(Hansen, 2006) Adults who already have degrees, and are weary of the college experience can also make use of online classes to pursue career-enhancing degrees, such as an MBA (Master’s of Business Administration) part-time, or gain a certificate that offers them a new career path, such as in website or graphic design.
It is not simply the more responsible adult who will benefit from online learning. It can be a more effective learning environment “for certain types of learners (shy, reflective, language challenged, those that need more time).” (“What are the pros and cons?” e-learning FAQs: e-learners resources, 2006) Of course, it could be countered that such learners need to come out of their shells, practice their language schools, and need to benefit from outside resource room help, and thus might benefit from the additional pressures of a live classroom in the long run. But online learning can act as a bridge for such learners, giving them the necessary confidence in their ability to do college-level work, before they venture out into a more rigorous and socially demanding academic environment. Furthermore, “in the online environment learners retain a considerable level of anonymity. Discriminating factors such as age, dress, physical appearance, disabilities, race and gender are largely absent. Instead, the focus of attention is clearly on the content of the discussion and the individual’s ability to respond and contribute thoughtfully and intelligently to the material at hand.”(“Strengths and Weaknesses of Online Learning.” University of Illinois, 2006) Taking an online class enables a student to shed traditional barriers and assumptions of appearance, and viewed as such, enables a student who may have been the victim of academic prejudice to re-enter the learning environment and have a potentially more positive experience
However, one possible ‘con’ that is difficult to overcome is that “instructors need to learn to be effective online instructors,” and go above and beyond the potentially impersonal Internet divide to connect with students. (“What are the pros and cons?” e-learning FAQs: e-learners resources, 2006) Here, the need for self-motivation is felt by the online learner, although it could be argued that even ‘real life’ professors can be remote or insensitive to student needs. But an additional problem is posed by “faculty members who are uncomfortable with change and working with technology or feel that online programs cannot offer quality education often inhibit the process of implementation.”(“Weaknesses of Online Learning.” University of Illinois, 2006) A student must want to gain the skills or degree necessary to benefit from an online classroom in a way that is absent of exterior, immediate motivation such as constant instructor approval or disapproval, as the student will have less tactile contact with even the most concerned instructor.
Some courses will never function as perfect substitutes for online learning, such as “hands-on subjects,” including “public speaking, surgery, dental hygiene, and sports where physical movement and practice contribute to the achievement of the learning objectives. These subjects are probably best taught in a face-to-face traditional learning environment. Hybrid courses may represent a temporary solution to this problem thus making that portion of the course more accessible to a greater number of people who would otherwise have difficulty getting to campus.”(“Weaknesses of Online Learning.” University of Illinois, 2006) Nor can online learning provide the complete social, emotional college experience of having lunch with professors, confiding to roommates in soul-searching late-night study sessions, or participating in extracurricular activities. But for some students, and in some situations, the online environment may be liberating. Moreover, even students enjoying the traditional college experience will need to make better use of online resources more often in the future.
Hansen, Randall. “Distance Learning Pros and Cons.” Quintessential Careers. 2006. 27
Aug 2006 http://www.quintcareers.com/printable/distance_learning_pros-cons.html
Strengths of Online Learning.” University of Illinois. Last modified Aug 27, 2006. 27
Aug 2006 http://www.ion.illinois.edu/Resources/tutorials/overview/strengths.asp
Weaknesses of Online Learning.” University of Illinois. Last modified Aug 27, 2006.
27 Aug 2006 http://www.ion.illinois.edu/Resources/tutorials/overview/weaknesses.asp#AdministrationFaculty
What are the pros and cons?” e-learning FAQs: e-learner’s resources. 2006. 27 Aug 2006 http://www.elearners.com/resources/elearning-faq5.asp