Learning, online

Cannot say with certainty whether I’m back on the horse or not. My time has been spent somewhat productively interning, working on my Portuguese, and trying to get my personal finances in order.

I am captivated by the immense popularity of the “online courses” used to fill out a student’s schedule, a notion that seems personally absurd. A majority of my tertiary learning, to date, revolves around the rapport one gains with the professor and the communal engagement experienced while participating in a lecture. If anything, my collegiate courses have been one of my few escapes from the cognitive effects of hours and hours of daily scatterbrained web-surfing (see: pro and con arguments.) While I certainly strive to devote my internet use to self-improvement and education, the type of learning I do on the internet strays considerably from the meticulous note-taking, research, and application necessary for semester-ending success. Far from nuanced, I’d argue that the two types of learning are night-and-day.

Upon further analysis, I came across a startling realization: more so than a solution for the lazy, prospective students across the globe can receive an accredited B.A. or B.S. from many of the United States’ most popular and well-known colleges without stepping foot in America.

To the dismay of 4-year-students everywhere, the advent of the world campus is likely here to stay. In many of the same ways that online banks have been able to carve out a dedicated following over their brick-and-mortar counterparts, online colleges provide an attractive option: all of the frills, bells, and whistles of the much-sought-after American degree, without any of the frivolous overhead. As more and more colleges see their endowments shrink, universities will continually seek out more lucrative sources of income. Drawing on this conclusion, the online space will expand dramatically, regardless of backlash.

Students and professors alike share numerous concerns with respect to the possible implications of the online degree. However, my internship experience has shaped my perspective in a contrasting, and surprising light: you may be better cognitively conditioned for the corporate world via an online education than the current collegiate learning model.

Learning to be productive online is one of the most important tasks for anyone working in the internet age. Companies institute draconian internet filters to prevent employee distraction, and the web is saturated with blogs and apps providing tips and tools for focusing while “wired.” The ability to succeed in an online degree-program requires focus and singular thought, all in front of a computer monitor. This ability is a requisite that many children of the internet age do not have. I personally can attest to the internet’s utility as a convenient escape in the midst of a particularly arduous paper.

While I still feel as if there is no substitute for the 4-year-institution, I am curious to see how the online education space continually evolves and adapts, ultimately being able to provide an almost identical service at a substantially reduced rate.

2 thoughts on “Learning, online

  1. Ethan – You clearly did a lot of research for this post. Very insightful and interesting. The conference I attended yesterday actually brought up some of these themes about online learning. Specifically, we discussed how to develop more engaged and interactive communities in these online courses. The experience of world campus students will no doubt be different than the “traditional” on-campus education- but there are certainly benefits to both models. I think that it is important to consider the unique nature of these online learning environments and ways that relationships and community can be cultivated.


    1. Thanks for the comment! I’ve been trying to follow the conversation online regarding the “internet is making you dumber/smarter” argument (this post by Clay Shirky is a good introduction.)

      Although I’m not entirely familiar with the platform, I know that SecondLife is used as an educational tool (an interesting instructor’s perspective here.) Certainly brings the social aspect into it.


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