Are Online Courses Even Worth It?

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Kave Amini Illustration

There are a lot of benefits that come with taking an online course over being in class, but the rate of students who drop out are exceedingly high.

“I used to take them [online courses] but I didn’t like it because I found it harder and some people have to force themselves to learn the material,” says Dalal Dali, third-year social science major and psychology minor student at the University of Ottawa.

Enrollment in online courses are rapidly rising, however, retention is falling. According to an article from Sage Journals, 40 to 80 per cent of online students drop out of online courses. When reviewed, online courses were found to have more social, technological and motivational issues for the students learning the material and faculty teaching the course.

“I feel like when you take them [online courses] you are probably working from home and are way more distracted. Having to teach it to yourself takes more motivation,” says Faith Jones-Epp, first-year psychology major student at uOttawa. “When you’re not in class once a week it gets difficult to follow the material.”

Doing online courses allows you to work at your own pace instead of sitting in a long lecture waiting for the professor to explain the material. Not all students are able to attend school full-time because they can’t fit it into their schedule so online is the only other option.

“The advantages are that you could always go back to any lecture and rewatch it if you didn’t understand a specific topic,” says Shivam Bhandari, second-year chemical and environmental engineering major at Carleton University. “Sometimes class can be boring and slow. In these situations, I often skimmed through the lecture and was able to better manage my time.”

Some advantages to learning in-class are that you are able to socialize and learn with your classmates. Interacting with your peers can encourage you to think from different perspectives.

“I think it depends on the students. Students want to have a choice. Also depends on the material they are learning because chemistry experiments are difficult to do online but not impossible,” says Anna Bowles, professor for the faculty of education at the University of Ottawa.

“Maybe they are taking a course that they have to take to get their degree so they aren’t as interested. Maybe they think the online assignments aren’t marked or watched as heavily,” says Bowles.

Bowles, who teaches both online as well as in-class, makes sure she refers to the online course material during her in-class lectures and goes over them as an extension of the online material. This prompts the students to familiarize themselves with the material, making it easier for them to follow along in class.

Whether you prefer more hands-on help or you work better alone, there are many factors to consider before making a decision.