Online colleges, e-learning, distance education. If you’re considering going back to school, you have likely seen these terms while doing your research. But what really is an online college? How do they work and could it be right for you? If a virtual classroom sounds appealing, read on to discover what online education is all about. We all know that education comes at a price so before applying anywhere it is important to know all the facts. Making an informed decision is the first step toward your successful experience.
An online college is exactly what you would guess — a merge of the Internet and the postsecondary classroom. Technology has brought the lecture hall to the computer screen, giving students new and exciting options to pursue their degree. Online colleges function the same way as traditional colleges. Students still take tests, debate with their fellow students, and follow-up with professors. The difference lies in the format — Internet-delivery versus face-to-face instruction.
Some online colleges deliver all of their degree programs online, but the majority have a physical campus presence where students can complete lab work, if necessary, or opt to take a few classes in a traditional classroom. Increasingly, traditional universities that are better known for brick-and-mortar classes are offering online degree programs. These include the University of Maryland, the University of Florida, Arizona State University, and much more.
Online learning, as defined by the Department of Education, is “learning that takes place partially or entirely over the Internet.” Simple enough, but how exactly do teachers bring the classroom to your computer? With advanced and powerful technology, educators combine traditional instruction with dynamic e-learning software. Platforms such as Blackboard and Angel make it possible to conduct classroom lectures and discussions remotely. Blackboard (Bb) is the primary course management tool utilized by instructors. Thanks to its user-friendly interface, there is little to no learning curve. Students simply log in, click on the course title, and start learning. The homepage conveniently organizes homework assignments, quizzes and tests, and other materials for easy retrieval. Instructors are in regular contact as they have the ability to post announcements and links to additional resources such as the student handbook and course catalog. Check out the list of features below to better understand how Blackboard structures an e-learning environment:
While Blackboard is certainly capable of supporting all of your online college needs, there are many other applications at student’s disposal. Instructors also connect students to digital libraries and other educational technologies to create a very comprehensive learning experience.
Online colleges did not just evolve as a natural next step from the existence of modern technology. The driving force behind their creation was the increased demand of students for easier access to higher education. As more students enroll in postsecondary studies, e-learning has become the popular choice and for good reasons:
As the need increases for affordable and convenient options, many students look to online colleges as a way to keep advancing their education and career goals. In the past few years, online colleges have seen an enrollment spike of nearly 30 percent. Some of the largest degree-granting institutions offer online courses and have been recognized as leaders in the field of education.
This is a fair question. How can taking classes online be as effective as sitting in a lecture hall or working in a chemistry lab? The learning process is different for everyone. Taking classes online is not suited for all students, but for those with strong time management skills, online learning can be advantageous. The Department of Education conducted a comprehensive study [pdf] that illustrates the effectiveness of online learning. The study cites numerous positive outcomes for students, highlighting the unique facets of e-learning and what makes it a valuable learning experience:
Here are a few of the noted benefits:
Online learning provides students with an effective alternative to pursuing their education. Distance learning is helping to meet the ever-increasing demand for advanced degrees in the workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics highlights the importance of education as it relates to career advancement and annual earnings:
Before applying to an online college, it is imperative to consider all your options carefully. If you answer yes to the below questions, then take our self-assessment quiz to determine if an online college is right for you.
If the results reveal that you’re a strong candidate for successful online learning, research our list of accredited schools to find the right program to fit your needs. An online college can be your most valuable partner in helping you achieve your goals.