What Makes Online Learning Different From In-class Learning?

What makes online learning different from in-class learning?

Willie Perkinson is an executive coach for professionals and bloggers.

LinkedIn goes off a few times when you’re attempting to answer a complex question, and it might be because the “answer” is not, in fact, an answer. And let’s be honest, our lives are very, very busy. Our brains are bombarded with information and notifications and everyone and everything seems like a challenge to actually understand and dissect.

We are inundated with information online at all times, and we’re always told that the answer is always right in front of us. We constantly get updates on how things are trending and what someone shared from the comments section or we get the latest headlines from Twitter and are asked what we think about it and whether we believe it. It’s human nature to sort through what’s going on in the world as quickly as possible and because we’re inundated with information, we are constantly looking for an easy, convenient way to make sense of it all.

The difficult thing about receiving information in a fragmented, rushed environment is that we often can’t do much with it. There isn’t much time to sift through the information, because after all, if you spend too much time on one thread, it’s going to take up space on your browser. You don’t have time to sit through the information, either, as you don’t know what else to do with it. To make sense of things you can’t see is especially difficult, since we have limited cognitive abilities to appreciate much of the information that we receive.

So what does that mean for active learning, when students are constantly bombarded with information?

Active learning is, of course, all about structure. Active learning is kind of like break time in school. In a school, break time comes about when every once in a while, a teacher decides to schedule a time when the kids (or adults) are allowed to go home to do something. Usually, it’s nothing more than a 15-minute period of quiet meditation. In the end, when the time comes to take the test, everyone feels like a winner because they made it to (or did) break time.

So, what makes active learning different? There’s the absence of rules. No grade points, no other learning activities needed, and no interruptions. And, importantly, nobody makes them wait, because nobody can push them to do something the way they’re supposed to. This radical simplification of learning also makes it more resistant to cyberbullying and overload. It makes it a lot easier for students to have a much better time learning a skill.

Sounds good so far. But is it a viable option for students pursuing any kind of advanced degree? Clearly, it depends on a number of factors, but one of the most important is, of course, how much the course takes up a student’s time and energy. For those who do have the resources and dedication to pursue an advanced degree, there’s nothing wrong with taking an active learning class, because it’s likely that they’ll find a niche in which they can succeed.

It’s also great for those who are simply looking for different ways to learn and explore. Having the opportunity to engage with people from different backgrounds and learn from the challenges they face is always a good thing, and there’s a lot of that in the active learning classes that SMU has in its modern arts, social sciences, and humanities area.

The Active Learning Class has grown over the years and it continues to grow. In 2016, the University restructured the material into smaller focus areas rather than the long courses that used to exist. So, we now have opportunities to take courses about film production, existentialism, technology, meditation, and other subjects.

In an academic institution, this is one of the ways that you can ensure that you’re spending time on things that are enriching and meaningful. You can use these types of classes to gain insight into areas that you want to explore and to feel that you’re meeting some unique learning challenges.

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