Online education is a
fast growing trend among today’s educational approach.  Sometimes referred to as “Distance Learning”, it
is an interactive online alternative to traditional on-campus learning. Just as
in a traditional class, students have assignments and tests that must be completed
prior to their deadline. However, these can be accessed via an online system
from any location at any time. The accessibility
of online education provides both benefits and concerns for students who wish
to adopt its modern approach.

 

 “Non-traditional” students have the most to
gain from online education. Typically, their daily lives are busy with full
time jobs and other responsibilities, allowing very little opportunity to
attend campus institutions.  Online courses
do not have a set schedule as they would on campus, so users are capable of
learning at their own pace and on their own time as well. Courses are readily accessible
to students who live far distances from campus or who may not be able to attend
physical classes regularly.  The
flexibility of online courses is a better option for nontraditional furthering
education, and maintaining a balance between school and home.

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Educational
institutions benefit from the large amount of additional revenue generated from
providing online courses. Virtual classrooms allow more students to attend
school while paying the same tuition amount as they would on campus. While
institutions generate more revenue from providing online classes, they also
save money on overhead costs of campus classrooms; such as electricity,
computers, and other class materials. Online education allows learning
institutions to provide a better learning experience for current students,
resulting in better retention and attraction of future prospective students. Through
ever-changing advances in technology, online education reshapes student’s
abilities to learn.

Because a
successful online student must be self-driven, they develop useful strategies
such as good time management, and resourcefulness. Instructors are also able to
provide more one on one interaction with students, building a stronger
foundation within the class. Students who take online classes generally perform
better than their on campus counterparts. According to the U.S Department of
Education, “Students in online conditions performed modestly better, on
average, than those learning the same material through traditional face-to-face
instruction.”(Orgill)

A
particular drawback of online courses is that the context is communicated
mainly through writing. The primary use of written communication poses a
challenge for students who are not proficient in reading and writing. These proficiencies
may in time overwhelm students, especially when coupled with harmful habits
such as poor time management. Unlike a physical classroom, instructors are not instantly
accessible and students are reduced to waiting for email responses if they are
in need of immediate assistance. According to data collected in Washington
State, there are performance gaps between online students and on campus
students. Students who had the strongest declines during online courses were
“males, younger students, Black students, and students with lower grade point
averages.” (Di 637)

While the purpose of online courses is to assist people in
achieving higher education, there are some associated risks that have emerged
within the industry. A multitude of illegitimate schools have marketed
themselves online to unsuspecting people. These fake online schools present
convincing websites boasting of certificate programs and degree pathways while
being uncredited. Many unsuspecting students have fell victim to these scams,
losing thousands of dollars and valuable time. The most challenging issue is
that these instances has negatively affected the view prospective students have
of online education.  Another concern with online education is
the fear of technology replacing the role of a teacher in the classroom. Teacher
unions are concerned that online education will eliminate the need for
teachers. Teachers have taken on more of a coaching role in online classes, providing
needed support and progress observation, leaving concern for the quality of
education students receive online.

 

Many points
highlight both the benefits and concerns of online education, such as ease of accessibility,
or concern of education quality. However, the concerns of online education do
not overshadow the importance it has in our society. Online education offers an
important factor in life, opportunity. With opportunity anything is possible,
such as a person who received an online education and used it to make a
difference in the world. Every person is entitled to the pursuit of happiness,
and if a quality education is needed for that pursuit, then online education is
an important tool for reaching success.