Online Education v.s. College Online Class

28 December 2020
By Mitchell Wang

Introduction & Motivation

It’s almost Christmas 2020. Covid-19 has been around for more than 9 month. Like the number of Covid cases, my average screen time has been steadily increasing over this uncommon circumstance. In spite of spending a large chunk of time surfing on Netflix, the majority of my screen time is actually spent on online learning. 

Every morning at 7am, after finishing reading the headlines, I open up Coursera, an online platform that supports thousands of free educational classes. As a fervid learner, I genuinely enjoyed taking advantage of platforms like Coursera. Over the past few months, I have taken more than 15 different online courses, ranging from Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency to Excel VBA. In the following paragraphs, I want to briefly compare and contrast the online classes that I took in college and the ones that I participated in through Coursera and other platforms. The two modes of learning are really quite different, but I’ve found things in my online-only platforms that could be useful for my regular college courses.

Online class provided by educational platforms

  1. Well structured with materials and tasks for the entire course available at Day 1 

I have noticed that my friends and I learn at different paces and have very different schedules. Hence, it is very beneficial for us to be able to see the entire structure of the course and plan accordingly. Most of the online classes I took in college do not have that flexibility, limiting our approaches to master the materials. 

  1. Lectures are broken down into relatively small chunks (5 – 15 mins) 

On most education platforms, lectures are typically separated into smaller chunks, each covering a critical concept. I could see two potential benefits of doing that. First, it provides more clarity to the course. A student could easily identify the specific concept that is challenging and practice accordingly. Secondly, it becomes easier for students to review. Students no longer have to search within a one-hour video trying to locate different key concepts. 

  1. Mini quizzes within the lectures 

On Coursera, there are frequently pop-up quizzes that check the student’s understanding of a concept just covered. Very few college online classes do so. Through pop-up quizzes, the instructor could not only gauge the current understanding of students but also make the class more interactive and fun. 

  1. Minimal stress on grades

Most online classes operate on a pass/fail model. Hence, students could focus less on acing the tests but rather understanding the material and using them in a practical sense. I personally feel like sometimes at college, I face a burdensome trade off between exam grades and actually learning. 

  1. Continued opportunities for learning

In a lot of times when someone completes a course, new courses are recommended to encourage further learning. In college, partially due to the fact that most classes do not necessarily build on each other, professors generally do not mention any “further learning” opportunities regarding the course. 

Online class provided by colleges

  1. More disciplined and interactive 

College online classes are generally very disciplined. One could not easily drop out in the middle of the class nor miss a significant amount of class. The discipline helps students to stay focused and encourages them to overcome any difficulties. The more interactive synchronous classes enable students to learn from their peers and get questions answered straightaway. 

  1. Flexible and adjustable schedule 

The schedule could be personalized to the group of students. Professors could easily adjust the material being taught and the speed at which they are taught at. 

  1. Detailed and comprehensive feedback 

Through mandatory assignments and exams, students are able to receive very personalized and detailed feedback, facilitating their learning objectives. 

Concluding Remarks

I am still relatively new to online learning, so are many students, educators, and professors. In order to refine the way we teach and learn online, it is important to incorporate the key advantages of different forms of online learning. I hope this new trend could help more people to get the education that they need efficiently and effectively. 

Posted In