When you hear “online education,” what most likely pops into your head is an image of a non-traditional age student burning the midnight oil after working all day and having gotten the kids to bed. Or, maybe you imagine a student who lives in the middle of nowhere-no university within 250 miles–who doesn’t have the opportunity to attend a brick and mortar university
. What you probably don’t image is the typical college student who lives on campus. After all, many students who only have the chance to go or return to college would prefer to go to a physical college campus to attend classes, so why would young adults choose to work online instead of go to class? According to Campus Technology, over the last five years, the number of students who take a combination of in-person and online classes has increased from 23 percent to 45 percent. There are many benefits to enrolling in online courses while living on campus, and many of them you may not have thought of before.
Campus life isn’t always convenient. Many campuses have little in the way of public transportation, even when the campus is sprawled out in every direction. Some classes are only offered at times when college students prefer not to be awake, or at least in class. Early morning classes or later evening classes just don’t compare to taking a class online, when you can read, listen to lectures and study any time that works best for you and your schedule in the current semester. Those students who attend college in northern climes may not cherish the idea of walking to class in the snow and cold, especially when it is still dark outside. Sometimes it is just plain more convenient to take certain classes online. With laptops and tablets being ubiquitous these days, taking online classes
has become more of a convenience for all learners, including those who live on campus.
That may sound negative, but if you have ever taken a class with hundreds of students in a huge lecture hall, you understand why some students would prefer to skip that experience. It’s difficult to focus when you know that your professor has no idea about who is in her class and how well they are taking in and retaining the material. Add the convenience of online classes to this mix and it’s almost a no-brainer-online classes trump lecture halls any day.
It may seem strange, but students who want to be particularly engaged in a class might be tempted to register for an online class. Why? Think about how engaging those lecture hall “warehouses” are. There is usually no way to get engaged when you have 300 other students around you. Why not take an online class where the professor uses interactive video, audio and live chats to make the class seem more intimate and the material more intriguing.
As more colleges deal with financial constraints yet higher enrollment, there are institutions where required classes for some degrees are only offered one time per year. If the one class offered has a cap of 35 students, how many students will have to wait another year to graduate? Colleges have made this situation much less prominent by offering those classes online and offering multiple sections of it. Because online courses are less expensive to run, this is a win-win for everyone. Taking an online class may mean that a student doesn’t need to stick around for another semester to graduate.
It’s common for students to run across a conflict between two or more classes that they need to take in the same semester. Online classes are ideal for this situation. The student can take the multiple classes by opting to learn online. Other common conflicts occur with job schedules and social/academic functions or responsibilities. Students who participate in college sports or leadership programs might have a difficult time fitting everything in their schedules if they must attend a class at scheduled times. But online courses free up their schedules so that they can still be active participants in all aspects of college life.
Even the ivy league colleges
can’t be everything to everyone. Some students take online courses from other universities and then transfer the credits to their graduating college. This allows students interested in advanced or unique subjects to be able to add to their knowledge base while still gaining the on-campus experience. Online learning is also extremely helpful for those students who are taking an extra-large class load. These students, no doubt, run into multiple scheduling issues between class times. Online courses free up their scheduled daily hours so that they can more easily enroll in those classes that are unavailable online. Taking advantage of online course can offer students a chance to graduate early.
Since we all learn differently, some college students find they learn certain content material better online. This might go back to the engagement opportunities mentioned earlier, or it may be the opportunity to view and review lecture videos that isn’t an option when attending “live” lectures. Tactile learners
might prefer to type their discussions or questions rather than speak in class. Auditory learners no longer need to carry around a mini tape recorder-they can log into class and listen to the professor’s podcast as often as they need…like when studying for an exam. Online education has closed some of the barriers between learning styles.
Millennials feel comfortable online-it’s their natural habitat. Unlike the generation before who still may struggle with the sheer number of available apps, programs and social media platforms, the typical college student has grown up with computers. Many students feel their tablets or laptops, and even smartphones, are extensions of themselves. It seems comfortable for them to “meet” new peers and professors online. In fact, the anonymity offers students a layer of “protection” so they open up and engage much more than they would in the traditional classroom.
As mentioned above, Millennials see technology as a vital extension of themselves. It’s now easy to do classwork for an online course on a smartphone. Due to this convenience and flexibility, students love online courses. Online courses are easy to work on when out of town too. Mobility and ease are important to the typical college student, so naturally, they tend to take some classes online, even when living on campus.
Online classes are great for students of all sorts since they are more self-paced. If a student has a good deal of knowledge or previous experience with a subject being discussed, they can move through the material at a quicker pace, so they don’t get bored, which can lead to poor grades. Conversely, students who need to review in depth to remember important concepts have the ability to stop, replay, review material at will, rather than feeling uncomfortable in the classroom asking for additional explanations when the other students and professor are ready to move on.
Because online learning has become so popular, many college professors choose to only teach online. I speak from experience when I say there are definite benefits to teaching in the virtual classroom! Some students who prefer to take classes with particular or favorite professors will take their class, even though it is an online class. Ultimately, online courses work well for both colleges and their students. Online classes are less expensive to run, so colleges are offering more of them with each passing academic year. Universities are simply offering more online classes, and students are taking them for the reasons above. What might intimidate a non-traditional student may feel completely natural and convenient for the current college student.