Why We Should Not Be Investing In Online Learning

Sometimes, there are no winners when it comes to investing in learning online. Because you shouldn’t be.

Why We Should Not Be Investing In Online Learning

via Wikimedia Commons

A study called “The Economic Properties of Online Educational Programs” which was published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, found that using online courses to replace coursework was not good for students, and it can put a dent in business plans.

The study looked at 49 online graduate programs from a number of different areas. This included management, humanities, and business studies. In many cases, the study found, online programs did not deliver good value or help students graduate. Not only that, but it took a long time to get the job done.

And then there are the class distractions. Online programs were also not good for participants. Most participants didn’t devote time to learning, leaving little time for procrastination or deliberate study. Most of the tasks were, simply put, extra.

All of these points were dangerous. They could pull a program’s real program apart, which is something that can prove fatal.

The study found that participants were better off if they attended a traditional course based course. This meant that at least some of the traditional format was simply better.

There was also a wider gap in quality between programs, finding that the best-performing programs ranked higher. There were, however, large opportunities for inequity. Programs at BPP in China, for example, were the best-performing. This may be the textbook of a we-call-it-so-much-that-it-is-art piece. But it demonstrates an underlying truth in the field: For those working with online programs, you should probably stick with the more traditional solutions that provide reliable returns on investment.

The article outlines several factors that lead to better results. Examples of those factors include scheduling more thoroughly, focusing on a limited set of core skills, providing feedback to students in greater depth, and focusing on core areas within a program.

And the authors, Agata Smiczewska and Kailash Patel from the Wharton School, showed that this is true across the world.

Consider the example of a UK program. This particular program is good, but results are questionable. The learning value, however, was practically non-existent. The program could be excellent or it could be average — but it did not matter in the scheme of things. More than ever, after checking out a program, the best course is the one you work towards getting through.

The student investment in online programs is not yet market-ready

Following this conclusion, the authors went on to also draw attention to a particular limitation of online learning. Because students are not held accountable for their performance, they tend to gravitate toward programs with something to prove.

For students working towards a specific goal, they tend to choose good programs, even though they don’t provide the same level of results. And on those failed attempts, they can be quick to give up, never to follow up.

Poor outcomes for students leads to poor outcomes for the business: the start-up companies that can lose money investing in online learning startups. These startups suffer, taking investment away from other businesses that are trying to take advantage of an expanding market.

While all of this may sound less than practical, there are drawbacks to traditional learning programs. If you want to be precise, there is not yet a similar marketplace for people looking to invest in academic institutions. This is why you don’t see of lot of individuals who have this opportunity on their desktops every day, and that opportunity could potentially lead to a massive reduction in investment time.

It may be impractical at this point, but the research of Smiczewska and Patel is compelling. They cite these findings along with other studies from around the world to show that it’s a good time to sit back and consider the types of options that exist for students.

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