Online learning works according to a new study by MIT.
Chances are you know someone who is taking an online class. Right now, there are between five and seven million Americans enrolled in an online course, according to a Babson Survey Research Group study. In the coming years, that number is only going to increase by the millions thanks in large part to the explosion of free massive open online courses (MOOCs), which are currently being offered by schools including Harvard, MIT, Yale and others.
Next year, even law school students—who have traditionally suffered the wrath of the staid old Socratic method—will have the ability to study the law online through a program approved by the American Bar Association. When the ABA, purveyors of the institution of tradition, adopts a new pedagogic method, you know that online learning has gained widespread acceptance.
Some, however, continue to question the efficacy of online learning. They ask whether a classroom experience can be replicated in a digital environment. They wonder aloud if online learning can match the rigor and accountability of traditional courses. They are, to say the least, skeptical; they want tangible evidence that proves that online learning is just as effective as traditional education.
Here it is: A study conducted by MIT shows online learning is as effective as what is being taught in traditional classroom education. Its research is among the most respected in the world, and it found that online learning works.
The research, which included experts from MIT, Harvard, and Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, involved administering before- and after-tests on students taking a physics course as a MOOC as well as those taking the course in a traditional setting.
Researchers found that students who completed the course online improved their retention and knowledge at a faster pace than those in the traditional course.
The results of the study were so encouraging for supporters of online education that MIT is looking at taking bold, innovative steps to incorporate even more online courses into its already robust offerings.
[Search MIT’s free online course offerings.]
What this means for you
For current students, returning students, and adult students, the results of the MIT study mean that online learning will soon become the norm, rather than the exception—and this is good news for students at all stages of the post-secondary education continuum.
- Students will have greater flexibility in their schedules. The majority of online courses are asynchronous, meaning students watch recorded lectures and take quizzes at a time that works for them.
- Students will have increased access to courses. As more colleges and universities move their course offerings online, they will become available to students across the country and around the world.
- Non-traditional students will have an easier time going back to school. As more online courses become available, students with family and work obligations will not have to quit their jobs or take time away from their families to earn their degrees.
In addition, it means that those thinking about going back to school likely need a paradigm shift when it comes to determining which college or university will best meet their needs.
[Find out how you can earn college credit for life experience.]
5 Tips to Finding the Right Online Learning Opportunity:
- Passion and Profession. Identify your passion and merge it with a profession.
Just because a course is online does not mean that it will be any less rigorous than a traditional course. In fact, it will likely be more challenging—and rewarding—which is why you should approach enrolling in an online degree program the same way you would approach a traditional program: as an investment, something you intend to do for the rest of your life.
- Search topics of interest on LearningAdvisor.com.
With the explosion of online courses and MOOCs, it can be difficult to find the right class. Resources such as LearningAdvisor.com, which brings thousands of online courses onto one searchable site, can be extremely helpful. Many courses are free, so you can try online learning before you invest a lot of money.
- Find Brain Candy.
Don’t play it safe when picking a class. Feed your mind with classes ranging from the “Chemistry of Beer” to “The Science of Happiness” and everything in between.
- Talk to other students.
Students who have taken online courses can be a valuable resource. They will tell you about the good, the bad, and the ugly. You can also read their online reviews.
- Consider a hybrid course.
Many courses blend the best of traditional learning with the best of online learning. They allow you to take the courses online and come to campus for skills training.
Fox 25 News Features StudentAdvisor
Watch StudentAdvisor Editor-in-Chief Dean Tsouvalas talk about the online learning study on Fox 25 News Boston.
Tell us more about online courses you’ve taken in the comments below.