Thirty years ago, maybe as recently as twenty years ago, online education would have seemed preposterous.
Today, it’s not only possible but increasingly more common, revolutionizing our very idea of what makes a classroom. Like the internet or not, online learning platforms are undeniable. In fact, in 2016, over 6.3 million students enrolled in online classes. There are even colleges now that are conducted fully online.
You can even get an online Master's degree in sports management, get an online MBA, or various other higher ed degrees. Whether you think this is a sign of progress or further isolationism is up to you, but it’s certainly made a massive change to the way education is offered and the way students pursue education. Here are just a few transformations in recent years.
College students are well acquainted with the problem of attempting to register for a class only to find it’s already full. These limitations of classroom space are likely a motivator as to the popularity of online learning platforms. Today, with so many online classes opening, and the ability to work independently with them, there’s more availability to take the courses that are relevant to you, with less fear of the class filling up. You can even take Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for free. Consider, too, that online courses often renew monthly rather than per semester, so if you miss registration time, you can register next month.
The life of a student is a hectic, busy one. In fact, the lives of most adults are pretty busy. So especially if you already have a family and decide to go back to college, scheduling can be met with dread. This is another problem that digital learning platforms have eliminated. With digital learning, you can work at your own pace, on your own schedule. No more blocking off Monday, Wednesday, and Friday or coordinating class time with the professor. No more getting snowed out. With digital platforms, you make your own schedule. And with digital learning platforms, you can earn the credits you need in half the time. Many online courses are as short as eight weeks but offer the full credit.
From Books to E-Books
Another struggle with the traditional classroom is books. Even for high schoolers, lugging around heavy books every day can take a toll on your shoulders. When you reach college or grad school, the problem with textbooks becomes a very different, and costly, issue. College textbooks are infamously pricey, and the College Board estimates now that the average student pays almost $1,300 for textbooks over the course of their four year bachelor degree.
But e-readers and digital learning platforms are doing away with physical textbooks even in traditional classrooms. E-books are much more affordable, lighter, and eco friendly. No trees felled in the making of a digital textbook!
Can’t afford to live on campus and don’t want to drive half an hour to your college campus every day for classes? Maybe you have two jobs or twins at home that need your attention. In times past, that could prevent people from pursuing higher education. Not so now. Not only can these online learning platforms be accessed from home, but from any mobile device: laptops, phones, tablets, etc. You can stop by your favorite coffee shop after work to take your class for the day, or take out your tablet and do your coursework on the subway. It’s just one more way that digital learning caters to your life, rather than the other way around.
As might have come across in the last two points, digital learning platforms are simply more affordable. The cost of learning texts is significantly reduced. Commuting costs are eliminated. But these are just small portions of the total cost of education. Skyrocketing tuition costs make a degree through traditional classroom environments inaccessible for many. But costs for online courses are much lighter. The average student spends about $100 to $400 per credit hour on online courses, as opposed to tens of thousands of dollars spent on tuition in traditional learning environments.
Some critics will say that digital learning platforms lead the world to be more isolated and less connected. However, for those students who thrive on independent study, digital learning platforms are ideal. You can work at your own pace, fast or slow, without affecting the rest of the class. After all, everyone learns at a different rate. This allows you to play to your educational strengths for more achievement.
There are always naysayers who say that the world is becoming too digital, or that “computers are going to take over.” And chances are, there will always be students who thrive in traditional classrooms. However, the widespread availability and accessibility of digital platforms has redefined pursuits of education for much of the world, and the more it advances, the more traditional learning environments should take note.