Educators and administrators have been getting bombarded with questions about the validity of online degrees, even though many traditional campus degrees have been incorporating some aspects of online learning for several years. Formerly known as “distance learning,” there are also pros and cons to these programs.
- There’s plenty of flexibility for all involved, including students, professors and support staff. In many cases, classes don’t require everyone to be online at the same time, so everyone can keep pace on their own schedule. Participating from anywhere at any time offers ample room for life outside the classroom.
- Online learning reflects the world we live and work in today. Learning how to use various platforms, communicate effectively with the written word, and troubleshooting are all vital life skills.
- There are no geographic boundaries. If an educator wants to work for an institution but doesn’t have the capacity to move, that’s not a problem—online degrees means not being physically tied to any location. However, an incredible amount of discipline and ambition is required for anyone, educator or student, to succeed in a virtual environment. Experimenting with avenues for time management is absolutely critical to avoid falling behind.
- Online degrees give previously “brushed over” students a leg up. Professors can better encourage everyone to participate in a less threatening environment. Sometimes, online learning helps everyone connect more effectively with required participation.
- There’s still a stigma. Particularly in non-western countries, the idea of an online degree still carries the stigma of an “easy degree.” For those who are interested in opportunities overseas, having a CV featuring a position as an online professor might work against them.
- Online communication can be frustrating for some people who prefer in-person communication with all the verbal and non-verbal cues that it entails. For those who struggle to communicate in writing or aren’t tech savvy, online learning is an entirely new and intimidating beast.
- For many, there’s a disparity when you can’t meet your students and peers in person. Video conferencing is great, and it’s certainly better than nothing, but it’s not the same as bonding in person. For some people, that gap can be troublesome, especially without a strong network of family and friends outside of work. Human contact is important, and for those who rely on work to get their lion’s share of it, an online environment can be lonely and isolating.
- It can suddenly seem like a huge amount of work. There are two types of people: Those who think online learning is streamlined and those who think it requires a lot more work than traditional learning. Whether you’re an educator, administrator or student, you probably fall into one of these camps. If it’s the latter, it might seem like you have more work for the same pay, which can be very frustrating.
Campus degrees aren’t “better” than online degrees—or vice versa. It’s all a matter of preference, and there are people who are incredibly relieved that online degrees have been accepted in western countries. The best approach is to help a student find a program that offers the kind of environment where he or she will thrive.
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