When Was Online Learning Introduced

See how online learning got from traditional to virtual.

I’ve been interested in basic writing practice since a kindergarten course I took taught us to treat text as a story. Since then, I’ve been convinced writing is a time-consuming, soul-crushing task that wouldn’t be as fun if it could be done faster or without learning these new skills. At my publisher, the MOOCs have been replacing traditional coursework for writers and publishers for years. Though recently, writers have started giving them a shot. If you’re not convinced writing online is something you want to do, just stop for a moment and imagine this scenario: You’re working on an assignment for an assignment. But then one of your classmates leaves your online classroom for the day. After taking notes, you are staring at a blank screen.

A new report by the Pew Research Center (“How Women Are Competing in the Workplace”), conducted as part of a series about workplace equality for women, shows that women are about to begin facing a different job market that comes with a substantial pay gap. A University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign study found that women make about 78 cents for every dollar men make for similar positions. As I write, the full report is still available, but this moment in time highlights a reality. As more and more women enter the workplace, women’s equality will follow. That said, I’ve been waiting for this moment for a while.

If you’re sitting right now staring at your keyboard with a blank stare in your eye, you’re still not my peer. Or someone who has struggled to balance having a life as a mom and working to ensure they can afford to pay their mortgage and put food on the table and a little money away for a rainy day.

Perhaps you’re wondering if online learning is a viable option for you or someone you love. I have to say, I’m over it. It’s time for online learning to stop, and let us return to a simpler, more orderly path. I’ve heard many of you say, “If I can’t learn online, I’ll learn offline.”

It’s as silly as saying, “If you can’t study at home, you’ll learn at school.” I’m sure your grandmother got all her lessons from a student teacher sitting on her porch with a rickety netbook and a head full of Spanish-speaking children. Me too. But I bet that many of us have talked about online learning and made it about a one-on-one conversation, where you pick someone’s brain, not a conversation that’s sitting at your desk or at a cafe. I’m a naturally curious person, and I love learning from people. But online, there’s just not enough time for that.

When I turned 30, I went back to school again. This time, I went to college and grad school and, for the first time, I had the opportunity to teach myself. It took six months of classes before I felt completely comfortable. Sure, I had to play teacher, but I learned and I grew.

I thought about going back online in college for a class in Web design. (Mind you, I didn’t go into Web design until after I went to school and started earning money from online classes.) Instead, I focused on training other people, so I gave away my (now deceased) computer library and taught myself, from pen and paper. After it became clear I could teach myself much more easily than I could without that training, I gave away most of my books and gave a few more away. The books were never going to keep up with the rest of my learning so I called it quits and I have not looked back.

I have heard many of you say online learning has been the only route for so many people who wouldn’t have gone to college. Well, that’s true of me, but it’s not true of all of me. My three-and-a-half-year-old daughter loves to learn in a classroom. And this is true for me, too.

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