A lot of schools at every end of the academic and professional spectrum are starting to recognize the limitations of traditional, in classroom/ on campus education and are turning to alternatives to offer more educational opportunities for a wider variety of students. But have you ever wondered how exactly the transition from a classroom based course to an online based degree program takes place? Or perhaps you have been considering enrolling in an online course but you are unsure how the formatting would work or if it would be right for you? Then read on to familiarize yourself with the ways that universities are creating virtual classrooms to meet the needs of the students enrolled in online degree programs.
First it is important to point out that, depending on the particular university and the specific program of study, a lot of instructors are opting to use traditional text books, usually the same ones that the on campus students are using. So that is simple enough, not much of a transition required there. However, other professors are preferring to put all of the material online and depending on the program this often works a lot better. Having your texts and supplemental material online means that you can access it from anywhere at any time without having to worry about lugging a bunch of text books with you everywhere you go; so if you want to catch up on some reading at work during your lunch break, no problem. And since you do not have to worry about the costs of buying text books, which can often get quite pricey, online materials make your educational goals a lot more affordable. Online formats also allow instructors to make their content a lot more dynamic than is possible with traditional texts. By adding demonstration videos, links, animations, and audio as well as video lectures students can have a richer educational experience than many in a traditional setting.
One concern that students who are contemplating online degree programs often have is the issue of classroom interaction, both with the professor and with other students. Most program directors and instructors are aware of the importance of contact and support during your course of study; therefore they have implemented a variety of ways to help you interact and get feedback on your progress. Through a combination of chat rooms, message boards, email, and online exercises students are able to communicate and discuss course material and receive immediate feedback on their understanding and application of that material. Some universities, like Mountain State University, utilize virtual classroom software, such as Blackboard, to enable students to communicate, give presentations, access online exams, and keep track of their progress and grades all from one convenient location. Additionally, other universities such as the University of Cincinnati, will divide students into small peer groups assigned to a professional facilitator to make this interaction more constructive.
And lastly, what about hands on experience? There are a few programs where hands on, real world application is an essential part of the educational process but expert educators have developed projects to compensate for this where students work under the guidance of a professional in their own community to gain the experience they need. The University of Florida’s doctorates program in Pharmacy is a good example of this method.
The concept of an online program is rather simple; however, most schools will make sure that you have adequate support so that you have someone to turn to whenever you are in doubt or have questions. So set back and enjoy the convenience of online education.
By: Bailey Smith
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