The internet is a fantastic tool that has revolutionized the way we do pretty much everything. It’s changed the way we play games, it’s changed the way we listen to music, it’s changed the way we communicate and stay in touch with friends and it’s changed the way we get information. As this continues, more and more of our infrastructures are heading online, and teaching and education have been one of the first to make the move in a big way.
Online education of course seems to be the perfect fit – this way you can get as much information and guidance as you need delivered to you online so that you can learn a subject, and of course exams and tests are something you can run through on the internet too. To this end there are countless online courses, lessons and qualifications you can take to learn about anything from Latin to physics to nursing. The question is, is it really as good as ‘old fashioned’ education and how does it differ? Here we will look at some of the pros and cons to help you decide whether online education is worth your time and money.
First of all the most obvious pro of an online education is the convenience, and that’s of course what attracts many people to it in the first place. With online education you can learn about a subject, do tests and get more information from the comfort of your own home and this is a great way to fit it around your own lifestyle. If you were to do night classes or attend a university then this would be hard to fit in around parenting or around a career, and it would leave you very tired. Conversely with online education you can read in front of the TV or while commuting and you don’t need to travel anywhere to do it. Depending on the course you may work to a deadline or you may even be able to complete each assignment in your own time giving you the flexibility to really complete the course as and when you choose. This of course means that it provides ways for people to learn who otherwise would not be able to and that has to be a good thing.
The cost of an online education might be relatively high for what you are getting, but at the same time it is likely to be significantly cheaper than what you’d pay for a full education and this means that you can get a degree potentially when otherwise you wouldn’t be able to afford one. Meanwhile you also make various other savings such as travel costs and more – and because you’re able to work around education that means you can more easily fund it too.
In some ways you learn more and find you get more immersed by home education. The reason for this is that you need to be motivated to do the work yourself and that means going ahead and seeking out information (depending on the nature of the course). In most cases you won’t be sitting being talked at in a lecture hall where it’s very easy to just turn off and not listen. At the same time in a lecture you are being taught the information in a specific way and in a way that won’t necessarily engage you – meanwhile when you teach yourself you can find ways to make the information more interesting and you can follow up on the areas that you find the most intriguing. That then means that you come away enjoying the subject more than you tend to if you are taught it by someone else.
Unfortunately online education is something that doesn’t come with much kudos. While some online education is very reliable and effective, not all online courses have that reputation and a few ‘bad eggs’ spoil it for the whole lot. At the same time even the best online education isn’t going to have quite the same respect as a degree or qualification from a college and that then means that when you show it on your CV you won’t impress your potential employers in the same way. Likewise you will get less respect from friends and family when you say it’s an online degree (though of course you don’t have to tell them). This depends partly on the reason you want to learn though and if it’s just for your own enjoyment you may be fine with that.
You may find that if you learn from home then you don’t feel as motivated to do it. This way it becomes something that you can put off until later, and there’s no one nagging at you. Likewise you’ll find that you’re surrounded by distractions like the TV and your family/partner. The internet it’s is possibly one of the biggest sources of distraction in the world (darn you YouTube!). This can have the unfortunate result of meaning you end up putting off your work indefinitely and never completing the course you paid for – or alternatively completing it but not doing as well.
Some online courses are highly interactive and will teach you through Skype, through online tests and through virtual lectures to recreate the feeling of being in a real classroom. However at the same time even these aren’t as interactive as a living breathing person and you’ll find that you suffer from not having someone to ask questions easily, or other people around you to discuss the subject with. You miss out on a whole atmosphere of learning and that’s a big deal.
While it’s useful being able to read up more on the areas you find interesting, this self-directed learning can also mean that you end up not having quite the same breadth of knowledge because you weren’t forced as much to go through the boring basics or the areas you find dull. You’ll also find that the hours you end up putting in are less as a result and that you read what you want and then come away. This can make a difference to the kind of knowledge you have by the end and unlike a ‘regular’ course you won’t have ‘lived’ it in the same sense.
While there are pros and cons for online education then, perhaps more important is to assess your own particular situation, what you are hoping to get out of the course and critically – the reputation and nature of the course itself. Be sure to do your research, to find out what your qualifications will be at the end, and how the lessons are delivered electronically.