December 11, 2020
Although COVID-19 created an unpredictable spike in P-12 education, the higher ed world has been operating in the virtual environment for quite some time now. With an origination in correspondence courses as the first out-of-class learning experience, higher education institutions have pioneered the way for distance learning.
While approximately 70% of co-eds prefer in-person instruction, there is still a significant number of students, about 1 in 3 of the nearly 20 million students enrolled in college, who are capitalizing on the flexibility of online learning (National Center for Education Statistics). Let’s take a look at the top five reasons students cite as the appeal of virtual education.
#1 Course Flexibility
The primary reason college students enroll in virtual learning is for the flexibility afforded to them. Online courses allow students to complete assignments on their own time, day or night, and oftentimes at their own pace. For those who travel frequently, have a family to tend to, and/or work full-time, course flexibility allows students to continue pursuing their education without sacrificing too many other aspects of their lives. Virtual learning tends to be compatible with most schedules, routines, and responsibilities.
#2 Earn a Degree While Working
Similar to those who selected “Course Flexibility,” the number two reason for virtual learning is because adults can earn a degree while maintaining their career. Balancing school, work, family, and life is a little easier when school is available to squeeze in during downtimes as opposed to the structured in-person model. Additionally, college can be very expensive, so maintaining a job while completing a degree is becoming more of a requirement rather than a choice for many students.
#3 Student-Centered Curriculum
Online education is ideal for students who learn best on a digital platform. It also allows students to progress at a pace that works best for them. Virtual education enables students to interact and engage with the content in meaningful ways including discussion boards, breakout rooms, e-portfolios, and video lessons that make the learning process more student-centered.
#4 Unlimited Access to Materials
Students have the opportunity to re-watch lectures, review online resources, and utilize learning management systems in a way that is most conducive to their learning. While in-person lectures are limited to how fast one can take notes and what they can recall as an auditory learner, the virtual classroom allows students to pause and rewatch lectures, scroll through presentations at their own pace, and track their progress with learning management software. Access to materials is significantly increased for virtual learners.
#5 Improved Communication
From classroom discussion boards to emails to chat features, communication is undoubtedly more accessible through online programs. For students who rely on feedback and quick responses, the virtual classroom supports that level of communication. While the personal level of face-to-face interaction is absent, most classes will embed ample opportunities for peer-to-peer collaboration and virtual office hours with the instructor.
All in all, virtual instruction and online learning are part of the evolving educational landscape. With significant benefits to meet the needs of many learners and technological advancements to improve the quality of instruction, virtual learning is on a steady growth projection. What are your top reasons for exploring virtual learning?