What Influences Student Learning In An Online Course

When it comes to teaching college students, many are up against a stiff peer-to-peer learning landscape. In such a competitive environment, it’s best to increase the learning curve by having students work alongside teachers in an online setting.

What Influences Student Learning In An Online Course

By Rachel Doran, King Features Syndicate

There has never been a more extensive digital learning space than now, thanks to programs like Coursera, Udacity, and Udemy. You don’t have to take the time to build an entire education curriculum for yourself; you can take a course or two and get the entire picture. This method differs from other forms of learning, such as traditional classes or courses taken on traditional campuses.

There is a downside to using online learning: You can only learn if you choose to. Part of your education experience depends on what you’re doing, and part of your experience depends on when you want to learn.

If you learn from a teacher, you can advance throughout the semester or even in the course, but online courses work better if you’re hitting your learning goals faster and if you can go back and take courses you may not have really gotten, if at all. There’s also a bit of a learning curve for the learner since you can’t watch videos or transcripts of what you learned from previous classes. There is an intermediate step you have to go through — called the “learner loop” — after learning a lesson, which is the portion of the lesson where you revisit and repeat a skill or process. You must study materials you may not have already studied to gain mastery of a skill.

Online education can be great for students who need a certain skill to pick up a good job. An online course might give you the skills you need for the position you want to move into. Maybe you need to become a Microsoft Excel expert or a Google Analytics specialist. If you need the skills to do these job searches, or another course would help, consider learning an online course.

But online classes aren’t for everyone. You should study if you need something for something. Take time to study if you are asking yourself, “What would this specific skill be to get a new job?”

Research may prove that it’s best to learn from a teacher — or even from a board of directors or department chairperson — because these instructors can help guide you as you get a better handle on your material.

Though you can try to pick up a skill as fast as you can, an online course is not automatically superior to a traditional classroom. You need to understand what you’re studying, not just click “save” and move on to the next lesson. You’ll need to analyze what you learn, look at the particular topic or skill in terms of what you’ve already studied, and not just dig into a piece of information like a homework assignment or test. What’s also helpful to take an online course for a reason other than learning: to discover new topics that help you as you move along in your career.

But online courses are great for people who want to learn things that they might not be able to learn through traditional classes.

If you don’t have a problem with waiting and taking short classes, online education can help you as you move your career forward. But perhaps you’re younger and want to get a jump start in your field. You can go through online courses that can help you gain traction or try some of the higher-level ones. If you take an online course, you can investigate a topic to see how it can help you, rather than blindly picking up every new idea, or acquiring every new skill, as you start at the beginning of your career.

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