Pros and Cons Overview
Although every student is different, online classes come with a variety of pros and cons. Most of these pros and cons deal with the issues of flexibility, technology, time management and student engagement as they relate to online learning.
Pro - Flexibility
Online classes often offer convenient, 24-hour access to courses and do not depend on the proximity to the organization or school offering the course. This allows students to complete college coursework while still accommodating work and other responsibilities. According to a 2005 study conducted by the University of Wisconsin on students' satisfaction with distance learning courses, flexibility was found to be the key benefit of online learning.
Pro - Technology
Whether or not the use of technology is an advantage depends on the preferred learning style of the individual student. Some students may find that online classes fit their learning style, giving them more time to think about answering questions and allowing them the option to interact with classmates with whom they might not connect with socially. Additionally, online students may perform most of their research via the Internet, rather than in a traditional library.
Con - Technology
Similar to the above, whether technology is considered a disadvantage has much to do with students' preferred learning styles. In online classes, students do not interact face-to-face with each other or with instructors, but use web pages, e-mail, software programs, message boards, chat rooms, webinars, webcasts and social media. This in turn can lead to concerns about technical problems and the limitations of one kind of instructional delivery.
Con - Time Management
Students perceive time management as a major obstacle to completing coursework, especially since online courses require more self-monitoring, organization and planning than coursework at a traditional university. Although some universities offer assistance with time management planning, some students simply do better with in-person reminders from teachers.
Con - Student Engagement
Student engagement is another key factor when it comes to disadvantages of online classes. Studies have shown that students have a higher chance of completing online courses if they feel fully engaged. Since everything is completed through an online interface, engagement may not stay consistent from class to class, especially if professors do not incorporate engagement strategies, or if fellow students do not engage with one another.
In conclusion, no matter the environment, a college education requires a firm commitment of time, money and other resources. Students who need the personal interaction with peers presented by in-class face time might need to think twice about completing the majority of their education online. Yet those who prefer more control over their time and resources might feel right at home in an online class.