The Benefits and Burdens of Online Learning: What You Need to Know
The decision to go back to school and further your education is never easy. In addition to the financial commitment you are typically required to make, it will also require a significant investment of your own personal time – often at the expense of time spent with friends or family.
While online learning is often suggested as a way of reducing some of these burdens, this is not necessarily always the case. In much the same way that in-person educational programs require high levels of personal commitment, so do online learning programs.
Here is a closer look at some of the benefits and burdens of online learning. By becoming more aware of what online degree programs have to offer, you can use an awareness of the potential difficulties you will encounter to improve your learning experience overall. Many people have found online learning to be an excellent way to further their career aspirations, but it is important to know what to expect.
Benefit: Minimize career disruption
Perhaps one of the most underrated benefits that online learning brings is that it allows you to put any new knowledge you have learned to use in your career immediately. This is very beneficial for those who are balancing online learning commitments with holding down a full-time job.
One of the biggest factors that dissuades so many early to mid-career professionals from pursuing further education is that traditional in-person programs can often cause significant career disruption. For those who are not willing or able to take a year or more away from their career to pursue a degree program, further education is often not feasible.
However, one of the biggest benefits of online degree programs and other forms of online learning is that it can be undertaken flexibly without having to take extended periods off work.
For example, the online business analytics degree from Aston University is a program that can be used to enhance your professional prospects without disrupting your career. By studying online at Aston University, you can learn while you earn and immediately put this newfound academic knowledge to use.
This is generally not possible with traditional in-person programs, and it is one of the main reasons that online learning has proven so popular in recent years for early- to late-career professionals.
Benefit: Accessibility and efficiency
Another strong advantage of online learning is that it allows you to attend classes from any location that works for you, as long as you have a solid internet connection. Classes can be recorded, downloaded, and watched at a time that suits you best.
This also impacts the makeup of the classroom you will be participating in as it means students can be tuning in from all over the world.
Online classes can be attended from a location of your choosing, and this will also save you time you might otherwise have spent commuting. If you would have needed to commute to campus multiple times per week, this can add up to a surprising amount of time saved.
Although online degree programs are not necessarily any less expensive than in-person ones – after all, you are getting the same number of credits, albeit delivered virtually – you may find they have a much smaller financial burden.
One reason online programs tend to be less expensive is because they can usually be undertaken while you still work. Classes and assignments can be completed flexibly, so you can work them around your existing work schedule. This means you can avoid taking time out from your career as you might with an in-person program.
Online programs will also have lower ancillary costs attached to them. This includes everything from fuel or commuting costs to avoiding shelling out for expensive on-campus coffee to fuel those late-night study sessions.
One of the potential burdens associated with undertaking an online learning program, particularly if you are pursuing an extended program of study such as a degree or diploma, is that they often have to be balanced with other professional or life commitments.
This requires individuals to be extremely organized to stay on top of lectures, assignments, and studying for exams. Although this is by no means an insurmountable obstacle, it is nevertheless something that should be kept in mind before you commit to any online learning program.
Burden: Screen time overload
Another issue that many students who are learning online encounter – particularly those who are juggling online learning with a full-time job – is that the amount of screen time this entails can often take its toll.
By overloading on screen time, you are more likely to suffer from physical ailments such as eye strain and headaches, while possibly missing out on some much-needed physical activity.
Nevertheless, although it can be relatively easy to overload yourself with screen time, this is ultimately something that can be balanced out fairly easily by building in screen breaks to your routine.
This includes taking short screen breaks a couple of times an hour, as well as building longer ones into your daily routine. Short screen breaks are an important way of giving your eyes a rest and preventing eye strain from setting in.
Burden: Lack of community
A common issue that seems to regularly crop up with students who are participating in online learning programs relates to the loss of community you would otherwise get in an in-person setting.
Having a sense of community and camaraderie with your peers has been shown to have a strong impact on learning outcomes and your overall sense of satisfaction. Although this is not impossible to cultivate in an online setting, it can be more difficult.
Therefore, it is important that schools allow for various forms of communication between students, their peers, and teachers. This can include everything from emails and online messages to message boards, forums and video conferencing. These approaches help to reduce the sense of isolation some students might feel while increasing the opportunities for collaboration.