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Online Learning: Boon or Bane

By stefannsgirl Mar 17, 2014 1529 Words
Jacqueline Stump
Non-fiction
Essay
Alpha Beta Iota
While online learning is not suited to everyone, it can provide a quality alternative for individuals who are seeking to further their education, but find it difficult to attend conventional college courses or programs. I. Online learning can be a necessity for some students.

A. Students have many reasons for choosing online learning.
B. My health issues and lack of work skills have made online learning a necessity. II. A student must thoroughly research whether distance learning is an appropriate choice. A. Professor Richard Felder provides excellent resources for determining learning styles and strategies. B. Achieving success in distance learning depends greatly on a student’s learning. styles, and instructors’ abilities and attitudes in teaching online courses. III. Choose wisely when considering online degree programs.

A. Determine if your chosen profession has certain accreditation or licensing requirements. B. It is important to avoid unscrupulous institutions or diploma mills. IV. There are many advantages associated with online learning. A. Online learning can resolve many of the disadvantages associated with conventional college degree programs. B. Online learning can also be advantageous to students who have physical, mental or emotional issues.

Online Learning: Boon or Bane?
The advent of online learning has brought about many debates and concerns regarding the legitimacy and quality of education that can be obtained through distance learning programs. Distance learning is considered sub-standard education by some, while others hail it an excellent resource for advancing one’s education. When considering higher education in today’s economy, many prospective students find themselves faced with obstacles that could potentially prevent them from expanding their education such as disabilities, time, and logistical constraints. While online learning is not suited to everyone, it can provide a quality alternative for individuals who are seeking to further their education but find it difficult to attend conventional college courses or programs. Prospective students in today’s society have a myriad of decisions to ponder when trying to ascertain their future plans and needs. While deciding on an institution and a career choice, they must take several details into consideration such as how far they wish to travel to attend classes, what time constraints are placed upon them, and, in some cases, what limitations are placed upon them by physical, emotional and mental health issues. I had been receiving Social Security Disability for several years when I decided to re-enter the workforce. My health had improved somewhat, and I desired to become more independent, both financially and emotionally. I knew I would have to make accommodations for my health as I have a slightly depressed immune system and mobility issues as well. I could no longer work in my previous profession as it placed high physical demands on my body, so I chose health information technology as my degree since I had quite a bit of experience in the health field, felt I would enjoy the work, and would be able to perform the duties with little physical strain. Once I decided on my area of study, I began to research online learning and the particular requirements for my chosen profession. Several of the institutions offering my chosen degree program provided courses that were available only as web-based asynchronous formats. I wanted to ensure a positive and successful educational career, so I began to research what qualities students considering online learning need to possess. Richard M. Felder, Hoechst Celanese Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering at North Carolina State University, in collaboration with Dr. Linda K. Silverman, has developed the Learning Styles Index, a self-assessment which can provide insight on learning styles to both students and instructors. In addition to the assessment, Professor Felder, and Barbara A. Solomon, developed a guide, Learning Styles and Strategies, which gives examples of each learning style and suggestions for adapting to, or compensating for, problems a student might encounter. Types of learning styles discussed are active and reflective learners, sensing and intuitive learners, verbal and visual learners, and global and sequential learners (Felder). These are excellent resources to utilize when making decisions concerning both distance learning and choice of an institution. From my research of Professor Felder’s site, I discovered achieving success in distance learning depends greatly on a student’s learning styles and instructors’ attitudes and abilities in teaching online courses. Students who do not possess appropriate learning skills, such as self-motivation and time management skills, may find online learning difficult or impossible; likewise, students who are verbal learners, or require large amounts “hands on” learning, may not be suited to distance learning. After completing the Learning Styles Index, I concluded that online learning was a good fit for me as I rather enjoy self-paced learning and have compatible learning styles. Once a student has made a decision as to whether online learning is a suitable choice, it is vital to thoroughly research all aspects of their chosen degree program to ascertain specific regulations regarding accreditation or licensing of the institutions providing the courses. There are many professions that require some type of professional credentials; in addition, some professions may have certain requirements regarding degrees obtained from online learning institutions. In my case, I found that most, if not all, reputable employers in the health care field required certification by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). They also require certificate and degree programs be obtained from AHIMA accredited institutions. Most professional associations will have a database of approved institutions offering acceptable degree programs. While many reputable institutions offer online degree programs, there are also unscrupulous institutions which cast a shadow over online learning. A major debate among opponents of online learning is the fact that there are many “diploma mills” that often award diplomas or degrees resulting in a sub-standard education due to lack of instruction or supervision. In the article, “Counterpoint: Online Degree Programs are Inferior to Traditional Forms of Higher Education”, Lynn-nore Chittom and Maureen McMahon state, “employers generally view degrees from schools specializing in online degree programs with suspicion” (3-3). They go on to state, “Some employers even specify in their employment listings that they are not interested in graduates from specific institutions that specialize in online degree programs” (3-3). In researching the many employment opportunities in my chosen field, I have not found any employers who disqualify prospective applicants possessing online degrees. If an individual carefully chooses an appropriate and reputable school, online learning will not pose a problem when seeking employment and can provide opportunities to those unable to seek higher education at conventional learning facilities. In today’s society, working adults are faced with many challenges when seeking to further their education. Many are faced with time constraints or scheduling conflicts, while others are burdened with financial issues that prevent them from obtaining higher education at traditional on-campus institutions. Online learning can open doors to many different avenues and create advancement in careers for those who could not otherwise take advantage of an extended education. In the article, “Point: Online Degree Programs Offer a Competitive Edge”, M. Tucker and Kathryn Cook state, “[m]any working adults have families and child care situations to consider. Also, the costs associated with attending a full-time degree program, coupled with the lost wages from a hiatus of employment, make the pursuit of a degree impossible for many working adults” (2-2). Distance education can resolve scheduling and time restraints as well as solving issues posed when there are no institutions within the student’s community. Online learning can be advantageous to students who have physical, mental or emotional issues that prevent them from participating in normal classroom situations. This is very true in my case, I am a very outgoing person, but find it difficult to speak up in certain situations due to possible embarrassment over my physical appearance, or during times when I have difficulty finding the right words to complete a thought. Online learning has enabled me to participate more in class discussions, provided a quality education, and enriched my learning experience. I would fully recommend online learning to anyone who is seeking to further their education. It provides quality learning experiences, while enabling students to overcome issues such as finances, time constraints, scheduling issues, and distance barriers. Online degree programs can greatly enhance lives, finances, and job security in today’s troubling economic times. Students should not be fearful of preconceived opinions or ideas concerning the quality of online learning, if they carefully research, and choose wisely when considering institutions of learning. Online learning has made it possible for me to embark upon a new and exciting career that would not be possible if I were limited to conventional college courses. All students should consider online learning when seeking to continue their education.

Works Cited
Chittom, Lynn-nore, and Maureen McMahon. “Counterpoint: Online Degree Programs are Inferior to Traditional Forms of Higher Education.” Points of View: Online Degree Programs. (2009): 3-3. Points of View Reference Center. Web. 5 April 2011. Felder, Richard. Learning Styles. WWW4, North Carolina State University. n.d. Web 5 April 2011. Tucker, M., and Kathryn Cook. “Point: Online Degree Programs Offer A Competitive Edge.” Points of View: Online Degree Programs. (2009): 2-2. Points of View Reference Center. Web. 5 April 2011.

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