The realm of online education has undergone rapid changes and development in recent months and years. Encouraged by the rise of the internet, the new technologies, and the current health constraints, access to and the use of digital learning (formal and non-formal) have marked a new era — the revolution of online education.
As a result, a boom in online degree programs has occurred. Prospective students can now choose from a pleiad оf programs, colleges, and universities. However, to find the best online colleges, they need to make sure they use credible ranking databases that combine results of the most reputable college ranking publishers and genuine student reviews. Moreover, students need to consider the school’s accreditations, quality, student success rate, costs, teaching methods, accessibility to materials, knowledge of how to use technologies, and support from family, friends, and institutions.
That being said, online learning, as with most teaching methods, has its own set of advantages and challenges. Decoding and understanding them can help both education providers and students enjoy an adequate and uninterrupted learning journey.
Advantages and trends in online learning
A wide selection of programs
An increasing number of educational institutions and training centers offer online versions of their programs for various levels and disciplines. A person can learn anything – from business administration to quantum physics. Furthermore, since students do not need to be close to the specific institution, they have the freedom to choose a program that may be on the other end of the world but best suits their educational goals. That means that options are truly endless.
Flexibility and self-paced learning
Online learning saves hours by not having to travel to a physical location to take a class. However, it is not just that. An online program provides prospective students with the opportunity to learn while still working and growing professionally without sacrificing one over the other. That way, balancing work, life, and school is more effortless. Moreover, digital learning enables students to learn on their own schedule by simply logging on when it is convenient. They can revisit past material, replay a lecture and work through their lesson plan at their own pace before moving forward, getting the most out of the degree program.
Distance learning fosters easy learning through different applied technologies to facilitate human interaction and collaboration. In this environment, there are three currently significant trends:
- Mobile learning – According to some experts in education, mobile phones can also be used in digital learning thanks to their new, enhanced options, promoting greater student involvement. Nevertheless, the actual use of mobile learning is that it allows a better connection between teachers and students, enabling individualized training adapted to the user’s needs.
- Video learning – The incorporation of new technologies and the importance of the images have been achieved through new training techniques: video learning. That said, videos are increasingly used to spread training contents and to videoconference, allowing for a more direct relationship between students and teachers.
- Virtual study groups are another popular tool, especially for joint student work. Free online software like Google Hangout or Zoom, which have options like share screens, present documents, and use virtual whiteboards, add to its popularity and accessibility. Using this method, students can virtually swap ideas about classroom assignments, get questions answered, and execute group tasks successfully.
Another significant trend is the aspect of lifelong learning. People who want to succeed in their profession, those who are changing jobs, or want to keep up with current trends require short, focused programs that offer cutting-edge skills with immediate impact. Online learning is perfect for that!
One of the essential advantages of online classes gathers around the tremendous amount of savings for both the educational institution and the student. The institution no longer has to rely on reserving a physical location to teach courses. On the other hand, the student saves on travel, accommodation, lunch, books, and other supplies.
Challenges online students face
Motivation, self-discipline, and time management
One of the most significant challenges in online education is that it is challenging to stay motivated, focused, and enthusiastic around the studies simply because life starts to get in the way. As students need to keep their motivations clear and constant in their minds, prioritizing study becomes difficult. Without the commitment to attend physical classes, students must learn self-discipline by managing time and tasks to succeed. A great way to overcome this challenge is to use time management tools like an online calendar to help them develop life-long skills required beyond college.
Some students possess the ability to work independently, and for them, online learning is a perfect choice. In contrast, others feel comfortable when their fellow students surround them on their campus with easy access to professors. These types of students can find distance learning more challenging. However, as online education is enriched with different technological instruments by the day, to match the effectiveness of traditional classes, various tools can help achieve the social aspect of learning.
Lack of technical skills
Many prospective students do not feel comfortable with online learning since they lack technical skills. And this can be a big challenge. Nowadays, the technological tools used in distance learning are straightforward and do not require a lot of technical ability to follow an online lecture. Yet the bits they do need are a must to know.
Additional training for instructors
Online classes require an extra effort on the teacher’s behalf to create a successful online course. They need to understand the different approaches to teaching and learning to avoid replicating traditional class environments and miss out on the added advantages and tools online learning offers. Furthermore, instructors need proper training to tackle the technical aspect of online learning: video and audio recording equipment, virtual classroom and lecture capture software, and the Learning Management Software (LMS).
New technology and the COVID-19 pandemic have made online education available and accessible, with a market full of tailor-made, flexible courses with fair prices. Yet, some challenges still need to be tackled. The most urgent need is to equip institutions and instructors with the technical equipment and skills to develop and teach an online curriculum and increase international recognition of online degrees.
Nonetheless, as ongoing processes for providing learners with facilitated access to course activities and materials, better communication channels between instructors and students, and proper online learning administration have already been developed and financially endowed, eLearning will be the future of many generations to come.
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