Monday, December 7, 2009

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Taking Classes Online

There are advantages and disadvantages to online education. It is important to understand these in order to be a successful online student. It is also important to remember that an online education is not right for everyone. By the end of this article you should be able to determine if online education will work for you.

On Your Time

One of the biggest advantages of online classes is being able to enter your classroom when it is convenient for you. Do you work all day? Then you can log on to your class in the evening or on the weekend. Are you an early riser? You can log on to your class in the early morning hours. Your virtual classroom is open twenty-four hours a day seven days a week.

While logging into your virtual classroom at your own time is an advantage, it can also be one of the biggest disadvantages of an online course. Sometimes not being obligated to a certain day and time can lead to procrastination. Before you know it the second week of class has arrived, but you haven't started on week one's assignments. Once you get behind it can be difficult to catch up. This emphasizes two important qualities that a successful online student should have: self-motivation and self-discipline. Good time-management skills and effective study habits are also necessary.

The Professor's Lecture

In a virtual classroom your professor's lecture is written rather than spoken. There are several advantages to this style of lecture. In a traditional classroom environment you would listen to your instructor's lecture and hopefully take notes. You will then be required to do your homework assignments outside of the classroom. What happens if you are doing your assignment and can't remember what your instructor said about the subject you are studying? You can search your notes, but maybe you missed that particular point or simply didn't think to write it down. You can remember your instructor talking about the subject, but you can't remember any of the details. What are your options? You can ask some of your fellow students for assistance hoping they wrote down the points in their notes or you can wait until the next class meeting and ask your instructor.

The virtual classroom is totally different. If you can't remember what your professor said all you have to do is re-read his or her lecture. In most cases you will be able to print a hard copy of the lecture. You will be able to review you professor’s lecture without even going online again.

Your Virtual Instructor

Online instructors have the same qualifications as an on-campus instructor. They are experts in the subject they are teaching and usually have a master's degree or higher. However, if you are a person who needs personal contact you may need to do some adjusting. Some students will never actually meet their instructor and those who do may only have such contact one or two times during the course. This lack of personal contact tends to be the biggest complaint of online students.

So how does an online instructor interact with his or her students? The three main interaction tools are email, discussion forums, and chat rooms. These methods of communication will be discussed in future chapters.

Student Interaction

Online students may find it difficult to socially interact with each other. There are several reasons for this. One is conflicting time schedules. Another is the varying locations where students live. Often students in the same virtual classroom can live in different states or even different countries. While discussion forums and chat rooms provide a means for student interaction, they do not provide the social connection of an on-campus class.

The average online student is usually a working adult or a parent of small children or both. If this description fits you, then your reasons for enrolling in college courses is not likely to be social interaction. Your goal is strictly educational so you can have an opportunity to earn your degree and get that promotion you have been hoping for or move on to a whole new career or just feel good about your accomplishment. Without online courses such a goal would not be attainable. Consequently, for most online students the lack of social interaction is not a major issue.

An advantage worth mentioning here is the fact that students who tend to be shy about participating in a physical classroom are usually much more conversational in an online classroom. They tend to be more willing to post comments on the class discussion forum and are usually more prone to ask their instructor a question via email. As a consequence, a shy or timid individual can have a more positive learning experience in the online environment.

Donna is an online instructor for two colleges and she
received both her B.S. and M.B.A. via online classes. You are granted permission
to use this article on your blogs, websites, or ezines as long as the author's
name, websites, and bylines are included.

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