The Pros and Cons of Online Education

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A Brief History

On October 6, 1994, The Open University of Catalonia headquartered in Barcelona, Spain was established as the first new and fully online university.  Today, continuous learning is no longer a personal whim, but a requirement of time.  Fortunately, you don’t have to go to college to get an online education.  Online courses allow you to continuously receive new knowledge.   The Pro-Papers team will tell you about all the advantages and disadvantages of such an online education.

Digging Deeper

Today, more and more people are studying online: taking courses, learning new programs, and even changing their profession. Technology is evolving at a rapid pace, so ignoring opportunities for rapid development does not make sense.

Multimedia space Moldova Alliance Française.  Photograph by Alfrmoldavie.

In the modern world, in order to master a new skill, obtain information or change a profession, it is not necessary to graduate from a university, losing five years of one’s life. It is enough to complete online courses, practice skills and apply them at work. In addition, the world is changing so rapidly that yesterday’s information is no longer relevant and one must always adapt to the new realities of life.

Since the beginning of the 90s, many universities began to lay out the electronic databases of their courses in the network, making them accessible to a wide audience. Today, online education is based on the concept of MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses). Such education includes video lectures, a variety of tests and essays. In the end, students are rewarded with a corresponding certificate confirming the knowledge gained.

Poster, entitled “MOOC, every letter is negotiable”, exploring the meaning of the words “massive open online course”.  Poster by Mathieu Plourde (Mathplourde on Flickr).

The main strong point of this educational format lies in possibility to obtain the necessary knowledge remotely and still be confident in their quality, because the programs are developed by teachers from the best universities in the world. All you need is only your motivation to learn.

Undoubtedly, there are many benefits of online learning.

  1. You can choose the time to study by yourself. Usually the course is built in such a way, that there is a general learning session, which is held in the evening and there are tasks for independent performance. Students perform tasks, and reports are written in general chats or in a closed section of the site.

In any case, if the lesson was missed, you can watch its recording at a convenient time, as well as perform reports at any convenient time for the student.

  1. Anywhere. Regardless of where you are now – at home, in the country, in the village or relaxing under a palm tree, you can continue your studies. This is another significant advantage of online learning, you live your usual life and get new knowledge at the same time.
  2. Low cost of learning. As a rule, online learning is cheaper than offline one, because it does not need space and equipment for the organization of the educational process. Moreover, today there are so many courses on the Internet on various topics that it is not difficult to find a better offer.
  3. You can learn from practitioners. Often at universities, we get knowledge from theorists, and then in reality, everything turns out to be completely different from what we were taught. As for online learning, here you can find practitioners, experts in their field, who know firsthand what they are talking about and what they are teaching.
  4. Opportunities for the exchange of information between students. Most often, when organizing the learning process online, a general chat or other space is created for communication between students. And communication in the group – is always getting new knowledge, experience. This is networking.
  5. Variety of choices. Plus, the fact that you can quickly comprehend the discipline you are interested in as part of one online service offers hundreds of other platforms that are ready to teach you the same thing, but using a different program and for other money. You just have to study the reviews, weigh the pros and cons, and decide.

As always, there are positive aspects, and there are negative ones.

  1. Poor call quality or lack of Internet. The educational process can be broken or canceled altogether due to the lack of Internet or its poor quality. And if you are an avid traveler, you are familiar with such a problem in other countries.
  2. Oversaturation of information. Excess of information and the inability to use it does not help, and even interfere with learning.
  3. Lack of communication. People of remote professions and freelancers are familiar with this problem. Lack of communication leads to psychological problems which affect the quality of both personal and family lives. Learning online and the lack of live communication are not for everyone.
  4. Programs. The inability to use programs, which may require special training, slows down the learning process until the necessary programs are mastered.
  5. Inability to independently organize the educational process. Not everyone is able to organize himself/herself and engage in their own. Therefore, despite all the advantages of online learning, people often postpone the implementation of tasks or attend seminars for later, that makes the learning process ineffective.
  6. Motivation. When learning online it is difficult to maintain the maximum degree of motivation, because you are always in greenhouse conditions: no one demands anything from you, you don’t have to read additional materials and even attend classes. Ultimately, how easy it is to write everything off as the inefficiency of the courses.

Thus, online education gives us a number of advantages, but also leads to certain difficulties, which you should be versed with, that is, learn how to work with information and know how to organize yourself. It is important to understand that any form of education has its pros and cons, and online education is no exception. Therefore, if you avoid an integrated approach, then neither full-time, online courses, nor even an individual trainer will help you pull out a lucky ticket to the world of the profession. Therefore, always, first of all, do not forget to work on yourself!

Questions for students: Do you think that online education is of the same quality and value as in-classroom education?  Do you have a personal preference between online versus in-classroom courses?  Please let us know in the comment section below.

Students of the Cégep de St-Hyacinthe in Quebec working in a computer lab.  Photograph by MCPearson.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Johnson, Aaron.  Excellent Online Teaching: Effective Strategies For A Successful Semester Online.  Aaron Johnson, 2013.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by Courtcourtwest of a student using technology in the classroom, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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About Author

Dr. Zar

Dr. Zar graduated with a B.A. in French and history, a Master’s in History, and a Ph.D. in History. He currently teaches history in Ohio.