Pros and Cons Overview
There are both advantages and disadvantages to online learning. Most of these pros and cons deal with the issues of flexibility, technology, time management, and student engagement. Here are some of the pros and cons of 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 flexibility allows students to complete college coursework while still accommodating work and other responsibilities. In addition, it allows students to earn degrees and certificates in a wide range of subjects, even if they live in a rural area or if their local school does not offer their desired program.
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 socially. Additionally, online students may perform most of their research via the Internet, rather than in a traditional library. Online learning may also be ideal for students who communicate particularly well through online mediums, which can include:
- Message boards
- Chat rooms
- Video chats
- Social media
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Con - Technology
Though it's a pro for some, whether technology is considered a disadvantage also has much to do with students' preferred learning styles. Individuals who are not comfortable with web pages and software programs may not want to enroll in online courses, since they may have to deal with periodic technical problems. In addition, prospective students need to have access to particular computer software and hardware in order to participate in online programs, which can present additional expenses. Specific technology requirements vary by course and by school, but in general, students need to have a computer with the following features:
- A recent Windows, Mac, or Linux operating system
- High-speed internet access
- A minimum amount of memory
- Office software
- Antivirus software
- Speakers or headphones
- CD/DVD drive
Con - Time Management
Students may 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.
No matter the environment, a college education requires a firm commitment of time, money, and other resources. Students who need face-to-face interaction might need to think twice about completing their education online, while those who prefer more control over their time and resources might feel right at home in an online class.