Pros and Cons of Online Education vs. Traditional Education

These days, carefully planning your education is a critical part of having a successful career. Online education has enjoyed healthy growth in the last few years. Because more people are choosing online education, online qualifications have become more widely accepted. This makes considering an online education a more viable option.

My educational history

After school I completed a 3 year degree at a traditional university. My fields of study where business and information technology. I found that things changed fairly quickly, especially on the IT side. I needed to take several courses, mostly online, to keep up to date and to expand my knowledge and skills. My education has been more of an ongoing process rather than an experience with a beginning and an end.

Online courses provide an effective mode of teaching and learning.



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Online education cons

Online education does not work equally well with all subjects

When I was at university we would have normal classes from 08:00 to 14:00 and then tutorial classes from 15:00 to 17:00. The idea being that the normal classes would be more theoretical, while the tutorials where more practical. The tutorial groups where smaller and the classes would frequently be conducted by postgraduate students. The tutorial format was more conducive to resolving the questions I had.

While I can see how certain subjects lend themselves to online education others particularly scientific subjects do not. You cannot perform a practical physics, chemical or biological exercises without a physical lab. With other subjects like math, you could practice solving problems on your own. However it would not be as good as working in a small group with an instructor who can answer your questions immediately.

Social networking

The friends that you make during your education will help you throughout your career. Getting to know people, in your field, is of course easier to do in a traditional setting. In an online atmosphere you really need to make the effort to create those connections.

Investment of time and money

You will need a mid-level computer and a high speed internet connection to study online. You will also need to install specific software and learn how to use it. Studying online is more prone to technical issues like your internet going down or hardware failing. These are issue for students as well as lecturers.

Timing issues

If you ask a question and you are working at night or in a different time zone, you will have to until the next day to get an answer.

Motivation

Even experienced students may find that it is difficult for them to motivate themselves, when studying online. Without the social interaction you may just lack the push you need. Some advertisements may try to convince you that learning online is easy. In my experience that is not the case, if anything it's more difficult.

Online education pros

Flexibility

To me the biggest online education pro is flexibility. This may vary from one program to another but generally the online educational programs are quite flexible in terms of when you study. Students that benefit most from the flexibility of online education are student who have to plan around their work and those who don't have access to specific education facilities where they live.

Equality

Introverted students do better online than in traditional settings because it is much easier for them to get their voices heard and their questions answered. Discrimination based on race, gender or anything else does not take place in an online environment.

Diversity

Online classes are more geographically and economically diverse. This gives you exposure to more different kinds of people.

Access to resources

Online you have greater access to resources from around the globe. Examples would be notable speakers and relevant databases.

Creativity

Some traditional education facilities have a very rigid approach to education, both for students and lecturers. Online education leans more towards creative learning approaches.

Synergy

If things are setup correctly there can be a free and timely flow of ideas between students and between lecturers and students. You also have time to reflect on a question before it is asked or answered.

Costs

The rising cost of education is a concern for everyone and technology is the best way to bring this cost down. Cost savings is one of the main reasons why we see more traditional educational institutions using a hybrid online and traditional approach to education.

Some learned speakers on the future of education

Worth watching if you have the time to do so

Conclusion

Both online and traditional education are powerful tools. Your particular situation will determine which one is right for you. Hopefully the pros and cons that I have discussed here will make the decision easier. If you have a specific question, please ask it in the comments section below.

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