Can eLearning and Technology Accelerate Degree Completion for Students?

eLearning used to come with a stigma attached. At best online colleges were viewed with suspicion. At worst, they were considered scams. Obviously, that has changed considerably over the last few years. Even before Covid, many schools all across the country were building out their electronic resources. 

The pandemic accelerated that process considerably. Now, students all over the country are using hybridized schedules, taking some classes online and others in person. For better or for worse, this development is here, probably to stay. 

In this article, we take a look at the broader implications of e-learning. Does it accelerate degree completion, or hinder it? 

eLearning is Often More Practical

One of the main reasons that students do well under an elearning curriculum is that it is more accessible than traditional brick-and-mortar education. With in-person learning, you are bound to a very particular schedule. Class from 9 to 11. Maybe another at 12:30, and so on throughout the week. 

If you are living on campus, that means you spend most of your day bouncing around between buildings. If you live off campus, it means a lot of driving, and still quite a bit of bouncing around buildings. 

Dead time, in other words. 

Remote learning allows students to trim the fat out of their schedules. The average commute alone is 30 minutes, which means you can save five hours a week just on driving when you switch to remote learning. 

It’s the same quality that has made remote work so successful. People all over the world have discovered that they can accomplish the same work they always did in less time by trimming away the commute and unnecessary meetings. Students are finding out that similar logic applies to the world of remote work. 

eLearning is More Flexible

Online learning is also more flexible than in-person classes. A typical online course will provide students with all of the resources they need to succeed. They will post discussion threats, chat sections, supplementary reading materials, recorded lectures, and so on. 

In short, all of the stuff you encounter in a classroom is distilled into one highly effective online space. 

These classes do tend to be less dynamic. When you are watching a prerecorded lecture you can’t ask questions in real-time. That means you miss out on some of the interesting digressions that are so common in physical college classrooms. 

However, what you lose in spontaneity, you gain back in efficiency. For a person who is trying to work a job or take care of their family, this flexible work environment makes it easier to accomplish all of their goals. 

It’s also a good way for students taking in-person classes to max out their schedules without feeling as overwhelmed. For example, if you are taking fifteen credit hours but would like to see what life feels like at eighteen, online courses are a good way to load up but work on your own time. 

Note that not every online course will have this relaxed structure. Some will utilize regularly scheduled meeting times, and play out pretty much the exact same way that a physical classroom does. 

eLearning Gives You Access to More Experts

Let’s say you are in nursing school. You want access to the best specialists in the country for your clinical experience. However, you are going to school in a small rural town. The hospital there is pretty good, but it doesn’t have much in the way of specialists. In fact, when locals have more serious health problems, they usually have to drive a few hours out to the city. 

Too bad? 

While maybe not ideal, this situation isn’t as hopeless as it sounds. Through your school’s eLearning platform, you may still be able to gain clinical experience with the best experts in the country. Maybe your class Zooms with a special guest lecturer. Maybe you even do a telehealth rotation where you get to work side by virtual side with an expert located across the country. 

Digital communication tools have never been better, and since COVID-19, pretty much everyone knows how to use them. Physical distance simply doesn’t matter as much as it used to. 

More School?

The option to learn online also makes education more accessible during times that are traditionally off. A student who may be reluctant to take summer classes could be more receptive to taking a course or two online. 

With the option to work when and where they want, they can still enjoy their usual summer leisure activities while making progress on their degrees. 

Does eLearning Have Any Downsides?

If there is one issue that many people cite in regards to elearning, it’s that the platform is only as good as the people involved decide it should be. Of course, that’s true of any educational configuration. However, when it comes to elearning, it’s easier for problems to slip through the cracks. 

So much of the work is self-guided, that professors and students often don’t get the opportunity to establish close bonds. Sometimes, class meetings are forgone entirely in favor of written digital communication. 

While this approach can still yield good educational outcomes, a larger burden or responsibility is placed on the student to make the most of the situation. 

Educators can help alleviate this issue by making themselves as available as possible. For example, virtual office hours. Weekly class Zoom sessions. Some professors even allow the option to meet in person, not for mandatory coursework but just for general discussion and conviviality. 

Ultimately, elearning is just like any other educational experience. If you commit and try hard, you will do well. If you don’t, you won’t. 

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