Aside from the value of gaining knowledge, one of the main goals of higher education has always been to prepare individuals for the workforce. As the workforce shifts more and more to a virtual team or “work from home” team model, it only makes sense that the educational world should mirror that change.
In the article The Rise of Online Learning, Forbes Magazine delves into the popularity of the online education market. Some of the largest and most popular online universities, including top-ranked universities, are now entering the game. With the advent of Covid-19, the growth of the online education market has become even stronger. Adults looking to further their education or shift their careers can take advantage of the flexibility that online learning provides.
There are many benefits of online learning as opposed to a traditional in-person learning format.
1. Time – The flexibility and convenience that online classes provide are immeasurably valuable. “Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend”. By allowing us to log in to class lectures on our own schedule, from home, we save travel time and are often able to choose a time to attend when our attention is at its peak efficiency.
2. Competing in a Global Job Market – In order to stay relevant in today’s workforce, older workers need to constantly keep learning and updating. Online learning not only makes this possible but allows older learners to choose from the best educational institutions, while still maintaining their day jobs.
3. More Effective Learning – By enabling people to learn at their own pace, retention of information is much higher than when learning in an in-person environment. The distractions that may be present in an in-person learning environment, such as noise or temperature issues just don’t exist when learning online.
4. Customization – We have all had the experience of taking a course where we have already covered part of the content. Online education allows skipping the portion already learned which further allows the education pathway to be customized to fit every student, instead of the majority.
5. Level Playing Field – In the past, for many people, higher education was out of reach. Having the money to move across the country, or to give up working to take full-time courses was not an option that everyone had. By taking courses online, the field has been leveled somewhat. For example, one need not move to the East coast to attend an Ivy League school anymore. Education is now more readily available everywhere.
Online learning does require students to be more self-motivated to stay on track. The writer can choose when to write an essay or take a test. There is no one standing in front of you making you listen, or classmates sitting around you to ask if you get stuck. For some, this may be a bit of an adjustment, but remember, the classmates are still there and we can reach out through class forums or email.
There are also some practical classes and experiments that may be more difficult to explore online. For example, advanced science experiments or medical case studies. Clever use of technology may serve to overcome some of these barriers. It will be interesting to see how online learning progresses in the years to come.