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Why Online Schooling Deserves a Second Look
According to Harvard business professor Clayton Christensen, the future of college competitiveness rests on schools’ abilities and willingness to provide an online education that meets or exceeds the standards of conventional classroom training. The numbers seem to support this supposition.
As outlined by Campus Technology, in 2009 alone the distance learning industry generated revenues of approximately $27.1 billion. Industry insiders assert that this figure will likely double by 2014. This dollar figure incorporates money spent on pre-packaged content, such as may be the case with course packs that some distance learning schools favor, or tool hosting services.
It is clear that students and teachers -- and also parents of students -- will do well to become familiar with the classroom model of the future. So what are the advantages of a digitized training environment?
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Five Talking Points for Students and Parents
- Vocational training is going digital. A short 20 years ago, there used to be plenty of vocational programs and career colleges. Letting students earn certificates of completion or associates degrees of applied science, they trained learners in the nuts and bolts of a profession, which then allowed the student to seek out entry-level employment. The downsides of this teaching model were the time it took to receive the training and of course the daytime class schedules. Now students have the opportunity to train for and work in their fields of choice via distance learning, such as an online automotive course. Parents appreciate the housing and transportation savings, as well as the learners' opportunity to become financially self-sufficient sooner.
- Distance learning supports different learning styles. The University of Colorado (Denver) explains that visual and hands-on learners have the opportunity to find online programs that support their learning styles. This differs from the traditional brick-and-mortar educational model, which limits the training to the educator’s teaching style.
- In-depth study opportunities. If taking lecture notes and catching the subsequent question and answer sessions is overwhelming for students, the online learning model makes it possible to re-play lectures as often as necessary. Better yet, the student may pause and re-start them as needed. Students with special needs in particular, find this to be a valuable asset to their education.
- Peer interaction shows higher quality comments. Due in part to the anonymity of the Internet, it makes it possible for even the quietest student to voice an opinion without fear. It is clear that the comments posted in an online class forum are well thought out. Thus, they add more to the learning experience than an in-class comment or question might in the standard setting. In addition, students who have a difficult time overcoming prejudices learn from those whom they would otherwise disregard as being different.
- Brief office hours are a thing of the past. While an online teacher may not be available around the clock, it is no longer necessary to spend an hour in front of the professor’s office, hoping to catch them between courses. An email or message gets your question posted, and the educator answers as soon as possible.
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Five Facts Related to Educators
- Pre-K to 12 teaching is moving online. Distance learning used to be reserved for the college level, but charter schools and also state-operated schools are moving to the Internet. In some cases, this involves the online learning model as an adjunct to the in-classroom teaching, while in other cases the upper grades may be hosted solely online. As of 2009, the United States had more than 200,000 students who used this type of learning model, and the trends show that this number will grow. Parents can confidently sign up their students for this learning experience without the fear of course credit or degrees not carrying significant weight after graduation.
- The international aspect of the Internet lets qualified educators from around the world teach. It is no longer necessary to relocate in order to teach a class. Instead, the credentials get the educator hired, while the Internet makes it possible for the professional to teach a class in another continent. This lets students learn from the best instructors and authorities in their fields.
- Teachers have increased opportunities for feedback. eLearn Magazine points out that the teacher’s availability goes beyond stated office hours in between classes. Just like students have the opportunity to study when it is convenient for them, educators can go beyond a posted office hour span to interact with students via chat or forum messages. This enhances the learning experience of the students and has the potential to increase the job satisfaction of teachers as well.
- Educators determine the use of technology. It is up to the teacher to use video presentations, audio recordings or even animations within the online classroom setting. The teacher who has a group of students who embrace this technology can make use of some or all of these tools. In contrast, the educator, who recognizes that there are more technophobes in the class than students who would benefit from the copious use of this technology, can pare down the tech tool use to a minimum. A custom-tailored approach heightens the odds of student success.
- Teaching online enhances the offline teaching experience. Experiencing the distance learning classroom with its challenges offers another growth opportunity to an educator who is willing and eager to improve the approach to teaching. Parents who send their students to schools that embrace a hybrid model still benefit from the online teaching, even if the student sits in a traditional classroom.
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It is clear that the pros for online schooling do not just affect students but also benefit educators. The speed with which brick and mortar schools and their teachers can adapt to the changing model of education has the potential to determine the institutions’ future viability.
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- Deseret News, http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700147002/Online-learning-Wave-of-the-future-or-demise-of-the-academy.html
- Campus Technology, http://campustechnology.com/articles/2010/03/03/the-future-of-e-learning-is-more-growth.aspx
- University of Colorado (Denver), http://www.ucdenver.edu/academics/CUOnline/OnlineLearning/Advantages/Page/OnlineLearningAdvantages.aspx
- eLearn Magazine, http://elearnmag.acm.org/featured.cfm?aid=1609990