What Are the Benefits of Online Learning?
- Access and Opportunity: Online learners have new opportunities to enroll in courses that may not be available where they live and which allow them to manage work and family commitments.
- Flexibility: Online learners can access course materials anytime and anywhere.
- Economical: Online learners can save time and money by avoiding difficult commutes, which will allow them to spend more time learning and less time traveling.
- Self-directed Learning: Online education focuses on a learner-centered paradigm which can promote and enhance self-directed and self-oriented learning. This helps students develop a goal-oriented mindset and self-paced learning style which can benefit a learner's career and personal life in the long run.
- Quality Education: The quality of online courses is just as good as that of traditional classes according to a recent report from the SLOAN-C (2010).
Who Are Online Learners?
A 2011 Survey of Online Learning reveals that the number of students taking at least one online course is now more than six million. Now, nearly one-third of all students in higher education are taking at least one online course.
Education Today recently compiled data on the demographics of online learners. The majority are undergraduates (82%); 14% are graduate students and 4% are "other," i.e., certificate and other programs.
|AGE||The average age is 34
34.5% are ages 30 and up
37.4% are ages 15-23
|23% are ages 30 and up
59.7% are ages 15-23
||68% Exclusively full-time
18% Exclusively part-time
14% Mixed full and part-time
|48% Exclusively full-time
35% Exclusively part-time
17% Mixed full and part-time
For a comprehensive view of online student demographics, take a look at Education Today's infographic.
Common Characteristics of Online Learners
- Drive to Achieve: Many online learners decide to pursue further education based upon their personal motivation to advance professionally.
- Balance Multiple Commitments: Many online learners are non-traditional students (Myers-Wylie, Mangieri, & Hardy, 2009). This includes people with full or part-time jobs, married or single parents, retirees or the unemployed looking for a new career or professional development.
- Awareness of Learning Styles and Preferences: Like all learners, online learners have different learning styles, such as auditory, visual, or kinesthetic (Myers-Wylie et al., 2009). They may have different technology preferences as well. For instance, while some people prefer to read books and articles on a computer screen, some still prefer to read printed material. Some students may benefit from using tools that support these preferences.
- Diverse Backgrounds: There are no geographical or time limitations for taking online courses. The cohort of online students is very diverse in age, ethnicity, profession, and language. This may include international students and students with disabilities. Successful online learners embrace this and enjoy being a part of a diverse learning community.
- Enjoy Learning Opportunities Relevant to Their Lives and Work: Online learners want to make sure that learning is meaningful to their personal and professional life (Myers-Wylie et al., 2009). Case studies, problem solving activities, simulations and other approaches that offer opportunities for students to connect learning to their own lives and work are most rewarding.