Distance learning and online education are not new phenomena, but have become even more commonplace this year. Often, all you need is a laptop and access to an internet connection to begin your online academic journey. There are many benefits to this form of learning, from lower costs, reduced commutes and increased content choices. If you have been considering learning new skills, refreshing old knowledge or a complete change of career, there are many options available to you through online study.
There are a huge number of costs involved in study and education, from tuition fees to accommodation costs, so by learning from home, you can reduce these expenses. The majority of online courses are discounted or even free, and you won’t have to spend money on renting a room or traveling to and from a campus. Furthermore, with access to the internet, many of the resources you many need to complete your studies are even cheaper, or again free. Text books are another part of education costs, so see if your course offers any discounts or freebies, and check group pages for second-hand copies that previous students have used. There are also several charities that can help you get access to the tech you may need to study online, such as laptops or tablets, so it is worth looking into these options if you qualify for them. Similarly, if you have old pieces of tech lying around your house, you can use them to get money off new models, or donate them to others so that they too can access education. You may have heard the phrase ‘digital divide’, which is the huge disparity between those who have internet and computer access, and those who do not. This is another reason why you may be hesitant to study online, but there are plenty of organizations that have been set up to bridge this gap and allow anyone to access vital education.
As well as tuition fees and supplies, other elements that can add to the costs are:
- Travel – commuting to classes, gas, public transport, insurance
- Accommodation – renting a room, housing, bills
- Living costs – food, medical, social activities, gym
It can also be difficult to have a job alongside studying, which again makes full-time, physical learning difficult for many people. By studying online, you can find courses that will be flexible in their timings, allowing you to work and study in harmony. This means that you can still earn money to support yourself, while benefitting from education on the side. For many people, this is a much more suitable option, as many do not have the time or funds to stop working and enter full time education. When looking into online learning, you will encounter many different kinds of people at different stages in their lives, and a lot of them will be studying part time while juggling the rest of everyday life, and may have some handy tips and pieces of advice to help you do the same.
Being able to study from your own home can make education more accessible to a wider audience. Not only does it reduce transport costs, it also makes content and courses available to those with mobility and access requirements, or anyone who might otherwise be unable to attend institutions in person. This makes education more inclusive, allowing everyone to benefit from the teaching available. Furthermore, there is a wider choice of content and courses available across the internet, even across different countries and time zones, that may not be available to you at your local college or university. Without the confines of physical location, teachers and module content, you can search for and study the exact lessons you want to learn. This will allow you to meet and learn with people from all over the world, making new friends and connections, sharing knowledge and insight and experiencing global learning.
Being in a lecture or seminar setting can work wonders for the focus and attention of some students, but can be intimidating and overwhelming for others. By working from home, there is less pressure to understand content right away. You can take the time to digest information at your own pace, without letting the lesson run away from you. This can really help calm you, making you take in the education better and enjoying the learning experience.
Online study allows you to customize your learning experience. You can choose your course, location, learning pace and content, allowing you to maximize your education. As previously mentioned, physically being in an education environment can feel rushed or competitive, but when distance learning, you can choose your hours, and go over content as many times are you need to. Many lectures and classes may be recorded, allowing you to access them as many times as you need at a later date. If you have a job, family or social commitments, you may feel as though you don’t have the time to embark on a new journey. However, the flexibility provided by online study means you can fit in classes around your existing schedules, letting them enrich your life rather than become a chore.
You may also be aware that there are several different learning types. If you know which type you are, then that’s great, and you can select a course and study methods that support this. If not, there are many resources that will help you work it out.
These types include:
Employing study methods that support the type of learner you are will allow you to absorb information better, making the learning experience more enjoyable for you, and letting you get as much out of each lesson as possible. Looking through module content and teaching methods of courses will give you some kind of idea as to what may work best for you. For example, aural learners may benefit more from a series of lectures or podcasts, in which they can listen to spoken information and absorb it that way. Visual learners prefer receiving and digesting information through visual stimuli, such as videos or images, so video essays or tutorials will be great for these kinds of learners. Discovering what kind of learner you are is almost as important as choosing the right course for you, as you can adapt your study methods to fit the way your brain works.
By far one of the most attractive aspects of online study is the element of choice. There is choice in courses and subjects, course lengths and levels, types of institutions and teaching methods; you are not confined to what is available to you in your local area. Whether you are getting your first qualification or looking to develop your pre-existing skills with further education, you can study a huge range of courses online, from college level to Master’s degrees. For more info, click here. You can even change career or industry with a conversion course, which can allow you to accelerate your learning and graduate from another course faster, by building on existing knowledge and credits.
Two important options to be aware of are synchronous or asynchronous courses. The former requires teachers and students to be online at the same time, so this will be great for you if you enjoy routine, or have a set amount of free time each day or week. Asynchronous courses allow you the ultimate flexibility, as you can learn whenever and wherever, working at your own pace. Deciding what kind of learner you are, and understanding what kind of academic environment you thrive best in will help you make these choices.
Other things to consider
There are plenty of other benefits to studying online that may make the decision easier for you. Age is often a reason that holds people back from pursuing a course, as they may feel they are too old or young to fit in with classmates, and the environment of a college or university. When you study online, these personal things do not matter, as there is little to no personal interaction unless you choose a course that involves it.
Resources and materials can also be provided by certain courses, to help with your studies. Some may feel that by not physically being in the room, the education may not have the same impact, or be as practical as it should. In some cases, this may be true, but with the big move towards distance learning, much is being invested into making e-learning just as detailed and useful as being in the lecture hall.
Whether you decide to take a short course in creative writing, or embark upon a Master’s degree, don’t let personal or financial reasons hold you back to embracing your full academic potential. There is plenty of assistance available to help you make the right choices for your circumstances and learning skills. Looking online for options and recommendations can help inform you, as well as asking institutions you may already be a part of or have studied at previously what their online learning options are.