Online learning has gained continual momentum and, to this day, show no signs of slowing down. This is because it provides a host of different benefits to on-site education.
The fewer expenses and resources required to run online courses tend to make them cheaper and increases course variety. Plus, online learning means you can study from home. So, less travel is required and generally, you have a more flexible learning experience.
That being said there are still many who are unfamiliar with the concept of online learning. As a result, there are various misconceptions around it. Often relating to the perceived difficulty of the courses and their quality.
What needs to be distinguished first is that the courses offered on and offline are the same. So long as they are regulated. For instance, an A Level taken in college is the same as the one studied online. Once you pass, you’ll receive an indistinguishable qualification.
In terms of difficulty, the regulation process behind these courses ensures that you will have an equally challenging learning experience. You’ll follow the syllabus, complete the assignments and any necessary exams, just as you would in face-to-face education.
The differences come from the way they are delivered. On campus, you have set a timetable, where every lesson is instructed by a teacher.
Online, there are generally two methods of delivery. Online classes or working through the course independently.
Online Class Setting
Studying in an online class setting can be quite similar to on campus learning in a lot of ways. Multiple students can still gather to learn at a specific time.
They just do so online, from home or wherever they choose to learn from.
How it differs from on campus learning is that the structure is less rigid. Plus, the style of instruction is user driven. So, while these courses incorporate activities, peer-to-peer communication, and student-instructor interactions, the learner initiates most of it.
Aside from the classes the teacher runs online, you have to actively pursue the other interactions. This is possible through the institution’s online facilities such as email, message boards, instant messaging, video conferencing and chat rooms.
This style of learning is beneficial as it acts as a halfway point between the classroom and independent learning. So, students can take advantage of not having to travel and learning comfortably from home.
For many, learning within a physical class of others is quite daunting. Asking questions and trying to keep pace with classmates are regular anxieties associated with on-site education. Students in online classes may feel a sense of comfort by partaking in classes from behind a computer screen. They can still learn with the group, keeping pace and staying on track, without feeling so exposed or on show.
This style of learning also provides more flexibility than the physical classroom. While there are still set classes with a teacher, there are generally less. Many areas will be covered through other means such as visual and audio recordings as well as reading materials.
Giving you more freedom to organise your studies than you would be able to traditionally.
Drawbacks & Difficulties
As the online classroom setting is similar to on campus learning, they need a teacher, which is an expense. As is the maintenance and provision of the other elements’ learners use to interact with peers.
The more a course costs to run, the more students must enrol to make it worthwhile. This can often mean there is less variety in courses available since only the more popular ones will be provided.
In terms of how hard it is to learn in an online class setting, it depends. Each person learns differently, so one style of learning may be hard for one person, but easier for another.
Learning as part of a group with set classes and deadlines keeps many people accountable. Having someone else establish the structure may help you stay on top of the workload if you’d otherwise fall behind.
You’ll have more flexibility in completing some elements, but ultimately you’ll have to get the work done before certain points. Some people prefer this as they have some freedom, but they still have non-negotiable dates in the diary.
Others may find they learn better around others and online classes don’t provide enough interaction. Then there are some who’d prefer to be completely left to it, so they can learn on their own terms.
A more self-directed learning style where students are responsible for setting and achieving their academic goals while balancing other responsibilities.
You sign up, get given access to the entire course materials and work through them at your own pace. There are no classes being delivered by teachers, student forums or study groups. However, there are course tutors on hand if you need advice.
Course materials are varied and dynamic. They’re usually a combination of video, audio and reading exercises to create an engaging learning experience.
Students work through them as they please. Completing and submitting assignments in their own time, with no deadlines unless the course includes an exam.
A lot of people who choose online learning opt for this method of delivery. This is because it provides the most flexibility and freedom, which attracts those with already busy lifestyles. Students can learn around jobs or family commitments, which opens up further education to more people than ever before.
You set the pace, organise the deadlines and complete the course as quickly or slowly as you like. This level of flexibility often means students complete courses much quicker than the timeframe allowed.
With fewer resources to run, courses are often cheaper to buy and there is an extensive range on offer. You can pretty much find an online independent learning course for every niche.
Drawbacks & Difficulties
With freedom comes responsibility. Choosing this style of online learning puts your education completely in your hands. Which can be a double-edged sword if you’re not careful.
You typically have up to two years to complete a course. Knowing this ahead of time can make it easier to put things off and procrastinate.
But two years quickly comes around and procrastination is a slippery slope. If you leave things until last minute, you’ll be cutting corners and rushing assignments, leaving you with a poor mark.
This style of learning is great if you can organise yourself and stick to a plan. But not so good for those who lack self-motivation and organisation skills.
Learning online in either form opens up many more opportunities than on campus education. While what you learn is the same, it takes more discipline to structure your studies effectively.
If you’re interested in the independent learning experience, you should consider a distance learning course with learndirect. As a leading UK distance learning provider, they have a host of online courses to help you achieve your goals.
Find out more about the many courses available by clicking below. Alternatively read our blog to find more ways to effectively study online.