Online learning has been changing the face of the education system for quite some time. Today, it is an integral aspect, and a popular tool, in the broader landscape of higher education.
Aside from providing an alternative way to learn in the digital age, online courses offer adults and working professionals the opportunity to learn new skills or enhance existing ones.
The flexible and interactive nature of online learning makes it highly effective in career advancement, increasing the employability of many students and making faculty members better prepared to work in the digital age. Some may argue it is better than classroom-based learning.
Inevitably, this begs the question: how can online learning improve academic performance?
7 Benefits of Online Learning
Every level of the education system can be enhanced through online courses, as students can study at their own pace and work with course materials that are adapted to their needs and learning abilities.
The rising popularity of this method of study has resulted in an extraordinary boom in the industry. Studies show there has been an annual growth of 5% or more in the online learning space, year on year.
At the current rate, the market will be worth almost $240 billion in the next five years.
1. Engage Students at a Deeper Level
In traditional classroom-based courses, there is an ongoing problem with student retention. Sometimes, students don’t connect with the course materials or instructors. You may have noticed attendance suffer, and soon enough, some students quickly fall behind their peers. While there are many reasons for the drop-off, it is an issue that continues to plague offline courses.
Research indicates that online courses can be better at engaging students, boosting retention rates up to 60% in some instances while video content is projected to account for 80% of all global web activity by 2019. It’s little surprise that online learning is getting more popular.
As online education provides a greater degree of flexibility, it can be less stressful to manage alongside other commitments. Furthermore, there is less pressure to engage the students, as you have the help of devices, apps, and multimedia tools to make learning a more interactive and enjoyable prospect.
This provides education institutions new opportunities to deliver content in ways that the students of today can relate to.
2. Improve Digital Literacy
Students that can use online tools effectively have a lot to gain in the workplace. While certain roles require exceptional digital skills such as marketers and those working in IT, the majority of roles in a business require some level of digital know-how.
Take customer service as an example, with social media changing the way people communicate more and more customer service team need to know how to provide exceptional customer service while those in HR and L&D need to know how to use platforms to drive employee engagement.
Learning online help improve digital literacy as it provides students with an insight into how to be effective online and communicate with content, peers and lecturers.
Similarly, teaching online will help all educators communicate more effectively through various digital mediums, as well as making lecturers competent and confident users of video technology in education. Regular interaction with fellow staff and students through email and message boards will enhance your computer skills and make you more adept at handling the technology and devices of the digital age.
As digital literacy is quickly becoming the most valuable tool for lifelong learning, improving abilities is a worthwhile investment for students and faculty.
3. Offer Flexiblilty
Gone are the days when it was necessary for students to move to an unknown city to study a preferred course.
It doesn’t matter where students live, or if they can’t make it for an early morning class. Online learning allows educators to offer them the chance to study on their own terms.
In a self-paced course, there is no expectations on attendance. If students have children or a job, then early morning classes may not be possible. With online learning, they can study at night, on the weekends or however they choose to fit it into their existing life.
This flexible schedule also means lecturers can teach from the comfort of their own homes and work outside traditional class times, allowing for more freedom during daytime hours to pursue other interests.
4. No Need for Actual Classrooms
Teaching classes online means students can learn anywhere as long as the internet works.
The caveat is that some students may become lethargic or complacent in their studies. Online learning provides the potential for increased comfort, but faculty should encourage students to study in an environment conducive to learning and free from distractions.
With study/teaching areas customized to a student's needs and preferences, it’s likely that there will be an increase in their motivation to learn, as most students will enjoy the atmosphere more than a traditional classroom. This will also make it more enjoyable for you as you teach in a setting that suits you best.
5. Get to Know Students Better
Some students are inherently shy that participation in classroom discussions doesn’t come easy for them.
With online learning, such students may feel more at ease and open to participation in discussion and course activities. As a result, educators can interact with a wider range of students, getting a myriad of different views on course matters.
This not only makes for deeper, more interesting classes but also helps you to bond with students as you get to know them better and develop a sense of how they are coping with the class and course materials.
6. Enhance Career Prospects for Students and Faculty
The statistics on online learning demonstrate a significant positive impact on the employability of those who successfully obtain online qualifications.
Studies from the University of Illinois confirmed that 44% of online students claim their employment standing improved, as they got full-time jobs within 12 months of their graduation. Furthermore, 45% of respondents reported they received an increase in their salary.
Faculty members, like students, will develop new computer skills, regardless of what the course is, from working with cloud-based documents to incorporating video and audio materials in their course materials.
These core skills will translate to many professions in the digital age, making students more confident and more competent to transition to different roles. They will be ready to take on more tasks in virtual learning, helping graduates excel in the working world of the future.
7. Offer Multiple Ways to Learn
Traditional programs confined to the classroom and a set timetable offer little in terms of flexibility. Students are boxed in and must learn according to the prescribed methods—or not at all. Too often, many fall behind.
With online classes, lecturers have more choices in how to teach and offers innovative and interesting ways to deliver the content and demonstrate points. Experimentation with various methods of online instruction offers the chance to try numerous activities, such as:
- Guided design projects
- Pre-recorded lectures
- PowerPoints with voice-over
- Web conferences
Educators can also nurture a community culture in virtual study groups. Through apps like Google Hangouts, students can connect with each other online to discuss assignments, sort problems, and learn together. By sharing screens and documents, they can work as a remote team through virtual whiteboards, Google Docs, and organizational programs like Asana.
Traditional programs work on the basis that social learning is crucial to getting the most out of education, as social learning approaches are believed to deliver 75 times the ROI as electronic learning.
However, the popularity of eLearning is showing no signs of abating. Online students continue to thrive. And what’s more, online learning is improving.
Research on the most recent online education program developments shows that they are becoming more interactive. They offer students more opportunity to discuss course materials with instructors and fellow students through live commenting and interactive video lessons, allowing for deeper conversations and stronger bonds with faculty.
Top education providers recognize that the relationship between students and their advisors and teachers is a fundamental aspect of a student’s performance and success. Quality online programs will embrace that.