Last few years, online education has gained substantial recognition; reputed institutes like MIT, University of Michigan and Georgia Tech are now offering online as many technical courses as they are offering non-technical ones. Platforms such as Coursera.com, edX.org and Udacity.com have been designed to make online education work not only for those developing these opportunities, but equally well for those availing them all over the world.
Education is something that is not only a basic requirement for earning a living, but is an equally important factor when it comes to refining and perfecting an individual’s personality. Like in-class learning, distance learning has its own pros and cons, but if we allow ourselves give a detailed look to them, positives seem to outweigh the negatives. Counting a few of many pros of online education here:
- Online courses are cheaper: While registration is free of cost for most of the courses, you won’t need to spend any expenditure of time and money on commuting as well; all the classes are attended sitting back at home.
- Classes can be taken day or night: Neither time, nor location would hinder your chances to earn a qualification.
- Slow learners can learn at their own pace: In in-class courses, it has been observed that not all the students can grasp the concepts at the same pace and soon slow learners lose all the hope. No such problem is faced in online learning, everyone can plan his schedule and learn at his own speed.
- Students get the chance to learn the distance education technology: Alongside learning what you have registered for, online education allows you to learn the technology being used for distance learning as well. Since the online education is mostly about making the most of computers and internet, those learning through this method get to learn all the whereabouts of technology.
While the ever increasing list of pros of online education continue to be an attraction for more and more students and academics, familiarization with the pitfalls such as lack of assistance, lack of assessment and social isolation, is an equally important a requirement in order to cope with the downsides of it. Keeping in view the factors to consider before one decides to take the online route of education, a few tips have been collected and mentioned for the interested students. I hope that the following content is worth the time and effort it requires you to put; so, while you read, take notes if it’s convenient to do so.
Tip # 1: Define Your Goals
Many reasons could be there for choosing the online route over in-class education; financial constraints, limited time due to family and work commitments, or desire for career advancement are just few of many common reasons. Before you start on this route, you need to define for yourself why you prefer to earn a qualification online over offline? Do the positives of online education, in your case and circumstances, outweigh the negatives sufficient enough to make it the right choice?
Tip # 2: Don’t Fall to the Trap of Common Misconceptions
Some of the common misconceptions about the online education are:
- Online courses are easier,
- Student earning an online qualification is left on his own while he’s attending one, and that
- Online courses are self-paced.
Coping with the first one first, keep in mind, online courses are as difficult as the on-campus ones. Sometimes, to compensate for the lack of practical work, student learning through online courses are required to spend more time on reading and writing.
Second misconception seems to come right from somebody who either didn’t get the chance to avail the opportunity of online education or holds a biased opinion about it because many of the online courses require student participation in online discussion sessions and sessions with instructors, advisors and administrators.
Most of the online courses have a schedule of assignments and assessments similar to those in on-campus courses though these deadlines are not as sharp as they are in on-campus courses. You can schedule when to complete your assignment within the time allowed for it; misuse of the flexibility would only lead to failure to make any good out of this opportunity.
Tip # 3: Look for the Accredited Programs
Who would like to spend time and invest resources on earning an online qualification that does not even come with the stamp of accreditation and later on create problems in grad school admissions and recruitment for job? Look for the programs that are being offered by reputed institutes with reputable accreditation; only then, would you be able to receive quality education with no such risk as the investment you have made may go wasted.
Tip # 4: Make Sure you are Aware of How Tuition is handled
Most of the online virtual institutes do not charge students for tuition. Among those that charge, some prefer charging on per credit hour basis, some charge on yearly basis while some charge in one lump sum. Before you move on to registering for a course of your interest, make sure that you are aware of how the tuition is handled?
And why is it so important to be aware of how the tuition is being handled before you register for the course? It is because it is required in order to apply for the scholarships available to help fund your degree.
Tip # 5: Know About the Instructors Beforehand
All the money that you have invested on an online course may go wasted if the instructors teaching that course are not good at what they do and could not deliver the desired quality of teaching. Before you apply for a particular course, it is recommended that you try to research the instructors and ask them questions such as what method of teaching do they plan to follow for the course under consideration?
Tip # 6: Make Sure the Technology required is Working Properly
Slow internet connection and limited access to computers will surely make it hard for you to attend the video lectures and submit the solved assessments within the prescribed time. Before you start, make sure that the technology available satisfies at least the minimum requirement.
Once you have managed to have a 1 Mbps internet connection, in order to avoid facing any problem at any level, spend some expenditure on purchasing items such as a black and white printer, tools such as a digital dictionary and a thesaurus, software based “To-Do” lists, a note taking software, and a webcam.
Keeping these 6 tips in your mind and taking all the required precautionary measures as mentioned in them, you can register for any online course of your interest. The motivation behind writing this article was the fact that no single article, online or offline, covers this topic wholly and yet comprehensively, or at least that’s what I have observed. I hope that this writing has done justice to the topic and solved the problem up to much extent.