Do you have any experience with online university courses or degrees?
I Have Experience Teaching as Well as Taking Online Courses
I have been teaching pure online courses (where everything is online) at a community college for over five years as well as hybrid courses (where part of the teaching is online and part in classroom or other face to face contact with students, such as independent study classes).
Initially I missed the face to face interaction with students.
However, by making a point of responding quickly to student emails and making use of discussion modules in which I post questions and require students to respond to the question and to other students' comments I have found that these classes can have a level of student / teacher and student / student interaction similar to that in a traditional classroom.
In a way it is like interaction among Hubbers on HubPages.
Online Courses are Time Savers as No Commuting is Required
My experience with taking classes has been limited to a couple of online training courses given by the college to train us in the use of a new learning management system (the software that runs an online course).
So far I have taken two of these courses - the first when my college started using the Blackboard LMS and recently when they switched to the Desire to Learn LMS.
A year ago I also took a six week non-credit, travel writing course from an outfit called Ed2Go.
I felt that the class was as good as any classroom course I had taken.
The big advantage over a classroom course for me was that I didn't have time available to attend a class for 6 weeks. This non-credit, online class, however, allowed me to work on it during free time at home during the 6 weeks.
In surveys I have done with my students, this time factor is also the major reason most of my students take courses online as they also are usually working full time and have family responsibilities as well as trying to get a degree or further their education in some way.
When you think about it, in addition to study time outside of class (which is necessary for both traditional classroom and online), traditional classroom courses also involve a commute to and from class for each session and this round trip commute can be as long or longer than the time spent in class.
Commuting is not necessary for online courses.
Online Courses Offer Great Flexibility for Busy People
Online also offers flexibility. While there are deadlines, one can use any available time before the deadline to do the required assignments.
Working full time and continuing to write for HubPages doesn’t leave me much spare time, especially to attend scheduled classes away from home in the evenings.
However, I generally get up early enough to allow at least an hour and a half to work on teaching, writing or, in the case of the three online courses I have taken, going online with the D2L training or Ed2Go course, before having breakfast and leaving for work. I have about thirty minutes on my lunch hour to work on outside things as well as some time at home in the evening and weekends.
This flexibility allowed me to squeeze sufficient time in to complete each of the courses with ease. Had these been traditional instructor led classroom courses, I would have had to attend class a one or two nights a week which would have meant grabbing some fast food on the way from work to class and spending an hour or more in class before going home.
By taking the two courses online I was able to have dinner at home with my wife each evening and take some time to relax and read or watch TV with her rather than being on the road commuting.
Online Courses Can Be Taken or Taught From Anywhere
There is another aspect to the flexibility offered by online courses and that is that neither the student nor the instructor has to stay in town for the class.
In addition to students being able to enroll and take a course from anywhere, they can also travel while taking the course.
Many students taking these courses are working adults who sometimes have to travel for work.
With online courses they don’t have to skip class when they have to travel for work. This feature is especially convenient for members of the military who often have to deploy for long periods.
For instructors as well this is a nice feature. During the height of the Iraq war I read an article about a professor who was in the reserves and his unit was called up in the middle of a semester.
Taking his laptop with him, he continued teaching his class from Iraq.
I have a regular, full time, non-teaching job as well as teaching part-time. Twice I have had to make short business trips during a semester and, with my laptop, have been able to stay in touch and teach from the hotel I was staying in.
A couple of years ago a problem at the office kept my wife and I from taking a planned cruise during the summer. Instead, we had to postpone the trip until autumn when I was teaching.
While the cost of wireless Internet access was a bit expensive on board our ship, I was able to teach while aboard a cruise ship in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.
Online Courses Enable Educational Institutions to Expand Services Without Incurring Big Expenses
In addition to eliminating the need to commute to class and the scheduling flexibility offered by online instruction there are also economic advantages in that there is no need for colleges and universities to expand their physical infrastructure in order to grow and serve more students.
This can be a big savings.
The flexibility and convenience also means that colleges can draw instructors from a broader pool of talented people which means that they can find additional part-time instructors without having to resort to using higher pay to lure instructors away from other institutions in order to expand their faculty.
This is a zero sum game which simply shifts faculty resources from one institution to another while leaving the total number of teaching faculty the same for society as a whole. Instead, by expanding the pool of available faculty, institutions can make their educational services available to more students.
Online Courses Make It Easy to Learn New Skills
Finally, increasing use of online instruction is leading to new options in higher education. While traditional associates, bachelors and masters degrees are still important, many people simply need to learn some new skills rather than obtain a degree.
In my case, I already have a bachelor and a masters degree both of which have helped me to get my full time management position and part-time teaching position.
However, in the last six years I have built up a growing side business of freelance writing for the web.
HubPages and other sites that I occasionally write for don’t care about my degrees or lack of them. The readers of my Hubs also don’t care about my degrees but will stop reading (and clicking on the ads) if they don’t like my writing.
Thus, the non-credit writing course was motivated by a desire to improve my writing skills and enable me to do a better job of writing.
Free College Courses and New Credentials Becoming Available
A few years ago Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) made course materials, including exams, available to everyone free online.
Some other colleges and private educational startups began offering free course materials online.
Stanford University, after piloting a test that drew over 350,000 participants world-wide, announced this month (March 2012) that it was offering five of its regular course to the world for free online.
While many people have taken advantage of these free college courses from major universities simply for the sake of knowledge and others have taken them to fill a needed skill gap, a number of people have been asking for a way to certify their hard won new knowledge.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has just launched (March 2012) MITx, an online learning initiative in which, in return for registering online and paying a small fee, those who take one or more of their free online courses and want recognition can take a test and earn a certificate that acknowledges their accomplishment.
The certificates from MITx are not a degree or academic certificate from MIT itself but are from the MITx subsidiary and don’t count toward course work at MIT.
The Mozilla Foundation (maker of Firefox) has begun a badge program in which it is developing standards for virtual badges that people can earning by successfully completing these non-traditional learning opportunities that are becoming available on the web.
These could then be displayed on people's digital resumes, their websites, Linkedin profiles, etc.
While these badges and certificates for completing non-traditional online learning experiences are new and untested they, along with the growing body of free or low cost online learning opportunities, they have the potential of enabling the masses worldwide the opportunity to increase their skills and improve their economic situations.
- Stanford offers more free online classes for the world
In an ongoing experiment to leverage new educational technologies, the university is launching five free online classes this month.
- Open badges: recognizing learning online « commonspace
- 'Badges' Earned Online Pose Challenge to Traditional College Diplomas - College 2.0 - The Chronicle
- BadgeStack Gives Organizations Power to Grant Mozilla Open Badge (OBI) Compliant Digital Badges — Le
Online learning badges described.
- MITx: MIT's new online learning initiative
MITx will offer a portfolio of MIT courses for free to a virtual community of learners around the world
- Free Online Course Materials | MIT OpenCourseWare
Homepage of Massachusetts Open Courseware site where they offer lecture notes, exams and videos for over 2,000 MIT courses to anyone without having to register or pay.