Online education has become a major factor in the U.S. college environment. In fact, 47 state representatives met in April 2013 to discuss plans to reduce barriers for students wanting to taking classes at colleges outside their home state. Online classes offer a number of benefits that open the doors to students unable to take traditional classes, though students should also recognize some drawbacks of online classes.
As an online student, you have greater control over your learning experience. You can take courses from home or complete work in another quiet place, such as the library. Adult students enjoy the ability to complete coursework on their schedule to accommodate work and family responsibilities. You can also work at your own pace, as long as you complete projects, assignments and tests by the prescribed due dates. You also do not need to worry about showing up to class at a specific time each day.
Potential Cost Savings
Schools sometimes charge extra fees, often ranging from $10 to $25, for online classes. These cover the hardware and software systems required to manage Internet courses. Even with these fees, the total costs of taking an Internet course are often much lower than those for a traditional classroom course. Since class does not physically meet, you will not have costs for transportation or gas. You can also plan meals to avoid costly stops at fast food restaurants or gas stations. Parents can also save on childcare by planning school time around parenting duties.
Even without meeting two or three days a week for regular class times, online class work can often be more challenging than traditional work. You not only must schedule your own time to complete reading assignments, you have to go online to engage in discussions through virtual chat forums, to write and turn in assignments and papers and to complete tests. You also lose the advantage of the teacher and peers who hold you accountable in person. You must have the discipline to schedule and complete work on your own. Additionally, if you do not already have strong technology skills, you need to take a computer course or learn how to complete course requirements.
No Support System
Aside from family or friends, online classes leave you without personal access to a support system. There are no regular one-on-one opportunities with the instructor; you must email or call to ask questions. You also miss out on the social experience of a classroom students, interacting with only through technology. Online students must work without easy access to on-campus academic support centers, admissions offices, career services, counselors and advisers.