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How Effective Is Online Learning In Higher Education?

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic found colleges across the country closing classrooms and pivoting to online learning platforms, many schools had already embraced remote learning opportunities, recognizing their potential benefits to students, faculty and administration alike. Of course, there is no question that the pandemic led to an exponential increase in adoption of online learning technologies by colleges and universities.

Why Online Learning Is Becoming Increasingly Common

Technology offerings continue to evolve at a rapid pace. Against this backdrop, more and more schools have begun to recognize that online learning programs can expand their reach so more students can pursue their educational dreams, without sacrificing the quality of education students and accreditation agencies demand. The potential benefits of online learning in college are many and varied.

Colleges that offer accredited online degree programs give busy adults the option of completing coursework in a way that best meets a student’s needs. Often, such programs allow students to view lectures and presentations from their homes and on their time, while still offering opportunities to engage with classmates and professors.

This flexibility can make a significant difference to students who are juggling multiple other responsibilities, including jobs and family obligations. Online degrees can make college more affordable, too, as there is often not a need to live on or even commute to campus. Rather than putting their dreams of earning college degrees on hold, online degree-seeking students can work toward their goals largely on their terms.

Of course, online learning is not limited to formal education programs. Some examples of online learning platforms you can pursue without registering with a college include Udemy and Skillshare. These programs offer courses in a variety of topics and use delivery methods, with some options available via video while others are audio or text elements. However, choosing to earn a degree or take coursework through a college or university online learning platform is arguably much more effective than such “do-it-yourself” options, as enrolled students have access to instructors and additional student resources.

How Effective Are Online Learning Platforms for Higher Education?

A key question students should ask when evaluating online degree programs is, “How effective is online learning in higher education?” It depends. That’s because there are many variables to consider and evaluate when trying to determine how effective an online program is (or isn’t) when compared to an on-campus program at the college level.

First, not all online learning programs are the same in terms of quality or scope. A college that had already embraced online learning programs prior to the pandemic likely has systems and technology tools in place that have been tested and refined by the school and its faculty over years of use — as opposed to schools that were forced to implement online learning tools due to COVID-19. Course instructors for online programs may also be more comfortable with the platform’s technologies than professors who were thrust into teaching remotely during the pandemic.

Perhaps the most important factor in evaluating program effectiveness is how prepared the individual student is for remote learning. The effectiveness of any online learning platform can vary significantly from one student to another — even when all other variables are the same. That’s because taking courses online requires a different level of organization and commitment from students.

It can be challenging for some students to learn and to stay engaged in course materials outside the familiar classroom setting. Students must be prepared to stay on top of the course syllabus and complete requirements as they are assigned; it can be tempting to procrastinate when there isn’t a sense of immediate obligation.

Some people also struggle with feelings of isolation from their fellow students when they opt for online platforms. It arguably takes a more concerted effort to find ways to engage others in a meaningful way when students don’t see one another regularly face to face.

Bottom line: Online learning is simply not the best choice for everyone. That said, for students who recognize and are prepared for these potential challenges, particularly students who are organized and self-motivated, online learning can be an effective way to pursue a college education.

Generations College Offers Online Degree Programs

Generations College in Chicago offers the best of both worlds for students — including traditional on-campus learning opportunities as well as accredited online associate degree programs in several exciting fields. Those include court reporting, business administration and criminal justice. Unlike many other schools that began offering online courses in 2020, Generations has been offering online courses since 2013 and launched its first fully online degree program in 2018.

To learn more about our online degree programs and to explore all Generations College has to offer, contact us today. If you’re ready to take the next step, apply online.