Digital Learning Versus Classroom Education

Digital learning is simply being taught by an educator, who is not present in physical form, and through the use of digital media. The power of the internet and applicable software make this readily accessible to anyone wanting to learn, and many schools and universities offer certificates or diplomas upon completion of their online courses. Differing from traditional classroom settings, distance learning allows students the flexibility of choosing from multiple (online colleges), no confinement to a specific location for hours a day, interaction with other students and student groups for study help and assignment completions, and for those individuals seeking higher degrees, maintaining current employment while furthering their education. Further benefits include financial savings on fuel, housing, and food.

Disadvantages do exist in choosing digital learning vs. classroom education. While self starters do well with this type of learning environment, it takes dedication to apply oneself to sitting at the computer to listen to lectures, getting the required assignments completed in accordance with deadlines, and setting aside the required schedule to study and research. Computers with up-to-date technology, software and hardware, as well as a high speed internet connection are necessary to utilize this type of instruction. Immediate feedback is one advantage of classroom instruction, whereas distance learning requires the work to be emailed, graded by the instructor and returned via email to the student; this often takes more time. Additionally, not all courses are offered for online degrees and some employers do not consider digital learning to meet satisfactory educational requirements.

From the university perspective, these types of courses are costly and must be maintained by paid staff. Though government grants are available, preparation in the drafting of the grant also requires planning and time, and the technology to achieve success in digital presentation is an added cost factor. There is also the need for incentives to draw students to the online course offerings as well as attracting instructors to teach the courses. This requires the professor to redesign even a well-known course taught in the past, as teaching to an invisible audience requires a different approach. There is also the issue of someone to keep in contact with the students and oversee their progress.

Students who choose to pursue online college degrees are mostly women in the workforce with limited time to attend traditional classes, mothers with children at home who desire a degree for future employment or starting their own businesses, and sports participants, whose schedules vary enough to disallow attending university classes. In some rural areas, online education is a great asset for those to whom the amount of commute time and money would make attending a university cost-prohibitive.

One other alternative to a strictly traditional classroom course of study has been studied and is referred to as a blended approach. This method uses mostly online courses and has students enrolled in those courses meet a few times throughout the semester. Additionally, this type of education assigns an advisor whose job is solely to maintain contact with the students throughout their enrollment to assist, encourage, and be a live person available to meet the student needs.

While the term digital learning definitely denotes education through digital media, it does not necessarily include online college courses and distance learning to mean the same thing. Google trends is a search tool that analyzes which of these various terms are more often entered into searches for these types of education. Results show distance learning is far above the terms digital learning and online college degrees.

While few degrees can be obtained solely through online education, some institutions are attempting to offer complete packages of required courses that can be completed entirely through distance learning. Those careers that fall under these categories include graduate and undergraduate degrees in Engineering, Humanities, Marine Transportation, Navel Architecture, Environmental Sciences, International Trade & Transportation, and other fields related to cadet structure through Maritime College New York. Most of the computer sciences also allow for complete online training in order to obtain a degree. Degree dictionary is an organization dedicated to representing the many schools offering online education and has an extensive database to narrow down fields of study which allow distance learning, traditional classroom enrollment, and a blend of both.

While many studies have been done on the success of distance learning, most results have been positive from the student's perspective, and the overseer of online education institutions, Sloan Consortium, offers many free surveys completed on distance education and online learning. Their online catalog lists over 900 programs available, categorized by discipline, degree or certificate, institution, and those within the United States.

Colorado Tech University Online is only one of many institutions which offer degree programs completely online, including degrees in criminal justice, accounting, education, engineering, information technology, design education, health services, social sciences, arts and humanities, and many more.

Online vs Traditional College - exploring whether a traditional college or online education is better

Understanding Distance Education - a great article explaining all aspects of distance education

Online Education Issues - a study exploring some of the drawbacks of distance education

Distance Education Statistics - a list of various statistics regarding distance learning

Online Education Advantages - the basics of online learning as well as some of its advantages

Successful Online Learning - an explanation of the ways that online education can be successful

Online vs Classroom Learning - similarities and differences between classroom and online learning

Online Colleges - browse for online colleges to complete your distance learning degree

Distance and Classroom Education - interview with Harvard Business School professor Dorothy Leonard about her views on distance and classroom learning

Distance Education, Better or Worse - a study exploring whether distance education is as beneficial as traditional classroom education

Published: 2010-01-20