Once upon a time going to college was considered the pinnacle of one’s education. A person could go no higher, they could attain no greater rank or form of prestige than having a degree from a well-respected college. The education granted by such an institution was tantamount to elevating one’s status by means of becoming something other than a common laborer. Yet in the past several decades the luster of that particular dream has begun to fade. Traditional classrooms are swiftly giving way to the expedience and convenience of online education.
A favorite line of many collegiate professors that has been adopted by many that are spread across many different walks of life is that college is not for everyone. While this statement might have held true in the past, it is becoming far less potent than it used to be. At some point it can be argued that this line was used as a deterrent to keep those that were not as dedicated or even as skilled to refrain from wasting the time of professors and other students, as well as their own. But in the last few decades this belief has begun to fade until every single person has come to realize that college is indeed for everyone, so long as they understand the choice they are about to make.
Linda Underhill (2015) makes a great point by stating that college is not about delaying
the necessity of making a decision about what to do one’s life. The decision to enroll in college
courses, to discover a direction for one’s life to take, is one that must be taken with equal
amounts of caution and perseverance. In this manner it must be determined how best an individual learns. Should they be more capable when learning in a classroom setting then it is recommended to attend lectures, to experience the traditional college experience. But in the new college environment, many individuals are discovering that the traditional experience does not conform as well to their personal lives.
As younger individuals without a well-defined direction as of yet, the traditional classroom teaches discipline, how to work with a group when required, and how to take accurate notes while listening to the instructor. However, for those that have made the decision to return to school after a brief or longer hiatus, the idea of a traditional classroom can be quite daunting. It tends to mean finding time between work, family, and other responsibilities that often take up a great deal of time and effort. While some are fully capable of juggling said responsibilities, others must face the harsh reality that traditional classes are simply beyond their reach.
This is the moment when the value proposition of online learning comes into play. In today’s economy it is often seen that a college degree in a specified program can open far more doors than a high school diploma can. Employers want to know that potential employees have taken the time to learn what is needed for their specified field, and thus do look at the educational background of their potential hires. However, the drawback of an education is often found in the lack of experience that a student might possess in their chosen field.
Experience and education tend to go hand in hand when creating the perfect employee, if
such a thing exists. As Claire Bradley (2017) states, students that earn a degree but have little if
any experience in their chosen field will often stand just as good of a chance as those that are
highly experienced but hold no degree. The compromise between the two is that a student must
be experienced in their chosen field and possess the education that will allow them to heighten
that experience with the requisite knowledge that is required. In today’s busy world this is where online learning can be the most beneficial to many.
The advantages to online learning are many, but there are a few drawbacks that the eager student needs to understand as well. As Hickey (2015) explains it, a few of the pros to online education include the convenience of the class schedule, the lower costs of attending school, and the ability to finish a course much quicker than usual. By being able to essentially schedule one’s courses around the workday, it is entirely possible to attend school at one’s leisure and still obtain a degree. The lowered costs of online courses come from the lack of needing room and board, as the typical online student already pays for their own space and utilities. Courses also become much easier when the subject matter is given in well-scheduled blocks that can be completed at the student’s convenience, thereby eliminating the need to attend class and obtain the needed information from the instructor.
However the downside of online education includes the very real facts that it does not work with every subject, it is much more difficult to network with fellow students, and of course, the level of satisfaction with this style of learning falls squarely on the student. An online student is entirely responsible for their own education, as the teachers will offer the curriculum and materials needed. This becomes a very dubious method if the student in question lacks motivation or is not a self-starter. Also, the distance from one’s fellow students makes it difficult to network with others on a more personal level, as online students tend to come from a wide range of geographic locations. Finally, online education does not work as well with every class. For example, classes that feature labs or require a physical presence, such as fitness classes, are rather difficult to take online.
Traditional classes offer a great deal in the way of personal communication and the
chance to speak with the instructors one on one, but they also come with their drawbacks. Many students cannot find the time to attend classes on a regular basis, and thus lose a great deal of information that might be pertinent to the class. Some might learn better at their own pace, which is better facilitated by online learning, and some students wish to attend college but are limited by their current location. These are all flaws that make online education much more appealing to those seeking a degree.
Unfortunately for online education there is no real short term impact upon the economy. Folliot (2012) goes so far as to state that in the short and mid-term, online students do not add a great deal to the economy, as hiring managers tend to look at more than just the degree and years of education that a student possesses. The classroom experience, ability to network, and adherence to a system that is proven to work become measures by which many employers will seek to pick their most trusted and valued employees. While it is quite true that an online student can learn just as much if not more than a traditional student, there still remains a bias among employers that extends to the type of university and method of learning that allows a student to earn a degree. While there is minimal effect on the economy in the short and mid-term, there is a decidedly positive effect in the long-term changes that online education can bring.
While it might seem an obvious strategy, the idea of education affecting the economy is
an idea that has yet to take root with some. The implication that online education can have a
decidedly positive impact on the economy is difficult to ignore. Many individuals throughout
the world today are learning that a degree is worth more than its weight in gold when it comes to
finding a better job and in many ways, a better life. Education is the metaphorical key that can
unlock a wide number of possibilities, and as Radcliffe (2017) points out, can keep many
individuals employed as current business practices continue to call for higher education. In the
modern era knowledge truly has become power, and the means to a more fulfilling life.
Arguments can be made for the role of the traditional classroom and the convenience of the online experience, but in all honesty the latter has proven itself to be far more advantageous in the long-run. Obtaining a degree not only serves to instill a greater amount of discipline and self-reliance within the student, but it also can help to boost the economy in the long-term. By allowing more and more individuals to learn at a pace that is comfortable for their needs, online degree programs can help to further educate the nation and grant the freedom to contribute to society in a much more meaningful way. While the traditional classroom is beneficial for its hands on experience, the online classroom allows for freedom of movement and the ability to work while attending class.
The luster of the ivory towers is fading largely due to time constraints, budgeting problems, and the necessity of supporting one’s family or current lifestyle. While many still seek out the traditional college experience others are finding that their time is better served by the chance to study online while creating a life outside of such institutions. There is no “better” or “worse” option when discussing which route is better, as it is a matter of personal preference that decides the course of an individual. Some prefer the freedom of the online experience, whereas others will prefer the idea that college life is an experience that is not to be missed.
Education is a personal choice. With the advancement of online degree programs it
becomes important to decide whether one’s education will follow the traditional path or if one
will embrace the online experience. There are benefits to each method of learning that must be
weighed and measured before a decision is made. Education is the key to a more fulfilling life,
but as time goes on the necessity of the online degree is becoming far more appealing to many
due to its convenient nature.
Bradley, Claire. “Experience Or Education: Which One Lands You The Job?” Investopedia.
Folliot, Brooke. “Will On-Line Higher Education Impact the Economy?” Ecointersect.com
http://econintersect.com/b2evolution/blog2.php/2012/04/25/will-on-line-higher-education-impact-the-economy, Accessed 29 May 2017.
Hickey, Ryan. “The pros and cons of getting a degree online.” WordPress.
Accessed 29 May 2017.
Radcliffe, Brent. “How Education and Training Affect the Economy.” Investopedia.
Accessed 29 May 2017.
Underhill, Lisa. “The Value Proposition of Today’s Traditional College Degree: Is it Really
Worth It? Ask yourself these 5 questions.” WordPress.
https://www.rit.edu/ritonline/blog/index.php/the-value-proposition-of-todays-traditional-college-degree-is-it-really-worth-it-ask-yourself-these-5-questions/, Accessed 29 May 2017.