With the "Digital Age" still on the rise, online college classes are becoming increasingly popular with schools. As students, some of us are still on the line of whether we should take an online class versus one in a traditional setting. Here are three pros and cons of taking online classes, accompanied by a few opinions of students who have already taken them to help you make an informed decision.
1. Instruction Time
In a traditional setting you attend a class two to three days a week. There, you receive a lecture or a hands-on lab and notes from your professor. Generally all assignments are done outside of class following the schedule on the syllabus that was handed out during syllabus week.
In an online class you don’t have the same type of instruction you would if you attended a class in person. Instead you take notes and complete lessons at a pace that works better for your style and time flexibility, as long as you get assignments done by the deadline.
When taking a class online you don’t get much instruction from your professor, if any at all. While some professors post a written lecture, others leave that up to the student based on the textbook or other materials needed for the class. Occasionally an outline might be given that leads you in the right direction, but every professor is different. This can be a problem if that class is a subject you don’t excel in or if you have a problem understanding parts of the curriculum.
Some students may find it difficult to pass classes without the face to face explanation.
"Online classes can be surprisingly difficult. They give out all of the work at once so you have to learn it all by yourself with no help."
- Jordan G., Morehead State University, Freshman
By taking a class online, your communication with your professor and fellow classmates only takes place through emails and group chats. This helps you grow as a digital communicator which is a bonus for any job that involves sending professional emails or contacting coworkers at another location and gives you experience using online softwares. Not communicating face to face is also a bonus for any student who prefers working on assignments alone and not worrying about getting called on in class compared to group discussions.
"Talking to professors in person about discrepancies or concerns can be super intimidating, so having an online professor is nice because all communication takes place via e-mail. It really takes the stress out of talking to professors." -Katie G., Amherst College, Sophomore
Except for an ID on the screen, there really isn’t a face to match the name of a student. This means you have to take further steps to make sure your professor knows who you are and that you make a connection with your classmates in case you need anything. Perhaps that means scheduling an online office hours meeting through Skype if you’re unable to go in person, or asking to meet some of your classmates if they’re on campus or trying to Skype them if they're located somewhere else. Without the usual communication found in a classroom, you’ll find yourself having to use whatever resources you already have to succeed instead of gaining new ones.
3. All Technology Based
If your entire class, curriculum and past work are all available using a computer or smartphone, then that means you can “attend” class anywhere you want. If you’re someone who has a clearer mind when you change your environment, then being able to move your class to whatever location you want at any time is perfect for you. Technology based classes are also fantastic if you want to travel for a weekend or go home early for a break.
"I never did well sitting in a classroom for a few hours so I decided to try one online class during my second semester. Being able to move around while working ended up being so much better for my learning style."Con:
-Amanda F., ECC, Sophomore
Technology is not perfect. That means you might not always be able to access your work if there’s a glitch in the system, a power outage or if something breaks and you don’t have access anywhere else. If you know that you and technology don’t get along or you’re in an area that has severe weather, then this is something to keep in mind.
While it used to be that you either had to take all traditional or all online classes, the majority of schools now allow you to mix them. Also, some online classes may sporadically meet in person during a semester. The pros and cons above are general and can help anyone considering any type of online class, but may fit better with students who take traditional classes and want to take a class or two a semester that will only take place online.
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