Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor
By Taylor Johnston, Contributor
We are currently within one of the greatest eras for technology. Many jobs are becoming automated, there are online-only industries and our cell phones are so multiuse that they can act as a small computer. The appeal of online education and the concept of going “paperless” has been rising based on its flexibility and cheaper costs. Some universities are even introducing online degrees. However, is it all as amazing as it seems?
There are two types of online education: self-paced and structured. Self-paced gives all the course content to the student at once, but it must be completed within a certain number of months. Therefore, the student can work as quickly or leisurely as they like. There are ministry high school programs such as those taken through the Independent Learning Centre that have adopted this self-paced format and have been proven to be very efficient, which has been attributed to allowing students can learn at their own pace.
While structured education is also a common method of online teaching, it can also present more flaws. A structured online course attempts to mimic in-class courses by giving students access to content material on a week by week basis. While some students may like structured learning to help them stay on track of class, it can also be less beneficial for many students, as it doesn’t give the student the freedom of learning at their own pace. As a result, structured learning can add stress for students who like to learn at a different pace than the one that the course is providing.
Many Ontario universities offer select elective courses in the online-structured format, which hold many attractive qualities in terms of flexibility and the opportunity for another in-class course to be added to a student’s schedule. However, do the pros of online education outweigh the cons?
One apparent difference between online education and in-person education is the amount of interaction you have with your instructors. This may have you thinking, “In non-online classes I am just one student in a lecture hall with hundreds of others, and there is not that much opportunity for a one-on-one relationship anyways. Wouldn’t online courses be the same?” However, even the experience of going to lectures holds an added level of value as you get to hear the “in the moment” thoughts and opinions of your professor that are otherwise non-existent in most online courses and degrees.
One apparent difference between online education and in-person education is the amount of interaction you have with your instructors.
Furthermore, in-person education usually gives more opportunities for office hours where students’ questions can be asked and answered. The main method of communication for students that want to talk to professors and teaching assistants throughout an online course is strictly email, where communication can often be misunderstood and unclear compared to in-person conversations. Although some people may find office hours to be a waste of time, other students find them very beneficial to their education and learning and unfortunately, you cannot get that from online education.
The main method of communication for students that want to talk to professors and teaching assistants throughout an online course is strictly email, where communication can often be misunderstood and unclear compared to in-person conversations.
Online education provides the opportunity to access education regardless of how far away you live from university. However, the benefits of in-person schooling still outweighs the online system due to the added benefits of being able to physically interact with your professors. With in-person courses, you are able to talk to classmates and meet others, which can be a huge benefit to your learning. Still, it is important to recognize that as students, we can still reap the benefits of online education as it provides a bridge for those who are unable to physically attend lectures.