On this blog, we at IDT spend a lot of time talking about the instructor experience in online courses. But what about our students? What drives so many students at Wichita State to choose online courses or entire online programs? I can’t speak for every student at Wichita State, but online learning appealed to me because of its flexibility, its educational strategies, and its self-direction.
When I was a student at Wichita State, I chose online courses for the flexibility. During the summer, I would work long hours at a city pool. It was hardly a practical job for summer course work. But online courses gave me the opportunity to shape my learning schedule around my life and my other obligations. The flexibility it provided me allowed me to graduate with my BA in four years, even though I had changed schools and major after freshman year. If it hadn’t been for online courses, I suspect that my degree may have been longer in the making.
I also chose online courses for their learning appeal. We are all aware that we all learn differently. Some of us prefer to learn by example and take a more hands-on approach. Others prefer to learn by listening and asking questions. Every individual approaches learning in a unique way. The adaptability of online education provides ways to help every type of learner. For example, a lecture in a face-to-face classroom is well-suited to students who learn by listening. There are certainly learning limitations for other types of learners. However, a recorded lecture in an online classroom allows students to listen to the lecturer, read what the lecturer is saying through close captioning, and return and review content easily. For students who struggle in a face-to-face classroom, online education can provide the additional help they need!
Online education is also appealing to the lifelong learner. As I mentioned before, during my undergraduate degree, I normally took classes year-round. Only a semester after graduation, I enrolled in a Graduate program. Now that I’ve graduated with my Master’s, I’m already researching PhD programs. For learners like me, online education provides great avenues to continue my education. I might hold a full-time job in Wichita, Kansas, but many schools around the country provide distance-learning opportunities in other areas. With online education, it is a completely possible to be a full-time employee in Kansas and a full-time student in Virginia simultaneously.
Online learning can provide the same joy and excitement as a face-to-face classroom. As technology and learning management systems continue to improve, online learning will continue to flexibly educate lifelong learners through varied educational strategies.