One of the most compelling benefits of online learning is the convenience and flexibility it provides students. Instead of driving to a campus to attend classes day after day and week after week on certain days and certain times, a typical online student simply logs into a virtual classroom to review course material and assignments, participate in class discussions, and submit work, and receive grades and feedback. Students then choose when they study and how long they will spend working on their homework when virtual classrooms open and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, where and whenever they have access to an Internet-connected computer. Clearly, this level of convenience and flexibility permits new opportunities for working, busy people who may not have otherwise been able to pursue a degree. Online learners fit their education around their existing schedules instead of trying to adjust their lives and responsibilities to fit school.
While the scheduling options offered by online education are a critical factor in many students’ success, it is important that new students understand that being convenient and flexible does not mean easy. While it is true that online education allows students to log in to the class as they choose, it is also true that online classes still involve due dates, deadlines, and assignments. In fact, some students may come to feel that online learning actually requires them to be more motivated and organized than traditional classroom learning does. This is because, as an online learner, you must have the ability to keep yourself focused and on track with assignments in the absence of frequent reminders by instructors and classmates and without the structure of set class times imposed by anyone else. The online student alone must create and adhere to a workable and feasible schedule for completing all requirements as needed – this is both a great benefit and a major responsibility.
Another thing to keep in mind is attendance. Just like students in a classroom, online students are generally asked to maintain certain standards of attendance in order to stay in school and receive credit for courses attempted. In a traditional classroom setting, students may be marked as attending simply by showing up and being present. Such is not the case online. In an online learning environment, college students demonstrate their attendance through activities. Those activities include submitting work and/or participating in a class discussion forum. Once again, this is both an advantage and a burden. If you have ever felt uncomfortable raising your hand and speaking in front of a classroom, you can see why this is a positive feature – as an online student, you will be able to write out, review, edit, and truly think through your thoughts before sharing them. On the other hand, though, this format requires a significant amount of writing as most if not all of your communication or participation – which is required to show your attendance – will be in written form.
It is a good idea for any student to begin their education with a clear understanding of what kind of effort will be required of them to succeed and graduate. Online education has opened new doors for students who are unable to attend school in a more traditional format and it provides numerous and considerable benefits. Online degrees offer a level of convenience and flexibility not possible in the physical classroom; however, that does not mean that online degrees are easier than their more-traditional counterparts.