Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing many colleges to close their campuses and switch to online learning, there has been a lot of discussion of the merits and drawbacks of digital study over the last year. Some are heralding it as the way forward, whereas others argue it is a second rate form of education.
Like many issues, the reality lies somewhere between the two. Online learning has been around since long before the pandemic and will almost certainly continue to be popular long after it. The suitability of digital study largely depends on your personal circumstances, so if it is a route that you are considering, here’s an overview of some of the pros and cons to help you decide.
Advantages of online learning
One of the major benefits of learning online is the flexibility it offers. An online course can be studied from anywhere in the world, at any time of day, in any place, and also at your own pace. This makes it an ideal choice for those who have existing family commitments, who wish to work alongside their studies, or who would like to enroll with a college located far from where they live. As such, online learning is a particularly popular option for mature students. Another great advantage of distance learning is that the programs are often cheaper than traditional on-campus programs. On top of the money you could save by not having to commute or pay for term-time accommodation, it can be a much more affordable option.
Online learning can also enable you to broaden your technical skills, improve your self-motivation, organization, and time management, as well as study alongside students from across the world – giving you a valuable global perspective. The wide variety of tools used in online learning also enables you to tailor your studies to best suit your personal learning style. With the continuing improvements in education-related technology, such as the addition of AR and VR, the future of online higher education is definitely an exciting one!
Disadvantages of online learning
This isn’t to say that studying online is perfect. There are some disadvantages to be aware of before you sign up for an online course. Firstly, the social aspect might feel as though it’s lacking. While it is certainly possible to make friends online, and distance courses take full advantage of social tools to bring cohorts together, it won’t be possible to work on a project in a cafe over coffee or go for a beer after lectures. Similarly, you may find that you miss the campus feel of a traditional course. If part of what interests you about studying is nights spent in the library and weekends dedicated to extracurricular clubs, online learning is unlikely to satisfy you.
Finally, if you’re the sort of person who finds it difficult to focus on a screen for long periods of time, you could find yourself struggling with virtual study. Plus, of course, you have to be self-motivated enough to resist the call of distractions when learning from home!
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