Colleges Expanding Online Education Choices

Online college classes are becoming more popular as a way to deliver educational content to students. With a host of advantages over traditional courses, colleges and universities see online offerings as a necessary supplement to offline classwork. Although online college classes are not for every student, they can be the difference between dropping out and staying enrolled for some students.

Students may find online courses named differently across the country. Some possible names can include:

  • Distance education
  • Distance learning
  • E-learning
  • Online learning
  • Web-based education

Some online courses may not have a separate academic code to indicate that they are conducted online. For example, Psychology 101 may appear as “PSY 101″ in a scheduling book, regardless of whether it is an offline or online course. Students should speak with their academic adviser or counselor to be certain they are only scheduling online courses.

After deciding upon online courses, students must decide whether they will take asynchronous or synchronous online courses. Asynchronous online courses are conducted at a student’s pace. They can log on at a time that’s convenient for them. Discussions may take place in a message board-style format, where students can post statements one at a time. The lack of real-time pressure means that asynchronous online courses may progress more slowly than synchronous online courses. Synchronous online courses require that the professor and students log on at the same time. Classes and discussions take place with everyone in real-time.

The advantages that online college classes have over traditional courses are:

  • Commute
  • Cost
  • Flexibility
  • Networking
  • Pace
  • Scheduling

Because online courses are conducted entirely over the Internet, students can go through the coursework anywhere. As long as there’s an Internet connection, students can find a comfortable place to view the class. There’s no long commute to campus to worry about.

Asynchronous online courses allow students to progress through their education at a pace that’s comfortable to them. Students who have trouble attending traditional daytime classes often find asynchronous online courses to be a solution.

Online courses allow students to receive a wider variety of content nearly anywhere. This can make them especially useful for students who live in rural areas far from a city or who work a daytime schedule. An online course can also bring students together from widely disparate walks of life.

However, online college classes may not be for every student. Although the courses are transitioning to include more multimedia and video content, there is a considerable amount of text. Students who have difficulties with reading and writing will struggle in most online education programs. Some students find that they miss face-to-face contact with their professor and other students. It can be slightly more difficult for students to coordinate study groups.

A stable Internet connection is required for online courses. Without a consistent Internet connection, students will have difficulty completing assignments on time. Some online courses require students to be able to watch multimedia or video content frequently, which requires a high-speed broadband connection.

Additionally, online education cannot include all courses. Some courses and education programs will always require offline work. For example, lab work such as dissections in biology will always have to be done offline. Doctors and nursing students often require face-to-face time with patients while learning so that they can practice their bedside manner.

Students who succeed in online courses have some skills or traits in common. These can include:

  • Advanced reading comprehension
  • Advanced writing comprehension
  • Self-motivated
  • Typing skills

Because of the nature of online coursework, students should be highly motivated to work on their own. With online classes, there is even less peer or professor pressure to finish assignments or tests than in traditional classes. There is little extra time for students to procrastinate about their work. Students have to be able to block out any distractions they might have in their home or wherever they are studying.

Online college classes are predicted to grow over the next decade. For example, students who live on campus at the University of Florida are currently taking 12 percent of their courses online. In five years, the university believes that at least 25 percent of courses will be taken online. The growth will be fueled by increasing Internet broadband access to prospective students. Increased Internet bandwidth will allow online courses to use more multimedia and video content instead of plain text.

For students with problems with traditional university classes, online college classes are providing an education. Online coursework is not for everyone. But it can help students complete their education who otherwise may have had to drop out. Online courses are also making students out of people who would have previously not been able to attend traditional courses. When it comes to college and university educations, students should consider online offerings in addition to traditional offline courses.