College Advice Blog

Jun 21, 2012

Pros and Cons of Online Education

Everything is going online: shopping, reading, gaming, conversations, the gamut of existence basically. And now:  so is education. Is this change for better or for worse, though?
One study from SRI International for Department of Education suggests that online education is more effective. This study compared mostly college students – and some K-12 students – in the online setting and the traditional setting from 1996 to 2008.
All students took the same courses and it concluded that students doing some or all of their work online ranked in the 59th percentile on test scores, compared to students in the classroom setting, who scored in the 50th percentile.
A lot of educators believe that online classes are more interesting for students, helping improve their motivation. Like everything else though, online classes aren’t right for everyone.
In most cases, online classes are not intended to replace the traditional classes. Yet they can still serve as a great asset, as students can specialize their learning or even pick up another major/minor. A lot of students have even taken online classes to earn a second degree, while working full-time.
Online education can be cheaper, much cheaper in fact. There is seemingly no limit to the number of students a professor can teach online, and a 200-person lecture hall can turn into a 2,000-person online gathering. That can decrease the average cost per student. But, that’s if professors want to sacrifice more one-on-one time with each student. Online classes can also be a lot more flexible, as students can view their lectures anytime at any place.
A lot of professors feel like they can broaden their educational horizons and teach students from Maine and California in the same class. This gives them the opportunity to make classes more specialized. So, instead of teaching Marketing 101, professors can teach Sports Marketing and even tailor it directly to the NFL. Most believe that they’ll actually be able to find enough interested students to fill these highly specialized classes.
The actual class fees may be more affordable; however, students will need to pay for computer equipment and high-speed internet access. And, you’ll always be at the mercy of a potential computer crash.
The most notable disadvantage to online classes is the lack of face-to-face interaction. Some professors simply do not understand how to teach effectively online, and it can be very difficult for students to ask questions. When you’re in the classroom setting, all you have to do is raise your hand. But, online you could wait an entire day before a professor answers your question. There is always the option of getting a tutor, and finding tutoring rates is becoming easier.
Most traditional schools offer some form of e-learning (distributing materials online, uploading assignments, posting relevant videos, etc). Very few students actually make the leap and receive all of their learning online without ever attending a traditional class, though.
Online learning has been increasing dramatically since 2006. Then, 3.5 billion college students took classes online, according to Sloan Foundation reports. In 2009, 44 percent of students participated in some form of e-learning, ranging from taking classes online to receiving class materials online. In 2009, only 25 percent were full-time online students, meaning they did not attend any traditional classes.
E-learning is more popular for colleges; however, some K-12 programs distribute class materials and assignments online.

About the Author
This guest post article was written and provided by Janice Mitchell who is a stay at home mother and has homeschooled her children with the help of

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