Online vs. Traditional
Understanding and comparing the positive and negative aspects of both approaches
The number of people enrolling in online education programs is growing at a phenomenal rate. Prospective students view the non-traditional approach, or the online option, as a way to not only further their formal education but also as a means to expand their opportunities and advance their careers. The following information is meant to illuminate and inform you about the differences between an online education program and the traditional education experience and also give you some positive and negative aspects concerning both programs. You should consider these different approaches to learning carefully and be certain of your choice before making the commitment of your time and money to a specific program.
The Pros of an Online Education
Cost: In many instances, online education may be more affordable than a traditional educational environment. There are the obvious savings on transportation costs, such as gas, bus passes, and parking fees. There is no need for expensive housing or meal plans since you will not be living on or near a college campus. Tuition costs can vary greatly among online institutions. Once you have decided upon a field of study, it is possible to compare the costs of comparable programs online. Many times, there is no need to purchase expensive college textbooks. Most often you have the ability to download all the resource information required directly from the internet. Some online programs do charge for this service, however. An important fact to keep in mind is that many online education programs offer the same financial aid packages, including loans and grants, which are available from traditional education institutions.
Convenience: This may be the number one reason for the massive growth in the online education industry over the past few years. When you take your courses online, you have the ability to set your study schedule according to your own personal needs. This flexibility makes online learning a perfect choice for people who are already working full or part time, parents who have small children or other family commitments, or people who travel on a consistent basis. You decide where and when to study. As long as you have a computer and internet access, your classroom is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Level Playing Field: This is a subject that is often ignored when discussing online education, but the truth is that it plays a significant role in the growing popularity of online degree programs. When you enroll in an online course, you retain a considerable amount of anonymity. Certain discriminating factors such as age, physical appearance, race, gender, and even disabilities are largely absent from online education classes. Many students find this open and accepting atmosphere very liberating. This empowers those individuals who might be more reserved in a traditional classroom setting to contribute their thoughts and opinions in online discussions without the concerns of bias and prejudice sometimes encountered in a live classroom lecture. This can have a very positive effect on a student's self-esteem and success in an online education program.
Setting Your Own Pace: Online education offers you the flexibility to work at a pace which is comfortable for you and your individual situation. You decide how much time you can commit to earning your degree. With the constant availability of online courses, the average time it takes to finish a degree program is 2-3 years, compared with just over 4 years at a traditional institution. No matter what type of online education program you choose to enroll in, you are always in control of the situation as far as how many courses you take during one session and the overall time you want to commit to finishing the program. If your personal situation changes along the way (work or family issues), you can slow down or speed up the process as needed. It's all up to you.
The Cons of an Online Education
The Technology: Obviously, you must have affordable and reliable access to a computer and the internet to consider enrolling in an online education program. This can be a significant issue if you live in a rural or lower socio-economic neighborhood that has less-than-adequate internet access. If your time online is limited by the amount of internet access you can afford, then instruction and participation in an online course will be severely hampered and success will be hard to achieve.
Both instructors and students need to have a minimum level of computer knowledge in order to be successful in an online environment. You should be able to use a wide variety of search engines and be comfortable navigating on the World Wide Web. You should also be familiar with email and newsgroups. If you do not possess these technology tools, success in an online education program will be difficult to attain.
If you are not comfortable with the latest computer technology or are resistant to change, then an online education program may not work for you. Online students are required to learn new skills, such as researching and reviewing resources from the internet. If keeping up-to-date with the latest computer technology and using this knowledge on a consistent basis to complete your assignments doesn't appeal to you, you might want to consider a more traditional education environment.
An online education program can be a very rewarding experience for those individuals wanting to earn a degree in a non-traditional education environment. Studies have shown that students who are mature, self-motivated and organized are extremely successful in their online learning pursuits. By allowing students to control where and when they study, online programs are best-suited to those individuals who possess strong time management skills and are independent learners. Online learning also offers prospective students who are employed or have children and other family commitments the opportunity to earn a degree without sacrificing other important areas of their lives. Younger students, such as elementary or secondary school age, and students who are dependent learners, may find it difficult to assume the responsibilities required by an online program. Ultimately, you make the final decision as to which education program is right for you.