Published on 2012/08/27
Online learning’s convenience does not translate into an easier educational experience, as many critics would have us believe. Image by Andrea Danti.

The biggest myth of online learning is that it is somehow easier or less demanding than traditional classes. Exactly like a more traditional education you only get out of it what you put into it.  As a student the single most significant impact of online education is that I cannot sit in the back of the room and learn from watching everyone else.

Why?

Because even more than in a traditional class my learning is evaluated based on how often I offer my own individual thoughts and how often I respond to what my peers are saying. Writing for a forum has forced me to become more concise and therefore more effective.

What does that mean?

It means that I have to do my homework and be familiar with the subject matter. Just like a traditional debate, the most effective argument considers both sides. Writing for a class has taught me where and how to find credible sources for my arguments.

Could I have learned that in a traditional class? Of course, but since I also work full time and have a family a traditional graduate program was beyond my reach. I chose an online program from an institution that also has a thriving traditional program because I think the two complement each other.

My return to school has expanded my professional life in many ways. My classmates and I are now connected via LinkedIn. We are able to establish a professional network that crosses time zones, educational levels and connects the K-12 environment to the higher education community. We are able to leverage the effectiveness of Twitter to follow colleagues at conferences and find out what’s happening in education in real time. Pertinent journal articles are available within hours instead of buried at the bottom of some inbox. Often a colleague will post something in class that is a great resource for a project at work, and vice versa. The technology is all around us.

The challenge for educators is to find out how to maximize opportunities for enhancing learning. Online education is here; let’s accept the challenge to make it the best possible learning experience it can be.

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Readers Comments

Tony Birch 2012/09/04 at 10:01 pm

Choosing a school that has both an online and a traditional program is a great idea. Accreditation requires “comparability” between the two forms of instructions. In some cases the syllabi will be virtually identical. If they are, I view that as a plus. In this case you can get a great education for the reasons you point out. Essentially, in a properly run class, you are forced into interaction and you will need to demonstrate your learning every week. However, there are plenty of improperly run courses out there. And there are schools more interested in your money than in providing an education. Buyer beware.

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