My alarm buzzes next to me and all of a sudden it’s ten minutes before class starts. I roll out of bed, grab my laptop and open it up. A quick login to Zoom and I’m right on time for class. I would never have dreamt three years ago as I was entering college, that this is how my senior year would be. I’m sure all of us were in denial this past March when what used to be “normal” came to an end. However, as August crept up and another fall semester was about to start, I was used to the new reality of online learning and taking everything head-on as it comes to us.
We thankfully have modern technology and can attend class from the comfort of our own homes. However, online classes have always been seen as inferior to lecture halls, but that stigma has faded as technology has become more advanced and a greater part of academics. Students of all ages have the opportunity to use online learning, as a single class or an entire course load, but what are the benefits to this change? Are we still missing vital opportunities when education becomes virtual? I often see both sides to any argument, so let’s take a look at three pros and cons of online learning.
We can all agree that the main advantage of online learning is that we can participate in class from any location if Wifi still permits you. There’s freedom and flexibility with the virtual classroom through our computers. Although I now live in Topeka, I have lived roughly 30 minutes away from campus for the past two years, and the introduction of online learning last semester was a hard adjustment, but it added more time to the day that I often spent driving to and from my home.
Anytime, Any Place
Depending on your class, the virtual classroom is accessible to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I’ve found that many of my professors are using D2L more effectively than before, and as a result, my assignments or discussions are available to me anytime. As college students, we know how it is to juggle jobs, internships, classes, and the list goes on. Having access to complete your work at times that are convenient creates better time efficiency in our busy schedules.
Opportunities for All
Online learning is also providing a great alternative to students who have obligations that would make it hard to tend to with in-person classes. Many college students that I know have part-time jobs and are at the age considered normal to attend college. However, the opportunities that are given with online learning work well with students who are pursuing education at an older age. Full-time careers, families, and other commitments may have made the decision for some to not take more college courses. I keep hearing that this is the perfect time for anyone to go back into education due to online learning because it will work well with a busy schedule. I can attest to this, as I’ve picked up another job and an internship to go with my class schedule this semester, is that too much?
Technology Access, or lack of
Although I just advocated that online learning allows current and potential students to pursue their higher education, the accessibility of technology, or lack thereof, causes problems for students. Lack of technology access will exclude otherwise eligible students from the course. The lack of Internet access is a problem that didn’t quickly come to my mind. The internet is not universal and can pose a significant cost to the user. I pay a fixed monthly rate for my Internet connection, but some may be charged based on the time they spend online. Instruction and participation in online learning may not be reasonable for students with a limited amount of Internet access.
Requirement of Personal Discipline
I like to think of myself as a self-disciplined student, but I still procrastinate daily on my assignments and tasks at hand. Everything gets done on time, but I just work my best under pressure and obviously enjoy causing myself unnecessary stress. With that being said, an online method of education can be a highly effective way for self-disciplined students. Yet, as online learning gives us more control over our learning experience, it also places a larger responsibility on the student. Students need to be organized and self-motivated in order to keep up with the pace of the course independently. For reasons like this, online learning can be a greater hardship for students who are dependent learners and have a hard time assuming responsibilities that come with an online system.
Lack of 1-to-1 Relationships
I needed to end with one of the main reasons students come to Washburn is, our student to professor ratio. This was one of the reasons I transferred to Washburn my sophomore year and it’s often heavily advertised throughout our admissions office. Fully online students won’t get the one-on-one interactions with fellow students and professors that we would often get with in-person classes.
It’s definitely possible to get your education online and whether COVID-19 happened or not, I was going to have a handful of courses on my transcript as online courses. There are many more pros and cons to consider with online learning, but at the end of the day, it’s up to you to continue pursuing your education during this time! Some of us may not have a choice, but we also know of incoming and current college students that made the tough decision to take this year off due to online learning and other outside circumstances. What do you think about online learning? Do you see the benefits or are we missing vital opportunities? Maybe it’s a little of both and we just have to make the best out of what we are given.