The idea of going to college always sounded exciting until you thought about logistics. How will you take lessons and bring your kids to where they need to go? Will you be stuck in class all night instead of spending quality time with your family?
What if you need to take a class, and your only option is a planned break in the middle of your typical working day?
Fortunately, there are solutions to many of these scenarios: online courses. You also may want to review a few online platforms. For example, you may want to check out reviews on Udemy vs. Skillshare to see the best option for you.
However, online courses in college seem almost too good to be true, and they can come with their own set of questions. How do you know if this type of digital learning is right for you?
You are not alone in needing answers before you commit to online learning. Here is a breakdown of the pros and cons of online courses and some advice to help you make the best decision that is suitable for your needs.
The Pros Of Online Courses
There are many advantages of online classes that deserve your attention. These are some of the main benefits identified by online students.
One of the essential advantages of online courses is that the schedule is usually quite flexible, which means that students do not need to watch the lecture in real-time, but can watch the recorded version later.
It can be quite attractive as students can enjoy the good weather outside during the day and watch the lecture in the evening. Compared to regular classes, the flexibility of online courses can improve many people’s quality of life.
Opportunity To Watch A Lecture Again
Students not only have the flexibility to plan their schedule, but also have the opportunity to observe the lesson several times.
For example, if you have a problem with a certain subject and you don’t understand everything the first time, you can rewind the lesson and watch a certain part again.
This way, you can use your time efficiently enough, as you will be able to concentrate on specific aspects of the lecture and thus improve your knowledge in these areas.
Can Be Joined From Almost Everywhere
Another plus of online courses is that students can join it from virtually anywhere in the world if they have access to the Internet.
Thus, students are entirely independent regarding their geographical location, as they can attend classes not only from home but also sit in a cafe while watching the lectures.
Especially in poor developing countries, this is a significant advantage. In many regions, children are unable to attend school because of high tuition fees. These children could watch free videos on YouTube to improve their level of education, which could then enable them to escape poverty.
Could Be Done After Work
Online courses are also beneficial for people who have jobs and want to improve their education. For example, many people work from 9 to 5. They come home, eat, and spend a few more hours studying. Online courses aren’t only for students. Teachers can also tremendously benefit from teacher training courses online to further improve their teaching skills and methodology which may help in their career’s progress.
For these people, online courses are a great tool as they are flexible in their schedules and can learn when they have time.
Thus, the combination of work and study can be much more effective when using online courses than classical teaching tools.
Huge Variety Of Topics
In recent years, the number and variety of online courses have increased significantly. Almost every field of study has online courses where you can improve your knowledge.
Although universities are slower to offer online programs, they also recognize the trend and benefits of e-learning.
You Can Save Paper
By joining online courses, you can save a lot of paper as you no longer need physical printouts. You can simply download your lecture materials.
By saving paper, you save money and reduce the problem of cutting down forests, as fewer trees are needed to produce paper.
Although you may think that your impact can be quite minor, the whole e-learning industry is huge, and if everyone can save some paper, we can save many trees globally.
No Commuting Required
Another advantage of online classes is that they do not require travel to and from work. Many people have to use their cars to go to university to get there.
However, thanks to the use of online learning platforms, students are no longer required to attend school physically.
Instead of polluting the environment by using cars to commute to and from work, students can simply sit on the sofa and watch lectures at home.
Online Courses May Be Cheaper
Many online courses are also much cheaper than university diplomas. It is because much fewer resources are used for online courses, and the administration of these courses tends to be much more efficient.
This way, you can save a lot of money by using online courses compared to joining traditional educational institutions.
It Is An Effective Way Of Learning
Due to students deciding when and how much they want to study each day, they are likely to be more motivated and can use their time more efficiently than those who have to attend certain classes and have a fixed schedule each day.
Individual Learning Pace
Online courses also allow you to have an individual pace of learning. For example, some students learn much quicker than others.
Students who require more time to learn and understand the course material can watch the lectures again and improve their knowledge with fewer steps, while students who learn quickly can even skip some lectures.
By allowing students to study at an individual pace, they can use their time effectively.
Many students also admit that attending online courses is much more convenient than sitting in crowded lecture halls.
By sitting at home on the sofa and watching the course, students can relax and learn at the same time, which can significantly improve their overall quality of life as their stress levels can be much lower.
Perfect For Parents
E-Learning is particularly suitable for parents who want to learn for themselves, but also have to take care of their children.
Since they can watch the lectures without losing sight of their children, e-learning is a great way to give parents more flexibility in managing their families while improving their education.
Adaption To Our Technological Society
Our technological progress is quite rapid, and our world will become even more interconnected and digital.
Online courses are a great excuse for students to learn how to surf the web. These skills will be precious for their future careers; for most professions, at least a certain amount of digital understanding is needed.
People suffering from so-called digital illiteracy will have great difficulty fighting for jobs in the future.
Available Even In Times Of Pandemics
As we have experienced, pandemics can stop our normal daily lives, including educational institutions such as universities.
However, even in such difficult times, online learning can be a great tool to use your time effectively, as online courses still operate during pandemics.
In this way, you can stay safe at home and receive the education you need instead of attending crowded lecture halls at risk of infection.
