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Exploring the benefits and downsides of online courses

Taking an online course allows students to do their work from anywhere at anytime, as long as they have access to a computer. (Courtesy of UMass Lowell)

Christina Laderoute
Connector Editor

Gaining a college education does not mean that students must sit in a classroom three days a week. Online classes are a great alternative for those students that cannot fit the time into their schedule to make it to school and have a face-to-face class.

Of course, like anything else, online classes have their benefits and drawbacks.

According to Mary Barrett, the associate director of Student Services, some benefits of online courses include their extensive flexibility. If a student has access to a computer, they can take classes from anywhere. Online courses provide higher education access to a wider range of students.

For example, an online student could be someone who lives anywhere around the world and wants academics that this university makes available. They might not have access to a specific course because of their location.

Another benefit of the flexibility is that if a student has a physical or psychological situation where they would not be comfortable in a classroom, they can still get the same education as someone that is on campus.

Julian Zamudio, a senior computer engineering major, says he took online classes during the summer of his junior year, as well as this semester. Zamudio says that the benefits of taking online classes is that “[you are] able to do work under your own time under the restricted timeframe that you have to do it within.”

He says that some of the drawbacks are: “When you take exams or quizzes, they disappear after the date so it’s hard for you to make them up.”

He also says, “It’s harder to communicate with the professor individually with questions or concerns. The email system through Blackboard is difficult to work with versus the UMass Lowell Outlook email.”

When transitioning from face-to-face classes to online classes, it can be hard for some students.

When taking an online class, it is up to the student to take the responsibility to complete each assignment on time.

As with many aspects of student life, personal preference makes a big difference. If one prefers more hands-on learning and more face-to-face access to a professor, online classes may not be a good fit. If one likes to study in the comfort of one’s room and does not mind reading assignments instead of hearing about them, an online course would be worth a try.

Zamudio says, “If you take the classes in the spring or fall, it is much more difficult to be on top of things because you are distracted with your fellow peers and face-to-face classes.”

There are other upsides to online classes though. Threads exist where students are encouraged and typically assigned to post about their thoughts and ideas, and their classmates are encouraged to read through it. It can be beneficial for someone to see other ideas and positions on a topic or problem.

Another positive to online courses is that when taking a quiz or exam, a student can be in the comfort of their own environment rather than a classroom. For some, this could help with stress and anxiety levels, thus improving grades.

Zamudio says that his least favorite things about online courses are that “Blackboard can take away access to discussions, exams and quizzes when they are past due. You’re more prone to technical problems when you try to post or do the assignments on time. [And lastly,] the email system is difficult to be aware of because it doesn’t link with your Outlook [account].”

When asked if he would recommend online courses, Zamudio says “Only for winter and summer seasons, because you are away from the distractions of your fellow peers and school activities. Also, you have more control of your comfort setting over the summer and winter and you are only engaged in those [online] classes. [Whereas in the] spring and fall, you are engaged in student activities as well as have a social life.”

Christina Laderoute

Music photojournalist. President of UML's student-run record label, Seven Six Records.

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  1. Rocky Murasing said:

    Hi Christina,
    I think e-learning has more advantages than the disadvantages people sought about. Specially disabled learners are much benefited from this.

  2. Thomas Westgren said:

    I like how you mentioned that online education is great because people can post their individual thoughts and ideas. This seems like it would be really helpful to me because you could have the opportunity to learn from one another rather than simply learning from the professor. You’d probably be able to find really good friends this way as well, and study buddies too!

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