Traditionally remote learning was seen as a poor substitute for the ‘real’ thing; however, the rise of the internet and the improved communication and other technologies it has brought has transformed all that. Today the internet is awash with courses, covering all subjects at all levels with options to suit all budgets. Offering convenience and flexibility, online courses are becoming increasingly popular, and many of the world’s top learning institutions are rising to meet the demand. They are offering courses of the same high quality as their in-person counterpart that result in desirable qualifications. Traditional learning methods remain popular, but there are many reasons why some students choose online study.
In-person learning requires the student to live near the place of education or have the option of moving to be near one. Inevitably this limits choice as to what is available nearby, and in some rural areas, this might be very limited indeed. Some potential students, therefore, miss out or take a course that is not exactly what they want and will not gain the exact qualifications they need.
By contrast, an online course can provide options anywhere in the world. A quick internet search on your area of interest will throw up an array of options, giving students choices that would have been impossible 20 years ago.
With no need to travel, these courses can be studied from the comfort of the home, no matter how far apart they are. However, online study also appeals to those who love to travel. Instead of taking a gap year to travel before attending a university, students can now study while they travel the world. The only requirement is a good internet connection.
Learning is not just for the young. Instead, it can be handy at any time of life for those wanting to advance a career, change career, refresh their skills after a career break, or simply fuel an interest. However, for those with work and family commitments, the traditional model of studying each day between certain hours is unlikely to be convenient, putting off many potential students.
Online courses, by contrast, are mostly much more flexible. They often have various start dates throughout the year, allowing students to start at a time convenient to them. And once you start studying, the materials are online for you to access at your leisure, even on weekends or in the middle of the night. Many courses can also be flexible in the time taken to study, so students who have minimal free time can gain qualifications at their own pace.
With so many courses of differing lengths, finding one that fits into your life is usually straightforward. For those unsure if online study is for them, a short course can help them try it out before investing in a longer one. A MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is a usually free option that is ideal for students to familiarize themselves with online study or discover if a particular subject is right for them.
Of course, the accessibility and flexibility of online courses would not account for their popularity if they were not matched by a high standard of education that prepares students well for their chosen careers. Before embarking on an online study course, it is essential to do some research into your options.
Many online courses now come from top learning establishments and universities with a prestigious reputation to maintain. They are developed and delivered by experts or industry professionals, resulting in recognized qualifications. An excellent way to ensure an online course is of a standard that will appeal to future employers is to look at the accreditation and to see where course alumni are working.
Studying, whether in person or online, does not always run smoothly. An advantage many perceive in in-person learning is the academic and pastoral support that can be offered to struggling students. However, online course providers are keen not to lag behind. Many will provide learning mentors to help students through tricky patches and will factor in regular communication to monitor student progress and well-being. An online course does not mean losing the personal touch, as, through methods such as live chat and video conferencing, it is still possible for teachers and students to get to know each other. Online course providers will be just as keen to see student success as their in-person counterparts, so students should always feel confident in reaching out if they need support.
Something that many believed would be impossible to study online are those courses that require hands-on experience. It was often assumed that those courses would have to be delivered in person. However, this has not proved to be the case. One thing the internet excels in is communication and
building networks, and this is something that can facilitate the practical elements of courses.
An excellent example of this is nursing. Requiring a high level of study, it is easy to see how this can be done online. But it also requires practical experience, which might traditionally be carried out with placements affiliated with the nursing school. Online courses can be highly versatile and have adapted quickly to ensure all elements of nursing courses are of the high standards expected. Students in Carson-Newman University online FNP programs gain accredited qualifications through online study with small class sizes and personalized support. They will also undertake clinical placements near the student’s location, giving them real-life experience with expert supervision.
As online courses continue to grow in popularity, it seems likely that combining online study with industry-based placements will become increasingly common for these hybrid courses.
A customizable experience
Remote learning requires students to be disciplined, setting their own working hours and study patterns. This allows students to customize their own learning experience. Teachers are keen to support this, often supplying learning materials in various formats, including videos, webinars, and eBooks, so students can access their learning in the way that best suits them.
When learning online, students need to be self-disciplined and motivated to perform well on their course, and these are characteristics that employers like. Very far from considering online learning second best, it can be an endorsement of a candidate who achieved highly in these circumstances.
Price is another factor that makes online learning more accessible, as usually online courses are cheaper than in-person learning. Some courses can be very lost cost indeed, and these are ideal for the first steps into a new subject or those learning for a hobby or leisure purposes. Degree-level learning will be more expensive to benefit from the high-quality teachers and courses necessary. But even these courses are usually cheaper than degree courses taught on campus. Online materials such as eBooks are generally more affordable than physical copies from a bookstore.
As well as the cost of the education itself, there are other savings associated with online learning. There are no transport costs or additional costs for housing, utilities, and food beyond what you already spend. And as online learning is often possible without the need to give up existing employment, there may not be the same drop in income compared to a student who gives up work to attend campus learning
Is online learning the future?
In-person learning remains popular, and there is no reason to think this will change or disappear. Many students like the social aspect of attending classes and meeting their teachers and fellow students. They also highlight the opportunities for networking and building connections at these establishments, as well as the social opportunities, friendships, and relationships that can form.
However, it seems likely that online earning will grow in popularity, creating opportunities for those who would otherwise find it hard to study. As it grows more popular, online course providers will work even harder to attract the best students to their courses.
Technology is sure to advance, bringing ever more exciting opportunities to the world of online learning. It might one day be possible for virtual reality to replicate the social aspects of university education in the comfort of the home. Or perhaps new communication methods will develop to help students feel less isolated.
It seems likely that the future of education lies in ever greater choice, with in-person learning remaining a valid and high-quality option, but with the internet providing the opportunity of hybrid learning with a mixture of placements and residential alongside online education as well as those courses that are 100% online. The future therefore lies in greater opportunities for all.