Online education has been around long enough now to be studied, analyzed, and refined. It seems to be a phenomenon that is here to stay.
Many of its proponents point to studies claiming that online education actually produces educational results that are measurably higher than results from similar courses in traditional classroom studies.
A report online education was released in 2009 and was based on a study conducted for the U.S. Department of Education by SRI International over a twelve-year period. Their conclusion, according to a New York Times article, was this, “On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.” (New York Times, August 19, 2009).
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Why Online Education Works
There are reasons attributed by numerous authors and studies for this reality. Some of them are as follows:
- Evaluating a student’s online learning requires the creation of assessment tools that show, in a measurable way, how much a student has or has not learned.
- Discussion forums require each student to participate. There is no opting out of the conversation in an online format.
- Students who are reticent to participate in traditional classroom discussions will often find success in the online discussion format where they can think through their answers before posting.
- Interaction among the students in a cohort often results in development of critical thinking skills and intense engagement on various topics related to the cognitive learning in the course.
- Cohorts are usually fairly small, allowing significant interaction among students and with the online instructor.
- Online instructors can be from any campus or area, allowing institutes of higher education to solicit those who have proven online teaching skills.
- The online format encourages a strong international involvement, resulting in multi-cultural cohorts and viewpoints.
- Participating in an online course encourages the development of technological skills required to participate fully in the course work. These skills are beneficial in various areas of a student’s life.
- Students can choose their optimum study times, particularly in asynchronous applications.
- Online educators are constantly surveying students to determine what works and what doesn’t in online settings.
- Adjustments are easy and immediate in the online world and are designed for the benefit of the students’ learning.
- Well constructed online discussion questions require higher-level reasoning skills including, often, self-reflection.
Why Students Choose Online Learning
When the positives are evaluated, online education is the choice for many students in these days. Some of the reasons for that choice from a student’s perspective follow:
- Online education is usually less costly than on-campus education.
- Online learning allows some time flexibility so students can fit study time into already-busy schedules.
- Most of the work can be done from home or office so students don’t lose travel time and travel costs.
- Students who are already involved in family and work environments don’t have to relocate to complete their education.
- A wide variety of content and faculty can be offered because professors come from various institutions within the greater academic community.