Online learning has become a very popular trend nowadays: more and more educational institutions are offering online courses and online programs for pursuing a degree. Supporters of online learning list its numerous advantages, such as high flexibility, more opportunities for work-study-life balance, no need to commute to university or college, and better customization of the learning program to the needs of the student. However, despite these advantages, online learning courses have serious disadvantages which might affect learning outcomes for a majority of students.
The major problem of online learning is the lack of interaction. Students cannot communicate directly with their instructor and with classmates; students are often not able to ask questions directly at the moment, and thus miss many opportunities to gain new knowledge as opposed to face-to-face learning. Unlike students learning in a traditional way, who have to participate in many projects and need to present their findings to the audience, online students do not have the possibility to develop their public speaking skills. Consequent lack of communication might also result in lower communicative abilities in their professional environment, especially for students getting their first degree.
Non-verbal communication is not available in online learning programs, and students might spend more time and effort on understanding explanations of the instructor. For the majority of people, non-verbal commutations are as important as verbal communications (Deane 11). This problem can party be solved by video lectures, but direct communications with instructor and classmates will still be impersonated compared to traditional learning environment.
Online programs provided by universities and colleges might not be properly accredited or recognized in future, especially after relocating to another state or country. While traditional diplomas and degrees are accredited almost everywhere, the regulations concerning online programs are not firmly established yet, and taking an online course involves risks associated with possible recognition or accreditation troubles.
Despite potential accreditation problems, the costs of online programs are quite high (Deane 12). These costs might be lower than costs of brick-and-mortar education, but the price is not adequate to the value of services offered. Traditional educational institutions offer many facilities such as gyms, libraries, computer labs, access to ongoing research, stores for students and special discounts, etc. The students might get access to additional equipment required during their research, and can get involved into various activities. All these facilities are not available for online courses; moreover, a large percentage of online courses offers low-quality material, a lot of text evidence without practical implications, and ineffectively organized learning sessions. Thus, the cost of the majority of online courses is too high.
Finally, there are fewer opportunities for networking and team building for online courses. In traditional brick-and-mortar education, students often work in teams, form subgroups and gain their first experience of business interaction in conditions which are close to real life. Such powerful networking cannot be implemented in online programs. Moreover, students often develop important professional connections with their classmates, students of other courses and instructors while studying, and these connections are not likely to be established online.
Overall, key disadvantages of online education – lack of interaction, lack of non-verbal communication, problems related to accreditation and recognition, high costs and fewer opportunities for networking – make this form of learning problematic for a large number of students. Online classes should not be viewed as a full-fledged alternative to traditional face-to-face learning, and students choosing online learning programs should carefully consider their disadvantages before making the final decision for or against online education.
Deane, Susan. Online Education: Is It for You? AuthorHouse, 2005.