Online Education in United States

The realm of online education is an increasing technological service utilized for information attainment in the United States. School systems are currently implementing computerized distance learning to teach upper level coursework that is not offered via a classroom setting. Many students solely rely on online education for their primary means of information attainment. Today, nearly two million students across the United States alone are enrolled in applied online classes (Solnik). Although the online education system may be beneficial in providing upper level learning, it can detract from needed teacher-to-student interactions that prepare an individual for success in a world of social and employment dependency.

The online education system, developed in the late twentieth century, has abruptly been on the rise in the last two decades. In 2018, it was measured that approximately ninety eight percent of public and private universities in the United States cohesively implement online education into their systems (Ferrer). High schools and other primary institutions have also begun implementation of distance learning into their curricula. Many of these public schools feed their students into other online systems, which allows for dual-enrollment. From an anecdotal level, I have been involved in three separate, dual-enrollment online initiatives that have shaped my view on this educational subject. Growing up in a rural community and relatively underpopulated high school, teachers of upper level advanced placement courses were at a premium. The majority of the challenging courses offered at my high school were those of the humanities, revolving heavily around historical studies. After realizing that my outlets for advanced learning were limited in my high school, I began searching for opportunities to challenge myself further than what was tangibly offered. In the latter part of my sophomore year, I applied and was later accepted into the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) Distance Learning program. This program cultivates academically gifted individuals from over ninety North Carolina counties who are reveled with high level, multidisciplinary coursework. In the fall of my junior year of high school, I took my first course in the online education program; the course of which was termed Classical Genetics. Throughout my epoch of study in the NCSSM institution, I was able to learn advanced material in the biological and chemical sciences that I would have never received at my local high school. Although this form of education was fostered by online communication and technologically structured, there were many positive takeaways from this specific system. In this program, instructors of every course were required at minimum to have a masters degree in their particular field of study. I was fortunate to have three professors of whom had doctoral degrees in their respective fields and were knowledgeable regarding their subjects. These professors held weekly webinars that required mandatory attendance. In each webinar, class material that was assigned online was the center for discussion, as the teachers were willing to help and facilitate a learning environment. Instructors also formulated their own lecture materials and compiled them into easily accessible video files that would explain, in detail, a particular objective. Aside from the online applications of these courses, each class would have what was titled an “online weekend” where students would gather collectively at the school’s campus in Durham, North Carolina to perform comprehensive labs. Professors would also give lectures on difficult material that the class was struggling with as a whole, which, for the most part, is not offered through other online venues. The application of this online learning style proves how this educational form can be enriched with positives. Unlike many online education cultures, the NCSSM program provided more than just notes that are synchronically placed into Microsoft Word or PDF files. Instead, the program furnished intellectual thought and discussion that was not monotonously imbued with assessments and obscure notes.

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Aside from my anecdotal experience within the NCSSM online system, others have identified positives throughout online education. Many argue that a key facet of distance and technological learning is that content within certain courses are kept up to date (Online Education: Pros and Cons). There is no ambiguity between the student and his or her work through this outlet, as due dates and important assessments are clearly defined. Tracking of grades and course progress is also at one’s fingertips when involved in online courses. According to authors Goodfellow and Lamy, schoolwork via an online setting can be easily accessed by the student, even with a simple smartphone or handheld device (Goodfellow and Lamy 113).

Although the online education system can render positive takeaways that aid one’s learning, it does consist of a number of impediments that are not ideal for student growth. Common disadvantages outlined in a number of studies show that there are challenges regarding internet access as well as minimal teacher interaction (Baleni). As a dual-enrolled online student, I was able to witness firsthand some of these identified negatives. When I was a junior in high school, I began taking online courses via my local community college: Sampson Community College. In the SCC online program, students would take courses of varying difficulty in order to attain college credit and “boost” their high school grade point averages. The courses that I took revolved around the fine arts and foreign languages so that I could inevitably receive college credit for my completion of these classes. During my time in this specific program, however, I was taxed with minimal professional assistance from my instructors. I never kept any contact with my instructors as all of my grades were graded by a computerized code that provided only instantaneous feedback. The course material, assigned readings, and notes were unclear, leaving many students questioning how they complete a particular assignment. Lack of teacher to student communication was the biggest disadvantage of this online education route. Most of the covered material was to be completed in a month long course, in which time was a constraint that overlooked the attainment of subject knowledge. These courses, although relatively simplistic and easy to obtain a desirable grade, do not prepare one for inevitable success in the workforce. Information is not taught to the same congruence of in-class, tangible sessions, which is a downside of this technological application.

Disadvantages of the online education system can also be viewed through the lens of other outlets such as the North Carolina Virtual Public Schools (NCVPS) system. When I was a senior in high school, I became interested in engaging myself with complex mathematical courses. These courses included advanced placement physics and calculus but were not offered at my high school. I enrolled myself into the NCVPS online education system to take these rather difficult field courses. Throughout these courses, minimal feedback was provided by the instructors and notes were only provided via powerpoints and word documents with no verbal exemplifications. Being that these courses require assiduous study by nature, it was extremely difficult to learn the material and successfully maintain a high average in these courses. Although the course material was accurate and time was not a constraint, as opposed to the community college courses, it was indeed hard to obtain and master the course content by monotonous independent reading. Synonymously, a study compiled at North Carolina State University showed that many students struggle in these higher level courses due to limited social interaction (Kumar). Networking opportunities in this route are also at a minimum. Students never develop a true sociological image of who their professors and classmates are for a specific class. As a result, bonds and peer relationships are thus limited and social networking is confined. This detracts from social networking and human interaction, which is highly beneficial in a world based on merit and the communicational lattices one creates. From my own perspective, I do not, among the slightest, remember the names of my online educators from both the community college outlet and NCVPS venue. This is a significant problem and constraint of the online education system, which bolsters the argument that its negative facets are detrimental to students seeking higher challenges in their studies.

Online education, although argued by many to be strictly beneficial, can be both positive and negative for student enrichment. However, distance learning is currently overtaking the traditional classroom setting, which has potentiality of job destruction for those interested in the career of face-to-face teaching.

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Online Education in United States. (2021, Dec 15). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/online-education-in-united-states/