Thinking through the online education phenomenon

The phrase, Online Education, refers to many different things.  Online education ranges from one-time training seminars to entire Master’s programs.  It is amazing how much you can accomplish through the Internet.  But before you sign up, you need to think first, then decide.  There are always pros and cons to any decision.  Here are a few common ones:

Benefits:

  • Flexibility – The improvement in Internet technology and online courses have made learning extremely flexible.  You can literally do your work whenever fits your schedule.
  • Time-Savings – Believe it or not you will save a lot of time (unless you live next you your school).  Over the course of 1-4 years, the time you spend walking, driving, or taking public transportation really adds up.
  • Accessibility –  Now with a good Internet connection you can access a whole range of educational programs.  You can be at home or anywhere in the world and still further your education.  As the Internet becomes more universal and available, you will literally be able to access programs anywhere.
  • Cost – It’s very simple.  On average, online courses and programs cost schools less – so they cost you less.  You also have an almost unlimited range of choices since there are many schools and programs to choose from.
  • Mix it up – Many schools also offer programs that are taught in person and online.  The mix varies from school-to-school.  Sometimes, this is a good option for people who need a little more traditional class time.

Challenges:

  • Self-motivation – you must keep yourself going (you aren’t going to have much outside pressure from other students or teachers)  This is the number one issue that people need to recognize.
  • Focus – Along with keeping yourself motivated, you have to keep focused & dedicated.  Just because the course/program is online does not mean you can do your all your work while sitting on the couch.  Lack of focus will lead to disappointment.
  • Organization – You need to keep yourself on schedule.  It’s up to you to stay on top of deadlines, project due dates, and test prep.
  • Hands-on Factor – Sometimes you need to literally get your hands dirty to fully learn the subject matter.  This obviously depends on what you are studying.  If you want training in web development it’s not an issue.  However, if you need training in diesel mechanics, you will eventually  need to get yourself into a workshop to work on a real diesel engine (the Internet can only do so much).
  • Community – Sometimes it is harder to establish a connection with other students through distance learning programs.  This concern can easily be overcome depending on how proactive you are with fellow students.  The Internet is full of vibrant communities that are completely online – but it’s up to you to establish that sense of community.

What else can you think of?  How do these criteria apply to you?  Are you ready for an online education? 

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