Positive Environmental Impact
Many of the arguments for online courses also imply a certain positive impact on our environment. By using less paper, we can mitigate deforestation and slow global warming to some extent.
Because traveling to and from work is less necessary with online courses, we can also reduce all types of pollution.
Real-Life Career Preparation
Getting into college can be like living in a bubble: you’ll learn valuable and relevant information, but you don’t always get the practical skills you’ll use every day in your new career. Online courses, however, require the same skills that you will need in your future career.
“Online courses, especially in this day and age of technology, are very similar to office work,” says Tran.
Keeping in touch via email and project management software, managing your time, working remotely with your team, and completing projects on time are skills that are transferred directly to employees.
The Cons Of Online Courses
Although online courses are very popular, it does not mean that they have reached a state of perfection. Here are a few potential disadvantages of online courses that students may encounter.
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Requires A High Level Of Self-Discipline
Many online courses require a high level of self-discipline. When you are at home, you may be distracted by so many different things around you.
Maybe your phone is ringing off the hook, or you get a lot of messages every day. Perhaps instead of studying, you’ll want to watch your favorite TV show. Maybe you’re just tired and unmotivated.
All these things can prevent you from learning effectively. So, to get the right learning experience, you should make sure that you can limit the distractions at home.
Less Individual Support
While online courses have several advantages, the important point about online courses is that they tend to provide less individual support. For example, if you attend a university course, you can ask questions almost all the time in person.
However, for online courses, you may have to wait a few days until you receive an answer. It can, to some extent, limit your personal learning experience and prevent you from fully understanding the course material.
Some Do Not Have Access To A Computer
Many poor people on our planet do not have access to computers or the Internet and therefore cannot use online courses at all to improve their educational level.
For these people, learning via the Internet is not an option; they still have to learn from books, often on their own, as their parents cannot send them to school or college due to lack of finances.
Good Time Management Is Necessary
Most online courses also require participants to take an exam to complete the course. It means that students must prepare for these exams and have good time management skills.
If students are unable to manage their time properly, some students will likely fail the exam simply because they were unable to start early enough.
People With Disabilities May Need Personal Education
Some students need much more personal help with learning disabilities. These students cannot study properly in online courses alone and often need professional help.
Therefore, self-study and e-learning may not be suitable for some groups of students, and instead, they need proper assistance in learning.
Dropout Rates May Be Higher
Since it’s easy to lose motivation to learn, the dropout rate for online courses can be much higher than in regular college classes.
It is because college teachers try to motivate their students to get good grades and complete courses.
On the contrary, it can be much harder to remain motivated at home when no one is pushing you. Therefore, the chances of you finally dropping out of your online course can be much higher.
Fewer Interactions With Other Students
Interaction with other students is one of the main reasons why many students like to study at university. It can be quite interesting to meet people from different regions and communicate with each other.
It is also possible to make terrific friends at college. With online courses, none of this is possible.
You may have the opportunity to interact with other students in your online course from time to time, but there will probably not be such a strong connection between you and them.
Potentially Fewer Professional Networking Opportunities
Lack of personal communication can go beyond friendship and professional communication. Often, the relationship that students build with their peers and teachers in the classroom can be a stepping stone to help them find their next job or move to a new position in a few years.
Again, students in online courses should not miss out if they make an extra effort. “Make sure you find alternative ways to communicate and build relationships that promote career growth,” says Michelle Ngome, a business networking expert.
She suggests meeting regularly with classmates in the vicinity or joining professional networking organizations related to your area of expertise.
There may also be some technical issues related to online courses. Sometimes these courses may have system requirements that not all people can meet.
For example, your computer may not have enough RAM, or your computer’s operating system may become obsolete.
People who are not familiar with technology may have difficulty dealing with technical issues.
Hard To Get Financial Support For Online Courses
In most countries, it is quite difficult to get financial support for online courses. While some states and institutions provide students scholarships, these scholarships cannot usually be used for online courses.
Therefore, especially for talented people who are eligible for scholarships from universities, it would be better to enter these universities rather than study online.
Overall Acceptance Of Online Courses May Be Lower
Another problem related only to these courses is that general recognition and reputation are often quite low.
Many companies still prefer students from ordinary universities to those who have completed their diplomas online.
It can lead to worse employment opportunities for students with degrees online, as well as lower salaries.
Some Online Courses Might Be A Scam
While some online courses are of quite high quality, many are often of poor quality or even cheating.
Since everyone is allowed to create and distribute online courses, the overall quality of online courses tends to be much lower than that of colleges and universities.
There may, however, be exceptions to this rule. If you are planning to enroll in an online course, be sure to check the organizer’s reputation before enrolling in the course!
Not Available For All Fields Of Study
Although online courses are offered on various topics, there are also many niches for which online courses do not yet exist.
Therefore, it might be a good idea to join classical educational institutions for these specialized fields.
To Sum Up
Online courses can be a good way to improve and further your education. E-learning has several significant advantages, and therefore its popularity will increase significantly in the future. However, there are also some cons to online courses.
Therefore, make sure you check what you get for your money before joining these courses. If you inform yourself correctly, online courses can be a viable alternative to the classical education system.