Online courses (or e-learning) can provide great time savings if used appropriately. When used well such learning methods can enabled you to fit education into a busy week with minimal interference to family life. How does an on-line course work? Well, it depends on the course. Often universities provide a web portal to run their on-line courses. Typically a secure login is enabled for each student allowing access to - course material; an interactive discussion forum; a facility to upload and submit assignments; and access to the university research facilities and library. Previously I have done post-graduate study (part-time) via two methods – (i) on campus study, and (ii) on-line study. How do they compare? I see the main benefits of on-line courses as:
- Save on travel time. The time required to travel to and from campus (including – parking and/or waiting time) can add up over time.
- Flexibility to learn at your convenience instead of fixed class times. If you have a busy life, travel a lot with work, or the kids are waiting for you to get home, then on-line study might be the only viable option.
- Access to a wider range of courses (than is available locally) The course I did is 1000km from my home.
- Potential for social networking with a broader range of classmates and ideas. In a classroom or lecture environment students tend to share ideas and thoughts with immediate contacts. In an on-line environment there is scope for sharing and discussing ideas with anyone in the course.
- E-learning does not suit everyone’s learning style. Some people simply learn better in a classroom environment, and are energized by interacting directly with others.
- Some e-learning courses are little more than electronic notes that can be downloaded, and consequently do not add much (if any) value over a good textbook.