The Pros and Cons of Online Learning

By Jamie Dickenson

Online learning is currently the new normal thanks to the Coronavirus. Moving forward though, it will likely play a larger role in the options available to students and with that comes both pros and cons.

 


A college professor I know says that conducting a discussion-based class on the online platform Zoom is like teaching underwater: Everyone is wearing scuba gear and peering at one another through goggles.

“It somehow works,” he says, “but it’s suboptimal.”

But this is the world we’re living in now. Online learning—education that takes place over the Internet, sometimes called “e-learning” or “distance learning”—is becoming not only increasingly popular but increasingly necessary. And with the coronavirus forcing us to keep our distance, right now, online learning is the only learning.

When life eventually gets back to normal, though, it’s clear that online learning will play a bigger, more transformative role in our education.

 

This has its pros and cons. The pros include:

  • Online classes save money and time: In the big picture, if a student can take classes at home rather than go away to college, that is an enormous savings on room and board. On a smaller level, why commute—spending time and energy—when you can telecommute? Your commute might be an hour. Your telecommute is seconds.
  • Online classes can accommodate different learning speeds. Unlike classroom lectures, online classes allow students to work at their own pace and review the course information as many times as they want. This could also be a drawback if the student is a procrastinator. Showing up on time for class and having to pay attention are important traits.
  • Students have the opportunity to be taught by the best minds. Wouldn’t it be great to learn from the best professors? An online lecturer can be anywhere, and students potentially can take classes that are being taught anywhere.
  • Improved flexibility and remote work skills. By getting accustomed to video conferencing platforms like Zoom and other remote work tools now, students will be better prepared to work remotely when they get into the job market.

 

The cons:

  • Is the four-year college experience a relic of the past? Going away to college is life-changing for many students. It’s likely the first time they’re away from home and getting to make their own decisions. Classwork is only part of college; making friends and contacts, and getting involved in activities, can be just as important.
  • Lack of personalized attention. There’s no interaction like personal interaction. Teachers and professors can change students’ lives. They can have a profound effect on their direction or focus, their confidence, their esteem. While working from home, students can’t have the same relationship with a professor that they can on campus.
  • Lack of hands-on experience. How can you participate a chemistry lab when you don’t have access to a lab or the materials? During the coronavirus, professors typically have been demonstrating experiments online and having students do the calculations at home. That experience pales in comparison to having students do the entire experiment.
  • Fewer colleges, fewer options. Because it’s cheaper and faster, online learning has the potential to run a large number of colleges out of business.

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Jamie Dickenson, MBA, CEP
Independent Educational Consultant specializing in college admissions and financial aid, motivational speaker, business coach and owner of Jamie Dickenson, LLC., IEC Advisors, and Yoga Power, LLC.


Jamie Dickenson is not affiliated with Hartford Funds. Hartford Funds has separately contracted with Ms. Dickenson to provide additional insight about college savings issues.