Is Online Learning For You?

Online learning opens the door to education for many people. To decide if online learning is a viable option for you, let’s look at a few key things about it.

online learningSome facts about online learning:

Online learning offers students high-quality instruction even if they can’t attend courses face-to-face due to their busy, work, family, or travel schedules.

Online courses offer flexible learning. Most online courses take place without a physical classroom and without fixed class hours.

Free of those limitations, students have the means to overcome geographic distance and can balance busy work and family schedules with their coursework.

Another feature of online learning is that it helps promote engagement. Online classes involve a lot of reading, writing, and practical application of what you are learning.

Some additional advantages… there is no back of the room in an online classroom. Also, students have time to process their thoughts and ideas before they share them with their instructor or classmates.

It also cultivates an interactive environment.  Many social barriers are eliminated online, and many students you might not hear from in class will become active participants in an online course.

So, is online learning for you?

Let’s debunk a myth first. A lot of people might think that online learning is easier than face-to-face.

Here’s the truth:

Online classes take as much or more time as a class you might take on campus.

Online courses are never out of session. Students are expected to log on and contribute to discussions several times a week. That also means reading messages every week from the instructor and other students.

The Real Deal:

Learning ultimately depends on the quality of the instructor, course material and participation of the students. The method, too, is important. Courses that encourage online discussion and interaction between students, their peers and the instructor typically demonstrate higher levels of participation than traditional courses.

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eLearning Quality

written by: Dr. Greg Williams, UMBC ISD Graduate Program Director

LearningWhen I tell people that I am a college professor, they usually ask me what I teach. When I tell them that I teach instructional design and e-learning development, I often get a puzzled look from them. After explaining what instructional design is, the conversation usually turns to eLearning and quality.

Many times people tell me that they think the quality of e-learning is not good. I ask them what their experience is with e-learning. I asked if they have ever taken an e-learning class or have even taught a class, or have been part of an online class. The answer is usually no.

What they usually tell me is that they think that e-learning is simply ”not very effective”. As an educator I am interested in how people form their opinions. When I asked them how they formed their opinion about e-learning, I discover that they have very little first-hand experience with it.

Often times they will say “I heard that it is not very good” or “my friend took a course and didn’t like it”. As a student and working professional, I have literally taken hundreds of in-person courses. Guess what? Some of them weren’t very good either. I don’t think that e-learning has a corner on the market on low-quality courses.

Sound critical thinking tells us to try to get objective information about a topic. It tells us to ask questions to get to the heart of the matter. I find it interesting that in higher education some highly educated professionals who embrace the use of critical thinking, throw it out when it comes to eLearning. For some unknown reason anecdotal information seems to be good enough for some people when it comes to assessing the effectiveness of e-learning.

Let’s face it. eLearning is not for every instructor, nor is it for every student. What I do feel confident about is that e-learning will not be going away anytime soon. At some point the “e” will be dropped from the term “e-learning” and we will simply focus on what is important….the “learning” itself.