Who learns best online? According to a study by Data Superhighway Inc., we’re more than three times as likely to learn academic tasks online than in traditional classroom settings. So it is easy to see why the majority of higher education students and many professors make their learning about learning online as much of their research and commitment as their classroom experience. While there are advantages to both methods, a determined student with dedication and a wealthy support system can master more material in less time through online learning than they ever could in a classroom. Still, some students are unable to achieve this success and need access to more than a screen. Most colleges, universities, and colleges of all kinds offer discounted or free computer labs, and in some instances, the ability to take community college classes. This way, a student can travel and go back and forth between online and college classes without sacrificing their academic skills.
There are specific attributes that make online learning better than in-classroom learning. First, online learning takes place in many completely different circumstances than in-classroom classes. Students in classrooms can collaborate with others and talk, while online learning is as much a one-on-one experience as a classroom one. Because classroom dynamics are only favorable when people are interacting, teachers benefit from conversations with their students. Teachers benefit from knowing what they’re teaching, and students benefit from being able to have a voice in what they are learning. But online learning conditions are not always conducive to collaboration, particularly if students are watching as their peers closely imitate their lectures.
Online learning also differentiates itself from higher education courses through collaboration. Online courses or classes allow students to work together with a professor online for an entire semester while that professor teaches and interacts with those students in a classroom setting for only part of the semester. These students may meet one-on-one with the professor or one-on-one with the professor and a group of students if they participate in collaborative projects. What this means is that students take part in what would normally be class projects. Students may choose to work on a problem on their own or they may work in teams with others to solve a problem. This all happens in a classroom setting, but it is done while simultaneously collaborating and learning together in a computer-based environment.
Online learning requires different expectations from students because they are working with their peers in a research capacity. Some students believe it is better if they are independently oriented and rely on handouts for learning. In contrast, the peer knowledge sharing and communication that happens online gives students the ability to choose the content they want to learn, and to learn it at their own pace. In the class setting, students are usually expected to take on the role of an expert, but online, there is less expectation for students to have a skill set, and the entire experience is able to become more individualized for each student.
Online learning by its nature also makes students more like academic experts in the classroom setting, because there is so much time spent online with subjects they know nothing about. And the scope of these subjects increases. The eight different subjects a teacher can teach an in-classroom class on serve to pinpoint the most critical points of interest to a student, yet online students will learn each of these areas after only a single intensive online course. Online learning, by comparison, gives students a much broader range of topics to concentrate on, and each student is more invested in mastering each subject that they develop in an online course. Teachers are able to help students learn through questioning, and this helps encourage new discoveries and new knowledge.