There are many benefits to online learning, including greater scheduling flexibility, worldwide access to course materials, streamlined communication methods and instructor access. In order to successfully complete an e-learning course or program, students need to meet particular technological requirements.
Flexible Class Schedules
In many online classes, students do not need to be online at any specific time. Instead, they can watch recorded lectures and view other course materials on their own time. This can be especially beneficial to learners with full-time jobs, travel schedules, or family responsibilities. Sometimes, even when students must attend synchronous online lectures at particular times, they are offered in the evenings or on weekends to accommodate busy schedules.
There are also online courses that allow students to complete coursework entirely at their own pace, rather than on a set semester schedule. Students may be given a particular time frame in which a course needs to be completed, but it is usually much longer than for a regular course.
Many online degree programs provide access to course materials, such as lectures and previous class discussions, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Students can also access materials from anywhere they have a internet connection, which is ideal for students who travel a lot of who live in rural areas that are not located near a college campus.
Although some students might worry that they will not be able to communicate with instructors and other students, Web applications such as Blackboard make it easy for students to discuss course topics and ask questions. Communication methods can include:
- Video chats
- Instant messaging
- Discussion forums
- Message boards
- Chat rooms
Even if students do not live near a postsecondary institution, online learning gives them the opportunity to learn from top-notch instructors. Instructors of online programs must be licensed to teach and must be educated and experienced in the area of study they are teaching. Students often receive instruction from teachers located in other parts of the country or even around the world.
Before enrolling in an online program, it is important for prospective students to make sure that they have access to the appropriate computer software and hardware. While specific technological requirements tend to vary by program, online students are generally required to have access to a computer with the following features:
- A recent Windows or Mac operating system
- High-speed internet access
- A minimum amount of memory
- Office software
- Antivirus software
- Speakers or headphones
- CD/DVD drive
For many students, online learning can be a great way to pursue academic opportunities, even when they are unable to enroll in a regular campus-based program.