In the past 20 years, the interest in online learning has increased. Many people have opted to continue their education, searching for opportunities that will allow them to save time and money, and obtain greater flexibility.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to a high demand for opportunities for remote and distance learning. Personal safety, together with the desire to improve skills and obtain new qualifications, have propelled the popularity of more unorthodox forms of learning. Today, digital education is not only widely offered by many institutions and professionals but a necessity for many people who cannot attend face-to-face classes.

Online learning brings a lot of benefits; however, it can be challenging. Not everyone can adjust their learning style and habits so as to gain the most from the experience. Understanding the positives and negatives of learning online can help you achieve the best results.

Why learn online

In today’s busy world time is an asset. Online learning offers you the opportunity to choose your own pace of learning without having to rearrange your whole schedule. You don’t need to visit the lecture hall, so you save time commuting to school as well.

You will be available to read the course materials and do the homework at the time that best suits your everyday life. You can revise the readings as often as you need, pause lectures, or watch them again. You can attend virtual classes from any location you want.

In addition, technology allows you to connect with your classmates and professors easily and get the help you need to succeed. It is now easier than ever to schedule a one-to-one meeting with an advisor, to discuss study material with classmates, or form a study group.

Furthermore, when learning at home you can choose your own learning environment and easily control all the associated factors. You can choose the spot with the best light, minimize noise and distraction, and arrange your surroundings in a way that best stimulates you.

Most of all, to learn online means you have access to experts and courses from all around the world. No matter your academic interests and learning aspirations, with one search on the internet, you will probably be able to find a variety of courses to sign up for. Online learning also comes in different shapes and sizes, so you can choose the duration and intensity of learning that best fits your schedule.

Disadvantages of learning online

As empowering as technology can be, it can easily become an obstacle. Power outages, slow internet connection, outdated software, can all hinder your learning efforts. Online educators should also be trained in using digital tools in order to best interact with their students. There is nothing less inspiring than a tutor who can’t manage to organize their own class.

Online learning requires a certain sense of self-discipline and self-motivation. Students should learn to manage their own time and prioritize homework above personal tasks when needed.

When learning online you also have the responsibility to take care of your health. Taking the necessary breaks, being mindful about your screen time, using comfortable chairs, this all is your responsibility to make sure that your well-being is not put at risk.

Finally, the rise of online learning led to numerous courses being published online every day. You should be mindful that not all content you find will provide the quality you expect. You should conduct thorough research before spending time and money on a course.

Who can learn online?

Studying online is for everyone. No matter your age or background, as long as you seek new knowledge, you can enjoy the benefits of online learning.

Online learning doesn’t have to be expensive. There are many options for studying online at an affordable price, even many free courses. And, most often teachers and educators work with user-friendly software and digital tools that everyone can use.

Most importantly, online learning can be suitable for a variety of different learning styles. Very often online courses are designed to provide different types of materials – video, audio, text, live discussions, and recordings – so everyone can find what works best for them.

How to learn online

Learning online sounds easy but it shouldn’t be underestimated. This free online course is designed to explain learning online and help students take advantage of all that this type of education has to offer.

Studying at a campus university isn’t for everyone. If you have caring responsibilities, want to reskill to change careers or develop professionally, or simply wish to earn while you learn, then online study may be for you.

About the course

During the course, you will find out what it means to learn online and what it can offer you. You’ll discover the skills required for online study and evaluate your own study skillset. You’ll also examine how students form online communities and how they benefit from flexible study arrangements while still being supported by dedicated tutors.

Studying online takes advantage of technology to simulate or improve upon traditional methods of teaching. This course draws on the expertise of The Open University to introduce you to some of these teaching methods, including looking at two periods of European history, teaching chemistry through the online OpenScience Laboratory, and using free apps to practice writing Chinese characters.

Start Date: Dates listed in the course description.

Duration: 2 weeks

Language: English

Institution: The Open University

Educator: Jay Rixon, Laura Underwood

Platform: Future Learn