So, what’s the deal with online learning? What are MOOCs? Are we progressively moving towards digital courses, over campus style and classroom learning?
Maybe. Here are some pros of getting your academic kicks online:
Online learning is cheaper:
No matter where you are in the world, you know that university students get a pretty raw deal. The IFS have reported that UK students face more that £50,000 in debt, on average. Whereas an Online University Degree can cost less than half that! Plus – forget mandatory maintenance fees, halls, utilities etc. All you need is a decent Wi-fi connection and a quick trip to WHSmith. (Gotta get that stationary).
Online learning is flexible
Need to stay close to home? What to work whilst you study? Got kids? Online courses don’t discriminate by location or life stage. Often, university requires a lot of face to face and timetabled engagement – as well as the possibility of moving to a new city, or even country. Online courses fit around your lifestyle. As long as you complete your modules and assessments within a specified timeframe, you can burn the midnight oil all you like.
Online learning is bespoke
At university or in higher education, you might be slightly limited on what you can study. With the birth of the digital classroom, you can study… pretty much anything! For example: ‘To Hogwarts, Harry: An Intensive Study to Harry Potter Through the British Isles’, ‘Wasting Time on the Internet’ (yes, really!), ‘Turfgrass Science’ and ‘Adventure Education’ to name but a few.
Over 270,000 UK undergrads are studying via distance learning (or MOOCs) – with 108,000 postgrads jumping on the bandwagon too. In the US, the number of online students averages at over 5.8million. So, there’s got to be something in it, right? Online courses allow more bright people to go to a university by removing accommodation and travel costs, and, as some predict, even by lowering or dropping tuition fees.
There are, however, many who believe that digital learning is in no way better than a traditional university education. As the biggest consumer of online courses, it’s interesting to note that in the US, only 29.1% of chief academic officers reported that their faculty accept ‘the value and legitimacy of online education’.
As well as the issue of legitimacy, there’s also a counter-argument to its accessibility. Many online course providers market themselves as broadeners of the educationally spectrum. This might not be strictly true. Roughly 80% of people who took Coursera courses already have a Bachelor's degree - suggesting that online courses aren’t flooding the academic system, or work environment, with new talent. Online courses don’t necessarily have a cap on students. The more students that sign-up for the course, the more money they make.
Despite this, digital learning within the professional sphere is on the increase. Early insights into the 2016 Towards Maturity Survey found that 63% of learning and development leaders say they are using ‘off-the-shelf’ e-learning. More companies are combining their formal online training with social learning online and working towards employees taking more responsibility for their own learning. Check out the 4 Reasons Students Prefer Studying Online. If you’re looking into Project Management, AI, Coding, Digital Marketing or similar digital and professional careers, online and distance learning is invaluable.
What’s the verdict?
Whilst online learning is climbing in popularity, and boasts a number of ‘one-ups’ on traditional learning, it has a set role in today’s academic society. Whilst it is, it seems, unlikely to replace traditional academia, online learning is a working professional’s best friend. There’s no longer a need to take a sabbatical or retrain between roles – simply sign up online, complete your modules and land your dream career in less time than attending university. (Plus, you can do it in your PJs – ace!)
Still stuck? Check out University Vs Online Training.