Distance learning has for decades been a popular way to gain qualifications. In the past, students received large consignments of printed material that they had to work through, and the only contact they would have with faculty would be occasional residential classes.
Online learning has changed the way distance learners study and students can now regularly and easily interact with staff and fellow students, while avoiding the need to lug around copious amounts of material.
Learning methods have also taken great leaps, going beyond simple study, assignment and exam routines. Making the best of these new online learning methods will make it easier to get a good degree result.
How online education works
Online learning makes intensive use of Internet technologies to deliver an educational experience, to facilitate collaboration and to assess the progress of students. Websites are at the core of the online learning experience, with most institutions making use of web portals that centralize learning materials, interaction and assessment.
Web portals have developed far beyond simply being repositories of text. Now, online learning providers supply video lectures, interactive presentations and sometimes live streams of lectures to their students. This virtual classroom environment mimics a lot of what happens in a real-life campus setting, but without requiring students to physically attend class.
Interacting with your academics and peers
It is the improvements in interaction that have really made online education a more serious alternative. Discussion forums and chat rooms allow students and staff to interact in a live environment, discussing learning material and answering questions on the fly. One of the limitations with distance learning was that it was difficult to get help in explaining concepts that you had difficulty in understanding, but this is no longer a problem with online education.
You can make the best of your online education experience by making use of these interactive elements at establishments like Maryville University. Just as some students in residential courses are better at interacting with their peers, online students also have the opportunity to network, discuss and share ideas with fellow students if they choose to make use of the portal facilities that are available to them.
Interactive areas are usually well attended by both principal and support academic staff, so you can extract additional knowledge and learning experience by utilizing the facilities that online learning provides. For example, make sure that you always attend interactive question and answer sessions, and always post any questions you have on discussion forums – and comment on the questions of others.
The flexibility of online education
Flexibility is perhaps the most attractive element of online education. It provides a learning opportunity for people who cannot manage to attend a university, either due to lack of time or the costs involved. Instead, you can earn your degree using a multitude of devices, anywhere in the world. Smartphone and tablet apps allow you to take your online learning experience with you when you are travelling – this includes your learning materials and the opportunity to get in touch with other students and with staff members.
Online learning is also highly modular, with many providers allowing you to dip in and out of a program. As there are no physical constraints with regards to classroom sizes, online learning providers can expand provision according to demand, so you are much more likely to be able to get accepted on to an online learning program, as the competition for places is less intense.
Advantages of completing an online qualification
Completing an online degree or short course comes with most of the advantages as physically attending college, but with fewer of the disadvantages. Any education is a personal asset, and an online education will boost your career prospects. In fact, many people who would like to get ahead in their careers or who plan on career changes opt for online education, and employers are increasingly recognizing the value of a degree or other qualification obtained online.
Learning through an online environment has other advantages. Your fellow students are likely to have enrolled from around the world, so you have the opportunity to interact with people who you may never have come across had you attended a class locally. The interactive element of online education also tends to prompt freer discussions, whereas students can be reluctant to ask questions in a classroom environment.
You will also find that online learning is a process that is heavily reliant on self-motivation, and that your fellow students will be driven individuals who are intent on making the best of the educational opportunity in front of them. Online learners are very focused on personal improvement, and it is this collective motivation that can often set apart the online learning experience from residential courses.