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6 Surprising Benefits of Online Learning

Jul 3, 2017 | Harrison College

6 Surprising Benefits of Online Learning

Online learning has created plenty of excitement among potential students. The flexibility of earning credits and completing courses online can open up a whole new range of possibilities. For many, the schedule constraints of needing to be in class, in a certain location, at a specific time is incompatible with their schedules.

For others, the length of the commute limits their course options to the campus location in their immediate area. For even more, the thought of having a little more wiggle room in their schedules and participating in the course from home is too appealing to ignore.

If you went to a more traditional high school, you probably don’t have a ton of familiarity with the online classroom environment. But don’t be nervous. While taking your courses online might seem like a risky move, you are probably signing on for more perks than you realize.

The benefits of online learning go much further than the obvious convenience of knocking out those gen eds in your pajamas (or while keeping an eye on the kids). Read on to see why. You might be pleasantly surprised.

1. Intentional interpersonal interactions

One of the biggest worries students and instructors have with online learning is the loss of face-to-face interaction. Though this aspect of communication is fundamentally different in an online class, the online format might work out even better for some personalities.

Even for students who like to speak up, classroom settings aren’t always accommodating. If other students tend to dominate the conversation, or if the professor doesn’t leave much room for a response, even students who love to process aloud can feel hard pressed to get a word in. In online courses, class discussion is easier for instructors to control.

For example, the professor may start a question thread and require every student to reply at least once. This kind of built-in administrative work makes sure every student gets the chance to bounce a few ideas around. Additionally, students who tend to remain silent in face-to-face classrooms might feel more comfortable sharing and asking questions in an online forum.

“Online education can be an equally effective teaching format when the online course is designed using appropriate pedagogy. There was no significant difference in student satisfaction between the two different courses (online and in-person),” reports the American Sociological Association (ASA) in a study they conducted to compare online and traditional courses.

“Furthermore, students who enjoy working with others and view interaction with their instructor as important to learning tended to be more satisfied with the course, independent of the type of classroom they are in.”

2. Professor-student communications

The ASA’s findings lead to another surprising perk of online courses: interactions with your professors. In their comparative study of online courses versus traditional courses, student satisfaction regarding communication with their instructors was just as high in the online courses as in person.

This could be because professors teaching online courses have to prioritize direct communication with students as a fundamental part of their courses. Many of the pedagogy guides and best practices for online teachers emphasize strong communication with students above all else. And on the student side, it’s much easier to send an email when you have a question than nab your instructor after class or during office hours.

3. Increased technological ability

It isn’t just school that has recently exploded into online forums. Work, meetings and business interactions are also flocking to the convenience of digital communication.

If you graduate from college without really needing to rely on electronic communication, odds are, you’ll have to learn the ropes anyway once you’re employed. If you take courses online, you kill two birds with one stone. You’ll be learning your course material, while also learning (in a hands-on way) how to communicate digitally and embrace new technology.

“An online program also offers the opportunity to become functionally effective with new communication technologies, including new video conferencing tools. Being able to convey a message effectively through a webinar or Skype presentation is becoming essential to entrepreneurs and support staff in numerous industries,” writes Lila Romero of U.S. News.

4. Multi-format learning platforms

Are you a visual learner? Auditory? Kinesthetic? All of the above? Well, you’re in luck with online courses. While most traditional classrooms remain, well ... traditional learning environments, online learners often get to benefit from more experimentation.

Teachers and administrators of online classes are on a constant hunt for tools that make their courses feel more personal, interactive and engaging. Online learning platforms these days have more bells and whistles to enhance the course than an in-class environment could ever make use of.

“Multimedia tools have been scientifically proven to improve memory in our brains by providing strong sensory cues that help us remember what we learn,” Romero writes. You could be planning a project with classmates in real time on a class chatroom while watching an instructional video from your professor, while uploading an audio-clip response to an assignment. (Don’t worry. You probably won’t have to do all of that at once.)

For a small sampling of the choices that school administrators and professors make to supplement their online learning environments, eLearning Industry highlights many of the specific customizations out there.

5. More control over distractions

There’s nothing more irritating than straining your mind and attention to understand what your professor is saying in a challenging class — only to be distracted over and over again by the student in front of you playing candy crush on her phone, or the student next you flipping between sixteen tabs on his computer.

In a classroom environment, you don’t exactly have the power to shut down those kinds of distractions. When you are completing an online course, the ball is more in your court. You can easily be distracted by social media or chaos in your house, but you can just as easily shut yourself in a quiet room somewhere and really focus in.

6. Electronic coursework is easier to organize

Traditional college students lug around back-breaking loads of textbooks, folders and hundreds of papers that don’t have a prayer of making it to a filing cabinet. Staying organized was tough enough in high school. And of course, it’s no big deal if you tossed or lost (or ceremonially burned) your high school papers after graduation.

But in college, when you are producing work that you could showcase during a job interview, it’s handy to have everything organized and in one place. When you take your courses online, you’ll want to get yourself organized right at the start. Even if that only means making a few folders for your desktop or jumping into Google Docs.

But after that, keeping tabs on your work is much easier than coming home from school with a 3-ring binder full of assorted projects. Additionally, online course platforms typically have grade-tracking capabilities so you will always know how you are doing in a course — no surprises at the end of the semester. And having a verifiable electronic record of your correspondence with other students and teachers can come in handy, in case there are any discrepancies.

Are you surprised?

As you can see, these six benefits of online learning don’t even address the most obvious perk of the course flexibility that saves you time and money. If you know why you want to earn your degree and have the motivation to keep yourself on task while learning online, the digital classroom might very well be the smartest option for you.

If you’d like to take advantage of these benefits of online learning, read more about the online programs at Harrison College.

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