[Skip to Content]
News Story

The Pros and Cons of Online Learning

Posted on 04/29/2019

Man sitting in front of a large computer screen with finger on track pad

According to the 2018 report Grade Increase: Tracking Distance Education in the United States External link opens in new window or tab , distance education student enrollments in higher education have increased for the 14th straight year (from 2002 to 2016). This means that over 30% of all higher ed students have taken at least one distance education course. Of the over 6.3 million students in distance education, just over half are in a blended learning program (at least one distance course combined with non-distance courses), while the rest are enrolled in a distance program exclusively.

Despite the interest in online learning and distance education, there are still those who are skeptical of the value of online learning. In her blog post An Open Letter to Teachers About Online Classes External link opens in new window or tab , author Jacqui Murray acknowledges that there are pros and cons to online learning. In terms of the reasons why students and teachers enjoy online learning, Murray lists some of these pros:

  • Online learning is not limited by geography or age (although Grade Increase notes that just over 50% of all students who took at least one distance course also took an on-campus course, and over 55% of those who took only distance courses reside in the same state as the institution at which they are enrolled).
  • Students might have more flexibility or even possibility in attaining a degree or certificate from an online institution than at a local school or college.
  • Students learn and even master tech tools that they encounter in online courses (due to instructors using popular tools again and again or what the institution has invested in).
  • For those students who do not do well in traditional, face-to-face classrooms, online learning may be better suited to students who prefer fewer distractions, more time spent with the materials, a flexible schedule, and/or differentiated instruction better suited to their learning styles.

There are still cons, though, that need to be overcome, including the following:

  • Many still do not believe that online courses are as rigorous as face-to-face instruction.
  • Some of the technology built into online courses, like web conferencing or the LMS itself housing the online classes, may be difficult to master, and WiFi and internet connections that connect students and teachers to online learning may be spotty or unreliable.
  • Although online courses and programs may be accredited, it is not universal, so students need to be careful when researching and deciding on online learning options.
  • Online learning requires a great deal of self-motivation, so it is very important for students (and instructors!) to take ownership over and responsibility for one's learning and work.

If you are interested in learning more about online and blended learning, please contact our office. We would be happy to talk more about training to get you and your colleagues started!

Article: An Open Letter to Teachers About Online Classes External link opens in new window or tab by Jacqui Murray at Ask a Tech Teacher

Report: Grade Increase: Tracking Distance Education in the United States External link opens in new window or tab