We are bombarded by ads for online college and its wonders. We’re told it’s the way of the future and how awesome it is to do school work in your pajamas. Since the advantages are so well publicized, I’d like to start with some negative attributes I’ve found. I will say that while online college isn’t a bad thing, there are drawbacks and it isn’t for everyone. I had one semester of college partially online (two courses). Here are a few of the downsides I encountered.
Online college taught me just how much of my mind learns and retains through hands-on, face to face involvement. Hence, if you are a visual learner who gets the most out of reading: an online course maybe fine for you. Or if the course is video lecture based, you might succeed as an audio learner. However, it is typically proven that human memory works best when more than one type of learning is engaged. Hence if you can hear, read, and be involved with the material, it will stick better.
There is also an emotional component to memory. Hence having people to make smart aleck comments and banter back and forth helps the mind to retain that moment in time. Hopefully retaining the moment will also help in retaining the information.
Another advantage of face to face classes is the ability to make network contacts. Sure you can e-mail your online classmates. However, if you are the type of person who finds it hard to instigate socializing, an online class environment is one more excuse to keep to yourself.
Most fields of work require networking, some more than others. A good chunk of the college experience is based on the contacts you make and the people you encounter. When trying to get a job good grades are useful. The right internship and acquaintances are even more useful.
Also, with all class contact online and accessed at your leisure, it is easier to become disorganized. You can become side tracked. The teacher of our composition course e-mailed out grades at one point and I couldn’t understand why my essay grade wasn’t on there. Turns out I never e-mailed it to her. I had opened the e-mail to send it and either the computer had a glitch, or I was doing about three things at once. This is typical behavior on a computer: to have three to four program going at the same time. Truth be told, I am ninety percent sure of an e-mail glitch. However, when I went to look for the e-mail no such e-mail could be found.
The point being, it is easier to organize if you have to be at class at a certain time and hand something in. Handing something in is a bulkier memory because there’s more than you involved. You also don’t have three devices going on to distract you.
There are only so many subjects suited to being learned remotely. While the classes I took were fine online it would be difficult to teach say: painting, or digital animation, or any other kind of artistic or technical skill. That is perhaps online courses major drawback: the lack of hands-on ability. Video and webcams will continue to make these sorts of things more accomplishable and feasible than they currently are. However, there is something truly dampening about 2D format when compared with the 3D of actually being there.
Hence, when considering trying to earn a degree online consider whether it’s logical to learn your subject by that method. Also consider yourself. Are you a hands-on learner? Are you sociable? Like everything else in life, it’s helpful to know yourself and then weight your own person pros and cons.