Pursuing an online degree while balancing your personal and professional life requires a considerable amount of time and dedication. Thanks to today’s technological advancements, online students now have the tools needed to easily manage and succeed in their online course work. When utilized correctly, these tools can help online students reach their goals.
According to the United States Department of Education, online learning can be defined as education that is conducted either partially or entirely via the Internet. This description also includes “hybrid” learning, a form of online education that requires students to spend a certain amount of time attending classroom sessions, while the rest of their coursework is completed online. Universities have begun to increasingly offer these courses, including entire degree programs administered online but to accurately outline online learning as it is today requires a look at how technology has advanced and continues to propel this growing form of education.
Online learning has become one of the main forms of education in today’s technologically driven world, yet the history stems back further than one would think. As online education has evolved into what we know it as today, technology has also advanced. Years ago the ability to access schoolwork from any location at any given time was an abstract idea, while today the vast amount of tools and resources available for online students continues to increase. These tools continue to develop into assets that allow students to effectively manage their studies, take tests and communicate with fellow students and instructors.
Increase in Online Education
In a study completed by the Babson Survey Research Group, over the past 10 years, the number of college students enrolled in at least one online course continues to increase year after year. This growth in enrollment is an indicator that students have the ability and resources to manage their own workload and many prefer it. Allowing students to pursue their education at their own pace and through individualized learning methods, in turn creates enhanced learning opportunities for online students. Strictly brick and mortar institutions may not be able to provide the same degree of access to courses as those that offer online instruction, therefore becoming less desirable for students looking to accelerate their education or who do not necessarily have the time or ability to attend formal in-person classes.
Technology and Your Online Degree
The evolution of the Internet and advances in technology has increasingly made distance learning more accessible and easier to manage. Through a variety of resources, students now have the ability to accelerate their education at their own pace and with these tools are able to maintain a sense of connection to fellow students and instructors. Below are three ways online students can utilize technology while pursuing their online degree:
Manage Your Workload
Learning Management Systems (LMS), such as Blackboard or Moodle are two examples of software applications designed to serve as a form of an online classroom. These systems offer instructors a way to assign tasks, deliver information, and moderate student performance while providing students a centralized location to participate through interactive elements. Students can submit work as well as complete tests and assignments. These portals also offer features such as:
- Course management
- Tools for completing assessments
- Threaded discussions
- Video conferencing
- Grade management and progress tracking
- Discussion forums
- Student management tools
- Communication methods with other students
An important element that is often a concern for many online students is finding effective ways to stay connected with classmates and instructors. While looking into an online degree program, some students worry they will feel a lack of personal connection yet through the use of different technologies, these gaps can be bridged.
With online streaming, students have the ability to set up video conferences or stream audio lectures provided on learning management systems. Instructors utilize these forms of technology to make the online education process more engaging and diverse to encourage student interaction. Although the use of streaming audio and video creates a more personable experience between teachers and students, there are also resources available to connect students.
For example, Facebook groups are often created to allow students to subscribe and access course information and updates. These private groups are limited to only class registrants and are another way students can stay in touch, ask questions and engage one another in relevant discussions. The use of forums and discussion boards is one way that teachers can monitor question and answer sessions between students while providing input as well.
Take Your Education on the Go
Along with the advancement of mobile phones and tablets, innovative software and app development have resulted in a plethora of different resources and tools that make online education accessible through handheld devices and tablets. These apps have become another step towards making online education and coursework available wherever there is access to the internet. Many of the resources mentioned above have mobile applications including Blackboard and Moodle, although there are several other beneficial applications to mention:
- Wi-Fi Finder: Quickly find free or paid Wi-Fi for your mobile device
- Pocket: Place articles and videos in a central location for easy access later
- Facebook Group: access class Facebook groups to stay connected with classmates on the go
- Skype: A version of the video software application
- Languages: access to downloadable language dictionaries
- Evernote: collect information all in one place, connect with others and save favorite webpages during research
Technology in online education continues to evolve and develop, creating a more manageable and ultimately, more enjoyable experience for students seeking to enhance their careers with an advanced online degree. Purdue University online students studying their Master of Science in Education in Learning Design and Technology utilize these tools and resources available as their first step to succeed in their career.