To Learn Online or Not Learn Online

I recently took my final exams for my three online classes, and I now feel like I am an expert of the Johnson and Wales University online learning experience. Like anything in life there are the ups and downs to this particular adventure, and I encourage anyone considering online learning to fully research the program before signing up.

The Cons
I always think it’s a little easier to hear bad news before good, so lets start off with the negatives of online learning. First off, I need to gripe about some of the technical issues that were a part of the website. On more than one occasion, my fellow peers and I could not access parts of the website, or it would not work properly when submitting homework. For the most part, the teachers were patient and understanding that it was something out of our control, but it is frustrating to find three weeks later that you got a zero on an assignment because the website didn’t work. For each class you can see the grade book as the term progresses. In the case for 2 of my 3 classes, grades were missing and incorrect, also because of some technical issues. It was a little frustrating never knowing what my grade was, but it is fairly easy to just ask the teacher.

I found that the website was confusing to me, I did not have a chance to really explore the site before starting and had a hard time knowing where all of the information was. While I have thought that it would be nice to condense the website a bit, if you are thinking of taking online courses make sure you get a chance to check out the site extensively before starting.

Lastly, you need to know how you learn best. I am a visual learner and if you show me how to do a task once I can perfect it on my first try. Now, if you write down how to do the task I may not get it perfect on my first try. I signed up for these classes because I knew I was not able to be on campus, so for that reason it was great that I got to take them. But, if you are like me and are a visual person then online learning may not be best for you. Think of it like this, if you can read a textbook and ace an exam, than online learning would be good for you. If you are like me and only reading a textbook leaves you struggling for an A+, then a face-to-face class is best.

The Pros
The number one reason for me to take these classes and the facet I liked most about it is the flexibility. I was not in a position to be on campus and going to class, so taking online classes from home was great. Also, I could work on homework and turn in papers whenever I wanted to. While there are still due dates, you work at your own pace. If you have the free time to take 5 quizzes and finish several discussion forums before they are due, than you have that opportunity.

I am a very outgoing person and never hesitate to share my opinion or questions in class, but there is something comforting and free about the anonymity that comes with online classes. A large part of our weekly assignments were forum discussions and it was much easier to say everything you wanted to without being interrupted or feeling like you couldn’t say what you felt. You are also given a chance to comment on everyones’ opinions and continue the discussion, which in a timed classroom usually does not occur.

When taking a quiz or test, once you submit your finished work you are graded automatically. I always like to look over my results and learn from what I got wrong. In a face to face class you may not get said work back until it is too late to study for the next exam. It was a great advantage to me to be able to look right away what I got wrong and how I can fix it in the future. This not only helped on the next quizzes or exams but also on homework and any discussions we had on the same topics.

In these classes there are no power points to follow or papers to hand out. I can only imagine how much paper was saved from these online classes, with no notes or useless copies of class rules to print out. Besides the paper saved, there is far more learning material. Other than the chapters to read there are online articles, websites, videos, pictures and more information to help you learn more about the topic at hand. I really enjoyed that there were several different ways to take in the information, and if you didn’t understand it from one article than you can watch a video and comprehend it from there.

If you were to ask me if I would take more online classes, I would say only if I couldn’t be at school. The reason isn’t because I didn’t get an A+ in all my classes or that something happened to make me dislike online learning, just that online classes are not my best way of learning. I think its a great tool and something that is only going to become more common as time goes on. But you really need to know if online learning is best for you.

I recommend to everyone that they try an online course as it can really be a great way to attend college for people who may not normally be able to. It also gives you the flexibility to work full time or travel if you need or want to. You can use online learning as a supplement to the classes you are already in to finish your degree quicker or to learn about other exciting topics. The advantages to online learning is vast and I hope you can tap into that as I have.