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The Pros and Cons of Online Learning for College Students

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f you’re a student, chances are you’ve already taken some online classes at this point due to COVID-19. But if you haven’t been a student, you might be considering online education as a path for you, especially now that it’s become a more accessible avenue.

While online learning came with some difficulties and hurdles, it’s also been beneficial in many ways. In this blog, we’ll discuss some of the great things about online learning, some things that aren’t so great, and some things that fall somewhere in the middle. 

Pro: Saving time by not commuting 

This is one of the most apparent and most talked about aspects about remote work — and rightfully so. Not having to be stuck in traffic or worry about missing the bus saves people a lot of time and effort. Because they don’t have to commute, students can get extra sleep which will help them to feel more refreshed in the morning, and relaxed because they don’t have to rush anywhere, which can make them feel more ready to attend classes and take on the day. 

When rushing to classes, students also tend to skip breakfast to make it to class on time in the mornings, but with remote learning, they don’t have to deal with that, which is healthier for them in the long run. As well, online learning is  especially helpful when college or university students only have a single class to attend on a given day — in the past, sometimes they’d spend more time commuting to class than actually learning anything. 

Con: Distractions in the household 

While learning at home or somewhere else remotely gives students more time to focus on themselves, it may not always work out that way. Parents, siblings, and other unpredictable and uncontrollable factors can be extremely distracting to students trying to take classes or study from home, and this is nobody’s fault, simply circumstances at play. 

Being at home, families might expect the student(s) in the house to be more available, which might negatively impact the work that they’re turning in to their teachers or how much they’re able to study for tests and exams. Time management skills will play a crucial role for these students so that they’re able to balance their life at home and ‘school’. 

From home, there’s also a greater chance that students will run into technological issues that might affect their learning, such as missing a class or group work time due to internet connectivity issues. If you’re a student, it’s best to inform everybody in the house that you’re concentrating on your work or have class at a certain time, go to a quiet area, make sure you have a good connection and keep to yourself if you need to.

Neutral: Emphasis on self-directed learning 

This aspect of remote learning varies for different students. Many professors and instructors will expect students to have more control over what they’re learning and whether or not they understand it. These professors might opt to not have class at all, making it totally asynchronous. This leaves students to figure out the curriculum by themselves, and reach out if they have any questions. 

Whether this is good or bad depends on the personality of the student, as well as the subject in question. If you like to be instructed in the typical classroom setting, learning completely by yourself can be extremely hard. But some students thrive on learning by themselves and love the fact that they don’t need to attend any classes — it’s just them and the textbook. 

For certain students, if they don’t have proper direction, they can’t learn a certain subject. For some it might be a science class, for others it might be writing. On the other hand, some students are skilled and have the ability to learn and thrive in any learning environment with any subject.

Pro: Being anywhere in the world

Canada has a lot of international students that come to attend their post-secondary institutions including people from China, India and lots of other countries. Thanks to online learning, they can save money on dorms, food, transportation, and many other aspects that they might not have been able to. 

This is even true for domestic students, as many students come to Alberta from all different provinces and territories across the country for higher education. When an emergency hits, they have the comfort of knowing that they can be at home while also getting their education, which otherwise may have been a long distance away. 

However, this is not only beneficial for people who initially traveled. Even if you’re from the city that your college or university is located in, you have the freedom to visit your grandparents who might be in the next province over, and not have to compromise on your education. Whether domestic or international, students don’t have to wait or waste time and enrol with the next cohort, they can continue with their learning as they see fit. 

Con: No socialization or immediate help/feedback

Like not having to commute, this is one of the most discussed aspects of studying entirely online. The social aspect is completely gone from many students’ lives. It's different if you enrolled in your program expecting this, but for students who have to go online unexpectedly, it can be detrimental to their learning. 

Students might miss those nuances that come with face to face interactions, including live demonstrations in the classroom, talking with classmates, and making friends at clubs on campus. For many, that’s part of the college experience too, and a crucial part of their life that they don’t want to miss out on.

Students have reported that they feel a sense of isolation by not being able to attend classes in person and greet the people around them. For some students, school was the only reason they left the house, and now they might be stuck not being able to change their environment or scenery, which can have a negative impact on mental health. 

Also, some students learn best by having some one-on-one time with their instructors, and having a bit of a back-and-forth conversation. This can become very minimized or even non-existent in the atmosphere of the zoom classroom. 

Neutral: Paying the same price

Although many students feel that their quality of education went down when the sudden shift to online education happened, they still paid the same price for their classes that they would have if they were going in person. 

Paying tuition fees, though, is not either an advantage nor a disadvantage, because whether or not a student feels that they are getting their money’s worth is subjective to their individual self. One student might hate the direction that an online class is going, while another might enjoy the direction of the class. 

It might be a disadvantage in the sense that students often don’t know what they’re paying for. Often times, tuition fees include a portion for recreation, gymnasiums and other facilities that students might not be using (in this case, make sure that when you’re paying your fees, that you opt-out of such payments if possible). 

Deciding the style of education you want

The pandemic has opened up the reality that more schools should be embracing online learning, at least for some courses. But whether online education is something you want to pursue is up to you, how you like to learn and what your preferences are. 

There are more places now that offer a variety of learning experiences. Colleges like ABM College offer students a hybrid learning environment, with both online and in-person classes, while also giving students practical experience. 

We hope this blog gave you some insightful thoughts about online education, and helped you on your path to deciding whether or not online education is right for you. For more information you can learn about 7 easy ways to save money as a student or read 5 reasons why a career college is worth it. 


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