, or in a hybrid setting. It is vital to have a distribution center in place so that students can easily transfer work and assignments between courses and still stay in the system.

The third concern is the cost of the technology. With an increasing number of people coming back to work in heavy machinery, trucking, construction, or all sorts of other industries, there is a large potential pool of students with many hours available to work during the week. Keeping that full pool of talent employed can be a challenge. There are many partnerships that exist between students and employers to help with the logistics of operations.

Those three concerns can be alleviated by technology solutions that can be tailored toward students and the needs of the institutions.

The bottom line is, online learning is here and is likely to be with us for some time. The question is, how do we really use it to our advantage?

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