5 reasons why you should try online learning

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Did you know that the earliest form of e-learning (or online or virtual learning) started as far back as the 1840s? The first distance learning course was introduced by Isaac Pitman in Great Britain. He taught shorthand (notes using symbols for speed and brevity usually used by secretaries back in the day) via correspondence. Pitman mailed assignments to students and received them back via mail as well. While this may not qualify as “electronic” per se, it uses the basic principles of teaching and learning outside the classroom.

This learning model has steadily developed from using the mail to utilizing computer and internet technology which have vastly improved the facilitation of learning. Today, there is a growing number of learners who prefer enrolling in Open Universities and updating their knowledge through webinars, webcasts, and Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC).

So why haven’t you tried online learning yet? Maybe you need to know these facts to convince you to try it:

  1. Online learning offers increased interaction

  2. You may prefer the face to face interaction you have with your classmates, or the immediate answer you get from your teacher when you ask a question. Or maybe you feel that learning by yourself is lonely and that you need colleagues and a teacher to provide feedback. But did you know that online learning actually provides more venues for interaction, not only with the people near you but on a global scale? Because e-learning is increasingly being supported by social media tools, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, not only do you have a group of classmates to ask and share learning experiences with, you can participate in entire communities of learning or communities of practice. You can freely tweet or post your opinions, comments or questions, or join in on debates about certain topics you may be learning about at the moment. Posts can even become deeper and more informative when participants share links to resources such as articles or videos. And if you’re lucky, professionals and experts in the field can weigh in on online discussions that can take your learning to a whole new level.

    So the next time you can’t get your opinion heard in a class due to an assertive classmate who monopolizes the class time with his (or her) questions and long-winded monologues, maybe you can remember this fact. (You can also read Can virtual classrooms beat face-to-face interaction? from the Guardian.com to gain a whole new perspective on online learning).

  3. It’s very effective

  4. Online programs are designed by certified professors and instructors, and are customized for e-learning. Many online courses are enriched with educational technology strategies like blogging or journaling, video or podcasts, and for the more advanced types, simulation and gamification. This means that online course design is backed by solid pedagogy that makes it easier for learners to retain knowledge, provide greater learner engagement, and even provide a venue for practical application. Moreover, since you can take online courses at a time most convenient to you plus, you do not have to travel, you will have more time to study at your own pace and absorb the material whenever and wherever you may be.

  5. Offers convenience and flexibility

  6. E-learning provides you a range of options. There are self-study modules, multimedia tools like videos and podcasts, facilitated e-learning, webinars, online tutorials over Skype and other applications. You can learn with a group, by yourself, or choose a personalized mode by opting for one-on-one instruction with an online facilitator. You can access courses wherever you are and whenever you need to using various platforms such as tablets or cellular phones that allow for greater mobility. Programs even allow students to download materials and assignments so that they are accessible even offline and then upload coursework at a later time.

  7. It is cost-effective

  8. One of the major benefits of online learning is that it is cost-effective. First off, because classes or seminars are accessed wherever the learner is, no travel cost is involved (and if you are availing of English Online courses, then they are totally free). Also, many courses prescribe books and other resources that you can access online for free and on an on-going basis. On the other hand, institutions and corporations are finding that training costs are lower with e-learning because of reduced travel, reduced production of material, and zero cost for space. E-learning is even good for the environment. A study by Britain’s Open University stated that “producing and providing distance learning courses consume an average of 90% less energy and produces 85% fewer CO2 emissions per student than conventional face-to-face courses” (Why E-Learning is so effective, The Rapid E-Learning Blog).

  9. It’s the wave of the future

  10. E-learning is on the rise. Aside from schools, corporations are increasingly using online learning for training and providing continuous learning options for professional development. As newer teaching methods and educational technology are being developed continually, more and more people are also adapting to independent study and self-directed learning. To give you an idea of how learning will look like in 2020, watch the video Profile of a 2020 learner –City & Guilds by the Think Out Loud Club.

Sources: Reminder of why E-Learning is great, from LearnDash.com; A brief history of elearning, from efrontlearning.net; What are the potential benefits of online learning? from World Wide Learn.com.; The digital degree, The Economist.

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Community Resources

Do you want to know if online learning is ideal for you? Take these free assessments to find out. Try iseek education.org’s Are Online Courses for You? quiz, or the University of Waterloo Centre for Teaching Excellence’s Skills Assessment Tool to evaluate your readiness for independent learning.

Lifehacker.com’s article Where to Get the Best Free Education Online provides good options for free courses on a range of topics for supplemental learning.

Coursera is also a great website to go to access free online courses from 120+ top universities and educational organizations.

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