Woman taking an online course

Online Courses and the Potential of Technology to Transform Learning

Today, we live in a digital world. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 77 percent of Americans go online on a daily basis. The proliferation of smartphones and the ease of connecting them to Internet-based information systems have given birth to a wealth of educational technologies that are redefining the way people learn. Students and teachers now face an endless array of options to learn outside the classroom, from online courses to digital personalized learning platforms and educational smartphone games.

Online learning comes in two broad categories: purely online courses where a student is never in a classroom with an instructor, and blended courses in which students spend time with a teacher in a physical classroom and also time online with instructional videos and other digital content.

Who benefits from educational technology?

Collectively, these technologies provide the potential to make quality education accessible to students, educators and families across the country. For example, educational software developers work on online courses so that teachers in inner cities and remote rural areas can deliver the latest advances in science to their students. Online courses also help students who are at risk of not advancing to the next grade level or not graduating due to a failed class. According to the National Science Foundation, online learning courses allow students to recover credits from courses that they have failed in the classroom.

Additionally, a number of online educational institutions bring opportunities for people to pursue new careers that they cannot achieve in a traditional educational setting. For instance, in the legal field, there are websites that provide criminal investigation courses and paralegal degrees. For people who are constrained by disabilities, work, family problems or other barriers that hinder their pursuit to achieve traditional higher education – the websites that offer online courses give them chances to move forward in their lives.

These are the advantages of online courses to traditional education:

Lower total costs

Stacked coins with graduation hatOnline courses are less expensive than traditional colleges. Though not all online programs offer more affordable net tuition prices, associated expenses cost less. For example, there are no commuting costs and required course materials such as textbooks are available online without additional expenses.

Convenience and flexibility

Online courses provide students with the chance to plan study hours around their day instead of the other way around. Students can study and work at their convenience without an official schedule mandated by an institution. The course materials are always accessible online whenever they need them, eliminating the need to buy bulky textbooks.

Online programs also have no physical class sessions. Students complete assignments and listen to lectures sent to them electronically. There’s no need to leave work early for class or to worry about traffic. Students can have a healthy balance between work, education, and important family commitments.

Variety of programs and courses

Location is often a deciding factor for students in choosing the course that they want. This may limit the choice of subjects and courses that they take.

Online, there is a variety of courses and programs to choose from, allowing students to focus on the subjects that they’re most interested in. Whether it’s legal studies or neuroscience, students have the opportunity to earn academic degrees online, from a career certificate to a doctorate.

Online courses and other educational technologies have the potential to improve learning at every level of education across the country, especially for working students. Online courses allow people to learn at their own pace and study in a comfortable environment, as well as open up advanced offerings in rural schools that lack specialists.

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