Online education is emerging as a powerful and popular trend for college students – especially those living in rural areas. It is easy to see the benefits of taking classes at home. There is no money to spend on gas and vehicle maintenance. It is generally considered safer to stay at home than to venture out onto the roads in inclement weather – not to mention other drivers with road rage. There is no need to spend money on a special wardrobe for school. The negatives of online courses include far less connection and communication with the professors and classmates. There is also more intense mental work involved with online courses in order to get good grades.
A student in the process of choosing between online courses and traditional classroom courses needs to recognize that there are both good points and difficulties with each type of class. One should carefully weigh the pros and cons of each class format before making a final decision. (Though – if you find you are in a format that does not suit you do not be afraid to switch to the other.)
The cons against taking a traditional classroom course include the added cost of transportation to school, dangers faced in traffic situations, the higher cost of suitable clothing, and the rigid schedule associated with classroom settings. The benefits of sitting in a classroom are being part of a social setting and also the varied levels of communication with the professor. The in-class communication with the professor can be priceless to a student working for a good grade. Professors tend to give off body language cues as to what they consider important during their lectures. They might write a key word on the bulletin board while they are talking. The tone of their voice may change when they disclose a bit of information they consider especially important. These personal communications cues give students in classroom settings tips as to what may be on the test.
This leads into the cons against taking online courses. These communication cues are not present in online courses. Online students, while they can email the professors with questions – and occasionally a phone number will be offered, do not have easy access to these types of context cues. Getting a good grade in an online course requires the student to have a much stronger command of the course material than a classroom student is required to have. This often requires far more mental work and more effort to process the information. It falls to each student to decide if this is a positive or a negative.
The pros of online courses are being able to work on one’s own schedule. Can’t sleep? No problem – jump right into class in your pajamas. Don’t have money for gas? No problem – jump onto the information highway known as the Internet. (Most college students today have Internet access anyway so it is not even an added cost.)
When making the final decision – put together a pro-con list. Put each item where it fits for you – the student. If you love driving – put driving to class on your pro list for classroom and your con list for online classes.