How schools across niches and geographies have embraced online learning
Years ago, online or “distance” education was looked upon as a poor substitute for the real deal. Packed lecture halls and smelly dorms were a right of passage, a necessary evil that held its share of fun and also misery.
Yes, there were success stories, but online education was more of a fallback option rather than a go-to. Let’s face it, a degree from Everest University carried little weight (especially if you were an athlete for a non-existent football team).
How times have changed!
The Rise Of Online Education
Even before Covid-19 reared its contagious head, more than one-third of U.S. college students were already enrolled in online courses. On a less academic level, online video platforms such as YouTube have long been an avenue for people to learn online. Everything from how to make tonight's dinner, to unclogging a bathroom drain.
Today, almost every college offers a wide variety of online courses. When students come back to campus in the next month or two, many will opt for a hybrid of in-class instruction and online classes. And they’ll be able to enjoy their favorite beverage at home during lectures instead of waiting until the end.
“The future of education is online, but more importantly the ‘now’ of education is also online” says Ryan Daniel, President of Finance Manager Training, an automotive finance school in New York, whom we consulted for his expert opinion.
Apart from the advantages of not needing to sit at a physical desk or discovering that wearing pants is optional, there are numerous advantages to distance learning; many of them not immediately apparent.
Here’s a little secret: the average on-campus experience has little to do with education. Many students spend much more of their time socializing, going to parties, recovering from said parties and playing pranks in the dorms and fraternities than they do hitting the books.
But let’s put aside actual learning for a moment and highlight the numerous practical effects of distance learning, many of which are being used at schools and universities that have embraced online education.
Benefits Of Online Learning
For one, no commuting to school means no polluting to school. Save the car for more important things like late night shopping for Doritos and Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. A shift to online schooling also means less need for massive parking lots at universities that take away green space.
The online experience can also hone important skills like time management, self-motivation and critical thinking; skills that are essential in the modern workforce.
A study out of Harvard found that breaking up a lecture into smaller components, a task that you can do online, increases a student’s retention. This is in contrast to in-person schooling, where students digest the entire lecture all at once.
Distance learning can also bring you closer to your professors and instructors who, in a traditional school setting, have limited office hours and even more limited appointment times available. “One advantage of online-only educators is the ability to chat with them at nearly any time. This also provides a pathway for 1 on 1 discussions that are so rare in the traditional classroom”, said Ryan Daniel.
Still, it may take some convincing to get everyone on board.
Some students complain that their mind starts to wander when taking a class online. With a greater number of distractions whilst in a familiar and comfortable environment, it is easy to be taken away from the task at hand.
Another complaint revolves around some school's online learning platforms. Many schools still use old technology for their distance learning which creates tech issues and has the unfortunate effect of alienating students. In addition, dated software tends to look “old” and is an immediate turn-off to some.
Finance Manager Training was aware of this and took several steps to help their students. They took us on a tour of their custom-built online education platform, which includes interactive lessons, fancy charts, progress trackers, live communication chats with educators and other high-tech gizmos.
Then there is the issue of cost. Classroom education requires a live instructor, with a limited number of students, in a physical location that must be heated or air conditioned, secured by patrol, have ample parking, lighting, space and more. This all adds to the cost that is passed down to the student.
Online education on the other hand allows for education at scale. It enables a greater number of students to learn at home, with less resources. And it’s working.
Last year, the New York Times reported on the impact that online education had on the pricing structures of institutions of higher learning. Among them was Georgia Tech, who launched an online masters in computer science in 2014 at a cost of only $7,000. The classroom version was 500% more costly. Similarly, the University of Illinois built an online M.B.A. that carries a tuition of $22,000. Less than half of the cost of most M.B.A programs.
Both schools were able to accomplish this due to online education and education at scale.
Let’s face it. The world has changed dramatically since the pandemic. From 1st graders to high school seniors to graduate students, all have had to adjust to a new reality. From less pollution due to no commute, to a lower cost per student, online education is making its mark. The future is online education, and it’s here to stay.