According to an annual survey on online education conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group and the College Board, over 6 million higher education students were taking at least one online course as of 2011. College students are not the only ones to have welcomed the world of virtual education, as home schooled students and high schools have recognized the convenience of online courses, too. Although it takes a certain amount of organization and motivation to succeed in the virtual classroom, there are many benefits to online classes.
Learning Styles and Communication
According to California Polytechnic University, online classes can increase the amount of communication between classmates and the instructor by opening up the world of online chatting, emails and discussion boards. In a regular classroom, if you don't make it a point to talk to your instructor, you lose the chance once class is over, and that doesn't happen in the online classroom. Online classes can also accommodate a wider range of learning styles, as instructors often make use of videos, slides, lecture notes and visuals to engage students.
Flexibility and Convenience
Taking classes online offers a kind of flexibility not found in standard schools. Classes are often set up so that students can log in and complete coursework and conversations at any time of the day or night. They can also be accessed in any location that has Internet access. This lends itself to an easier work-school life combination and is advantageous for those students who have families, jobs or other responsibilities. Additionally, classes at many virtual colleges can be started at any time of year, so there is no need to wait until the next semester to begin.
Online students often have an easier time accessing course materials, the library and the school in general. Because courses are conducted online and students enroll from across the globe, materials are available around the clock. Online schools often have extensive virtual libraries where academic articles and books are always available. Students do not have to wait to go to campus to conduct research, check in with instructors or seek academic help. Additionally, many virtual colleges have readily available online writing centers and math help desks. For secondary education students, who often take classes online due to geographical location, lack of local class availability or because they are home-schooled, virtual education offers choices and convenience. Some secondary students can also benefit from the different style of learning. For example, Philadelphia is considering a virtual school for 6th through 12th graders as of fall 2013 for those students who do not succeed in the traditional classroom.
Removing the Barriers
Online classes can break the barrier when it comes to topics that students are uncomfortable with, and can help shy students speak up by giving them a sense of anonymity. By taking away the awkwardness that can exist in a regular classroom -- where all the students can see one another and the instructor -- quieter students have a chance to express themselves. For example, according to NBC News, younger students had an easier time discussing topics revolving around health, alcohol and sex in a virtual classroom.
- NBC News: Research Finally Shows that Online Education Works - for Sex, Alcohol and Health
- University of Wisconsin: Benefits of Online Learning
- California Polytechnic Institute: Educational Benefits of Online Learning
- The Inquirer: Philadelphia Hopes to Launch Online Cyber School in the Fall
- The Sloan Consortium: Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States in 2011
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