Pros and Cons of Online Classes: Info for Students

Online classes can be a handy way to earn college credit; however, they may not be ideal for everyone. Continue reading to learn about some of the pros and cons of online classes.

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Overview

Although every student is different, online classes come with a variety of pros and cons. Most of these pros and cons deal with the issues of flexibility, technology, time management and student engagement as they relate to online learning.

Pros of Online Classes:

Flexibility

  • Online classes often offer convenient, 24-hour access to courses and do not depend on the proximity to the organization or school offering the course. This allows students to complete college coursework while still accommodating work and other responsibilities. According to a study conducted by the University of Wisconsin on students' satisfaction with distance learning courses, flexibility was found to be the key benefit of online learning (www.uwex.edu).

Technology

  • Advantages to online students in terms of technology depend on the preferred learning style of the individual student. Students who prefer online classes may find that online learning fits their learning style, giving them more time to think about answering questions and allowing them the option to interact with classmates with whom they might not connect with socially. Additionally, online students may perform most of their research via the Internet, rather than in a traditional library. A study conducted by researchers at Valdosta State University (www. teach.valdosta.edu) found that students who favored online learning tended to be independent learners.

Cons of Online Classes:

Time Management

  • According to a study published in the Journal of Information Technology Education, students perceive time management as a major disadvantage to controlling their own coursework. Some students reported that online courses require too much or more self motivation, organization and planning than coursework at a traditional university, particularly in required work for the course. In discussing the benefits and challenges of taking its courses online vs. traditional, the University of Connecticut warns students to plan their flexible time wisely when completing course assignments to avoid procrastination (www.uconn.edu).

Technology

  • Disadvantages of technology as it relates to online classes have much to do with students' preferred learning styles. Students do not interact face-to-face with each other or with instructors, but use web pages, e-mail, software programs such as Blackboard or WebCT, message boards, chat rooms, webinars, webcasts and social media. This in turn can lead to concerns about technical problems and the limitations of one kind of instructional delivery. A Harvard University study found that for all the promises of technology, bored students drop out (www.harvard.edu).

Student Engagement

  • Student engagement is another key factor when it comes to disadvantages of online classes. Researchers at Clemson University and Lander University, writing for The Journal of Educators Online, studied dropout rates in online courses and found that student engagement, particularly socially, was a key factor in retaining students in online courses. A study published in the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration reported that students felt that not all course content or subjects translate well into an online environment, particularly those that may require feedback from the instructor in hands-on, real time learning.

Summary

In conclusion, no matter the environment, a college education requires a firm commitment of time, money and other resources. Students who need the personal interaction with peers presented by in-class face time might need to think twice about completing the majority of their education online. Yet, one who loves control over time and resources might feel right at home in an online class.

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