How has Online Education Changed: A Blog Series by Jamii Peterson

As our world modernizes and changes technologically on a daily basis, taking college courses via your PC and the Internet seems perfectly normal. But as an online student, are you missing out on the good old college parties, huge lecture halls half filled with bored kids, walking and exploring the campus, and meeting new people and/or future spouses? How about building a connection with your professors (a completely respectful platonic one, of course)?

But do the online students have a better deal? They have much more schedule flexibility for their job(s), being with their kids or hiring a sitter and going out. They can go to school in a Starbucks. For the 25-40% introverts in the world who enjoy solitude and would rather quit school than be any part of “some college party”.

The answers are relative. There is no “better” or “best” choice between online education and brick and mortar. It’s a personal preference. It is important to note that our blog series was curated during the first week of the COVID-19 aka Corona Virus. At this point in time, most school campuses have closed down temporarily until we have flattened the curve and stopping the spread. In addition, multiple states are on lockdown, all gyms & fitness centers are closed, our hospital/medical staff are low on safety protective gear and the continuingly offensive President Trump has referred to it as the “Chinese virus”, causing an uproar in the Chinese-American community.

With school campuses closed, all students, from 8-year-old 2nd graders up through college seniors are forced to take all classes online until further notice. How will a 4th grader turn in an art project online if they do not even have crayons at home? How will children with learning deficiencies be able to focus at home with Mom and Dad as their teacher? Since high school students cannot take standardized tests such as the SATs, will colleges excuse their non-scores for admittance? At this time, there are a TON of unanswered questions on the minds of all Americans. Something we do know is that online education is the answer to keep us safe and still give our children a platform to continue their studies.

What is Online Education?

Online education is a flexible form of educational delivery via the Internet. The world wide web is open 24/7. This gives students the chance to work at their own pace, on their own schedules and from anywhere they have access to the internet and a PC. There are endless amounts of structures, organization and methods to the vast world of online learning. Some programs may require students to be online at a certain day and time where they can chat with their fellow students and teacher. College courses may be online but will also require students to participate in some classroom hours or hands-on internships in an outside setting. Online classes may consist of listening to lectures, homework, writing papers, communication with peers and teachers via chat rooms, email or video conferencing. Teachers may utilize board posts to encourage participation and pre-record their lectures so you can listen at any time. Your online classes will vary depending on the level of education, the school, the professor and obviously, the subject. If you have access to high speed internet, a computer, have basic computer skills and the self-discipline, online is a great option for your continuing education.

Online education has been around longer than you may think. The first online courses were offered back in 1998. At that point in time, only 8% of the student population was enrolled online. Fast forward to 2019, 33% of college students were taking online classes. Online education is geared towards all ages but the majority students are 30+ years old. Online courses may be full time or part time. The most common online subjects are computer science, business, education and health. There are much more areas of interest offered but we will get into that in another post.

Online Versus Classroom Schools

  1. Flexibility : Many online students work full time (or part time), have families and other responsibilities. Taking courses online allows them to log on and study when the time is convenient for them. Whether it’s first thing at 7am or in the middle of the night when everyone else is sleeping. Classroom courses have set days and times (regardless of your personal schedule) that students must attend to pass. You can enroll in night school if you work during the day.
  2. Self-Discipline : Either option for your education will require self-discipline but taking your classes online will require more of it. Your instructor will assign reading and writing assignments with due dates. You may have a week to read 5 chapters but if you put it off, you will fall behind in your studies. In a classroom setting, your instructor is there, face-to-face, with you to help keep you on task. A successful online student will have time set aside each day/week to dedicate to their studies and keep themselves accountable to turn in assignments on time.
  3. Social Interaction : The degree of social interaction you seek to succeed will play a factor in your choice to go to an online or campus college. Some students need the interaction between themselves and their peers and instructors to keep them motivated. Other students may be fine with screen communication via web chats and online discussion boards. So, you will still be interacting with your peers online, just not face to face.
  4. Resources : One of the main reasons online education is usually less expensive is because resources like a campus gym, cafeteria and library are not needed, as they are on a campus. Your online college will still make sure you have access to resources you need such as a virtual library but if you think you want access to the above-mentioned campus resources, check with your admissions counselor first to see if they are offered to online students. Online students may be granted access if the online school is affiliated with a traditional brick and mortar campus.
  5. Feedback Turnaround :Something else to consider is the amount of time if takes to get feedback and/or answers from your professor. In a classroom, you can speak to your professor immediately just by raising your hand. In an online class, you can submit a question to your professor but may not hear back from them for a day or two.