Learning online at Granite State College is practical and functional for many adult learners taking adult college courses. It lends itself well to how adult learners learn best, under the unique conditions they often find themselves. Online learning is appealing from a practical lifestyle perspective but also from a theoretical and neuro-scientific perspective. Here are the top ten reasons to take online classes for college:
Easy to get started - You can get started learning online with a computer and Internet access. Computers are becoming more powerful, less expensive and more user-friendly. Internet service is widely available in many places. If owning your own computer or accessing the Internet from home is a problem, many public libraries offer free computer and Internet access. Be sure to check your school’s technical requirements for your computer before taking an online class.
Economical - No travel costs, no commuting, and no dormitory fees - just tuition and occasionally materials fees.
Accessible – As long as you have an Internet connection, you can access your online course. This is particularly appealing to parents of young children or students who travel often for their work.
Flexible –Unable to make a 9:00 AM Economics lecture on a college campus? Online classes are available 24 hours a day. You can learn online from your own home at a time that is convenient for you.
Effective – When you take online classes for adults, you can expect to learn important career building skills and abilities equal to, or better than, a traditional classroom setting. According to a 2010 evaluation of online learning conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, “Students in online conditions performed modestly better, on average, than those learning the same material through traditional face-to-face instruction.”
It gets better - Thanks to advances in technology, learning online continues to improve at an unprecedented rate. New technologies facilitate active engagement that allow adult learners to apply, integrate, implement, differentiate, and formulate new learning into experience generating activities. Technological advances also enhance learner connectedness, interaction and mutual support. Immersive learning environments and serious games are no longer distant concepts but rapidly becoming more common in online learning.
Challenging – Though there are deadlines and due dates, there are no class meeting times (although some online classes may require mandatory synchronous session), you are constantly working on your own resourcefulness and initiative to complete the coursework.
Time for Reflection – Unlike a face-to-face class where immediate responses are often required in class discussions, online discussion boards allow time for thoughtful reflection and critical thinking when interacting and responding on an online discussion board. This reflection time can facilitate metacognition – thinking about one’s own thinking or “the ability to monitor one’s current level of understanding and decide when it is not adequate” (How People Learn, 2000).
Your experience counts – Online learning facilitates the connection to past experience (cognitive activation) critical to the adult learning process. Raymond Wlodkowski author of “Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn” explains it this way; “adults have had more time and seen the benefits and outcomes of a greater variety of experiences. Neurologically, their brains are more developed and capable of judging, planning, and making decisions about their experiences in a manner that is more integrated, stable, reflective, and future oriented.” Online learning interactive activities such as discussion boards, blogs and journals provide the opportunities to employ an adult’s “rich mosaic of experience” at deeper levels of learning as part of the learning experience.
Meaningful - You determine the meaning of the learning. “Most experts who have studied or participated in online learning communities share an approach to adult learners described as ‘constructivism.’ It is based on the premise that knowledge is constructed by adult learners as they filter new information through the prism of their own experience. It is quite different from the more traditional ‘objectivist’ idea of knowledge as a preexisting reality that teachers simply transmit by means of effective communication, and reinforce through practice and repetition. Constructivists expect adult learners to be active, reflective, and creative: managing their own learning process and often collaborating with each other to test new ideas and information by applying them to real problems and circumstances. Therefore, constructivists often describe their approach as student-centered rather than teacher-centered. Instructors facilitate learners’ progress rather than operating primarily as podium-based sages.” – Dr. Burgess Smith, Granite State College.
Like any other endeavor, learning online is what you make of it. Organization, discipline and hard work are all successful components to a positive online learning experience. As Judy Willis, MD, M.Ed. puts it: “The person who does the work LEARNS.”
Means, B, Toyama, Y, Murphy, R, Bakia, M, & Jones, K. (2010). Evaluation of Evidence-based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies . U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development Policy and Program Studies Service.
How People Learn. (2000). Washington, D.C. National Research Council.
Wlodkowski , R. (2008). Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Smith, B. (2011, February). How We Learn Online [Web log message]. Retrieved from https://blackboard.granite.edu/