Online learning isn’t a new idea—it has been around since the beginning of the early internet era. What was new in the mid-2000s was the proliferation of students who wanted to take advantage of the immense potential of the internet as a tool to further their education.
What Experiences Do People Have Using Online Learning
Educators have long sought to find ways to provide affordable ways for students to learn. A necessary first step, of course, is to realize that there are a lot of alternatives to the traditional classroom, classroom experience and coursework itself. However, rather than make the students pay for traditional materials that might not work for them, or simply ask them to assemble materials from disparate sources, online learning could be a relatively straightforward and less expensive alternative.
This possibility made popular by sites like Coursera, Udacity and others, is called online learning. This type of coursework, with its central focus on online access, places a high demand on the resources available online and online providers are responding.
At FIRE, we offer a myriad of online courses, classes and certificate programs in fields including:
Coursework in languages, history, geography, psychology and all sorts of STEM fields
Although there is room for online-only learning options as online learning is gaining popularity, the community aspect of higher education is of utmost importance. People need to know the importance of sharing knowledge and growth with others and courses that require collaboration are a particularly wonderful way to share as a college community and as a community of all kinds of learners.
In fact, the traditional campus environment is too intense for the ideas behind online learning to be fully realized. Researchers at Stanford and UC Berkeley have found that people with a sense of community at work performed better and reported higher job satisfaction than their counterparts whose relationships were nonexistent. And work community also seems to be a key factor for people who attend physical-education and aerobics classes and are physically active. People who experience a great sense of community in physical activity have had a 70 percent decrease in the incidence of depression during the past decade.
Factors that contribute to physical activity in adults include a feeling of community, a sense of belonging, health-nutrients and healthy food, socialization, exercising as a group and, yes, a supportive environment.
Even when there is no question of whether the online experience is superior to the traditional one in terms of course content, there are still advantages to attending the university. No sense of group and no labor-intensive set of skills and time commitment to prepare the coursework, for instance. No homework, only texts, reading, video lectures and quizzes. While online options, on the other hand, can certainly provide students with access to this kind of information, it is more difficult for the tools and opportunities to be made more robust and interactive in such courses.
Students also need to understand the breadth of the courses that they are taking, and only a student with all of the necessary time and study skills can fully grasp what the online course content is all about.
As online education continues to grow in popularity, it must be mindful of the fact that the best learning experience for students is one that increases their individual learning and accomplishments. And that must all go into a larger goal of getting students to progress more quickly and realize their true potential.
That might mean convincing the providers and instructors who are educating them that the kind of coursework that is essential to the future of higher education and education accessibility should not be provided only through brick-and-mortar institutions or shared community spaces but over the internet, so that people can access the resources they need with ease. Online-only learning provides a great opportunity for some people and a wonderful opportunity for others. Online-only learners have found that the flexibility of this kind of learning fits them better than they thought.
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Kristen Hubbard is a student at The College of Charleston and an intern at the American Council on Education.