Last semester, a girlfriend of mine needed help writing a paper on the differences between online education vs. conventional curriculum.
I thought about it for a moment or two and then came up with this. I figured I may as well post it on here. It is not fully complete, as it was merely something to get her started, but I thought I made a decent, albeit quick, analysis.
Here it is…
Years ago, when somebody delved into the college realm, their expectations were simple. They would rise early in the morning, scarf down some Ramen, and inhale a cup of coffee on their way to whatever lecture hall or laboratory they were scheduled to sit in on. They would lug their books, ignore their social lives, and try with every ounce of their being, to study during their lunch breaks at their part-time jobs. Their lives were placed on the back-burner, and their time was heavily structured.
While saying you attend college still conjures the same imagery, the fact is we live in a digital age. Like so many other things in life, you can now personalize your college experience. You can make the commute to campus or you can stay at home, in your pajamas, and take classes online. Many classes are even offered as hybrid-courses, offering bits of both and catering to both the traditional method and the perhaps more pragmatic online options. The effectiveness of the approach, of course, relies mainly on the student in question.
In each situation, two things come into play…the location and the communication between the student and the instructor. In both scenarios, feedback is intrinsic and your dedication makes-or-breaks you. When you sit in a physical classroom, you have the luxury of instant feedback and physical textbooks to reference during audible discussions. Help is immediate and hands-on assignments are there to aid kinetic learners. In the digital realm, these things become less available. E-mails take the place of physical presence and hands-on-activities are limited. The response time can vary. Plus, if a student gets booted offline during a timed and scheduled exam, they can run into problems in terms of completion and whether or not they pass. The exams also have to be conducive to their operating system—if the program does not open on a mac, then mac-users must find a windows computer, for example.
On the other hand, the scheduling issues regarding campus-learning are alleviated by the more pragmatic and realistic online alternatives. The flexibility allows mothers, full-time employees, older people, disabled people, and simply young people with other things going with the ability to conveniently continue their education. So, if your job requires you to be available during the day, you can take that same class at night instead of waiting for a better opening simply because of a time-slot issue. This also helps when scheduling classes because they will not conflict with one another.
Another convenience is that, since you are working from your own computer, it is possible to wear whatever you want and maintain your own individuality without the stigmas attached that may affect your relationship with your teacher. They are blinded to your race or walk of life and see only your mind and the effort you are willing to put into the class. It levels the playing field a bit and opens the door to a more honest discussion.