A lot has been written as to the changes that higher education has and is undergoing, and for many, it has become a confusing period in the sector. Educators, lecturers, students, and potential students alike are at a loss as to where the sector is going and what to expect. This article aims to provide a simple outline of the pros and cons of online higher education as a summary of the information and advice that is currently out there. The online higher education sector is booming, and as such, it is advised to know and understand some of the common positives and negatives before you consider the entry.
Pros of online learning
Learn at your own pace, convenient
Online higher education offers a level of flexibility and convenience that has not really been seen or experienced before. Whether you study full-time or part-time, doing so online will allow for you to access lectures and seminars when it suits your lifestyle. Being able to fit bursts of study into a busy lifestyle has to be one of the main advantages of the online method of study. It’s great to be in the classroom and share discussions, but if you just don’t have the time or have kids to pick up and a home to run, then being able to pop in and out of your studies is the best way to get educated.
There is currently the widest selection of online higher education courses than there have ever been actual university courses. What can now be learned online has surpassed our wildest expectations, and as long as you have thought of doing it as a career, it’s likely that somewhere on the internet, there exists a degree course that you could take. From a masters in education distance learning programme to one-off courses on cyber security and animation, the variety will astound you. The advice is to choose a career path and then use the internet and online courses to build a sound foundation of knowledge, education, and practical skills that will allow reaching this specific goal. Without such a clear plan, it can be easy to get lost in the plethora of courses and end up with a very disjointed educational resume.
Living on campus at a bricks-and-mortar institution, having to move away from home, and then still paying the course fees all bring with them costs that have made higher education unaffordable for many. The alternative as provided for by the online versions allows students or learners to stay at home, and as long as they have the requisite time and technology, then they can access some of the best institutions of knowledge generation that there are.
It has become possible with the type of technology being used in modern online learning to create some of the most interactive courses that there are. Yes, online VR and chat can provide for a much better-structured discussion and provide all students with the opportunity to interact. Dedicated talk time with lecturers, supervisors, and tutors is all now part and parcel of online learning and makes for a better opportunity for all learners to interact that may have been limited in larger physical classrooms.
Not all courses can be offered
There are some courses that simply can’t be offered online. Although virtual reality technology has improved dramatically over the last few years, and it is indeed being used to teach some of the more practical hands-on courses. Augmented reality and virtual reality have changed the educational playing fields, but the expense involved means that not all nursing colleges, or art schools, engineering, and carpentry can afford to teach online at the moment.
No campus vibe
There is something to be said about the campus lifestyle and what it brings to the learning process. Online learning may be able to offer a certain degree of interaction and real-time learning, but it will never be able to provide for the social and personal interaction that a real live higher education, college, or university experience provides for. It is a definite disadvantage and yet one that can be overcome if you build a solid online group of friends and study groups around the online courses that you have chosen.
Internet Connectivity issues
The fact that the learning occurs online and requires internet connectivity means that as soon as there is a problem with said interconnectivity, there can be no learning. Material can be downloaded and accessed offline, but without the connection, you can’t be in the classroom or use the pros as aforementioned.
Requires more self-discipline
All study requires commitment and dedication to get through but doing an online course may require more self-discipline in that there will be no set times for your revision or reading, nor will you be able to model your behavior on other students or meet up in the library for a study session. This is one of the main reasons online courses are non-completed; we all have great intentions to start and do, the registration fee and course fees are paid, but without great self-discipline, many won’t finish more than a 1-year course.
It can be isolating for some
Educational isolation online has become a common occurrence, especially if there is a difficult topic that requires intense explanation and discussion. The physical and intellectual separation of the students and their teachers or lecturers
Online higher education may not be for us all. However, the opportunity that it presents cannot be ignored. While it is advisable to seek out knowledge and build a cogent basis for whatever career you choose to do, it is also advised that you know and understand the downside to this new trend in higher education. It is only through online higher education that some established institutions will be able to survive, while for others, it has been simply about the rush to market, so look carefully, do your research and reading and have a clear understanding of why and what you want to do online.