Are Your Beliefs About Online Learning Accurate?

Are Your Beliefs About Online Learning Accurate?

If you are considering an online degree program, what is your initial impression or belief about this type of learning? Your perception about the value and effectiveness of online learning will have a direct impact on your willingness to take an online course and work within this type of classroom environment. Some of the most common questions that potential students ask include: Is this a good way to learn? Will I obtain the information I need for my career?

Let’s explore both of these questions and then discuss some of the most common challenges and benefits of online learning so that you can determine if what you believe is accurate, which will allow you to make an informed decision.

Is this a good way to learn?

Potential students often have a preconceived notion about the online classroom based upon their experience with a traditional learning environment, including the availability of their instructor, the amount of feedback provided, interactions with other students, and how the process of learning takes place. But online learning doesn’t mean isolated learning. In fact, you’re likely to find that your online instructors are easily accessible by email, feedback is personalized to your needs, and there are opportunities to interact with other students through discussion boards. In addition, the instructors are actively involved in the class discussions.

The process of learning in any classroom environment involves the acquisition of information, interaction with that information through activities, and the acquisition of knowledge. This process does not change with the online classroom; rather, only the format of learning has changed because technology is used to deliver it. The online classroom provides students with just-in-time learning, which is a method of classroom instruction that provides students with current resources. Your instructors often supplement the textbook with relevant materials, like links to websites, videos, and scholarly articles.

Will I obtain information I need for my career?

Students taking online courses are considered to be non-traditional students or adults with significant life and career experience. This definition also includes working adults who are seeking professional development, a job promotion, or new career. There are specialized degree programs available in fields such as business, education, psychology, criminal justice, and health sciences. Students who earn an online degree typically find that employers recognize the value of knowledge gained and the skills acquired from working in this type of learning environment. More importantly, 83% of employers accept online degrees as a credible source of education, provided that the online university is accredited. Accreditation is the most reliable method of assessing the quality of online schools.

What are the potential challenges for online learning? 

The most common challenges that online students have when they start a new degree program or class involve the use of technology and effectively managing their time. Students must have basic technological skills to work with the navigational functions used in this type of environment, which includes working with computer applications and software programs.

Time management is a challenge initially because students often believe that flexibility and convenience allow them to work at their own pace. While this type of classroom environment does allow students to balance their work with other responsibilities, they must develop a time management plan so that their assignments are completed by the required due date.

Another challenge that students and instructors must address is the potential for students to experience isolation. Depending upon the level of involvement by the instructor and the student, the online classroom has a potential to become mechanical in nature, making it easy for students to experience a sense of disconnection from the class. Most online instructors are aware of this challenge and attempt to establish a strong and interactive virtual presence, model active engagement in the class, and demonstrate responsiveness to students’ questions and developmental needs

What are the benefits of online learning?

Most students have found that the greatest benefit is an ability to balance their schedule, which allows them to earn a degree while they are working. Course information, including assignment feedback and grades, is available virtually any time of the day. The experience and background of most online instructors is another beneficial factor. You’ll find they are actively working in the field that they are teaching and this allows them to add real-world perspectives to the discussions.

Most online universities offer access to an online library, which allows you to access information and resources during the time you are working on your assignments. This provides you with a quick and convenient method of obtaining scholarly or credible sources for all of your work.

It is possible that you can obtain a quality education from an accredited online university and find your degree is accepted by a majority of employers. But before you begin this type of program, it’s important to research your options, evaluate the school and your specific career or educational interests, understand the expectations of an online student, and develop a plan to address any potential challenges. The benefits of online learning can outweigh the challenges, provided you have determined that this is the best option for meeting your professional or academic needs.

By Dr. Bruce Johnson

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