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Tcp1 Task 2

In: English and Literature

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ONLINE EDUCATION FOR NON-TRADITIONAL STUDENTS

Student Name
English Composition II
July 31, 2014
Unlike the typical college freshman attending the university of their dreams immediately after high school, the college experience for the non-traditional student is quite different. Most non-traditional students are not attending college immediately after high school, they are returning students who have not finished their college education, or they may be full-time working adults or parents who are trying to obtain their education around their already busy schedules. Students of this type need to have alternate paths to choose from which will allow them to meet their other obligations and needs first. These types of students need to be able to balance their personal lives while also being able to successfully reach their ultimate goal, obtaining a college degree. These types of students will likely take a different approach than attending a brick and mortar school. While some students require the more traditional university experience, research shows that an online education is often better suited for the non-traditional student because it is more flexible and convenient, affordable, and can offer a high quality education.
An online education is a more flexible and convenient learning format to choose from when compared to the traditional university experience. This benefits non-traditional students because many of them are working adults who need the convenience and flexibility offered by an online education program so they can pursue their coursework and studies in additional to their full time jobs. In this type of learning environment, “the learner is provided with choices and/or options in terms of what, where, when, why, and how they learn. Providing choice in any one of these areas creates flexibility” (Hill, 2006, p. 191). Because this flexibility and convenience exists in an online program and does not in a traditional university experience, many non-traditional students will be better suited for this model. Whether the student chooses to study and complete their coursework on lunch breaks, before work or after work at the comfort of their home, the online learning format allows them flexibility and convenience that is not offered in the classroom and in the traditional college experience.
According to a study of physicians’ experiences with online learning by Dyrbye, Cumyn, Day, and Heflin (2009), students find online learning is the most convenient and flexible when compared to a traditional learning environment. The results in the study show that the number one response to why these professional, non-traditional students take online courses is because of the flexibility and convenience this learning format allows. This is partially because the students can learn their coursework at their own pace, possibly from the comfort of their own homes and can do so when they choose to. These types of students may study at night after their children are put to bed or during their days off during the weekends. With the flexibility and convenience offered in an online learning model, the student is no longer bound by a set schedule to complete their education.
Another benefit that comes from the convenience and flexibility of an online education is efficiency and time savings. There are specific issues presented by attending a traditional university that are non-existent when taking online courses. For example, non-traditional students who already have a lengthy commute to and from their workplace each day can eliminate an additional commute to school. The time taken to commute to school, find parking and walking sometimes lengthy distances to class are only some of the issues that students attending college online will not be faced with. In populated areas there can be problems with traffic congestion and commuting even short distances to a university can take hours. However, when attending an online college, “students do not have to worry much about daily or weekly commuting and parking hassles when coming to the campus” (Lei & Gupta, 2010, p. 623). The non-traditional student may not be able to get to evening classes because of the long commute or they may have children at home that need their attention first. Because of these efficiencies and time savings benefits, these non-traditional students are better suited for an online college experience because they can eliminate the wasted time spent on commuting to and from school, finding parking, and walking to classes. These students can log onto their computers to study at their convenience without enduring these inefficient time wasting efforts.
In additional to be able to arrive for class as quickly as logging onto a computer, some online colleges allow the students to complete coursework and entire degree program quicker than they would normally be allowed to do so in the traditional university setting, creating a shorter path to success for these students. Take for example Western Governors University. “The university champions a competency-based learning model that allows students to leverage online-learning resources and work at their own pace--completing degrees that often take 55 months in 30” (Milliron, 2010, p. B32). When students can eliminate the time taken to commute to school, finding parking, walking to classes, and they can be done with their coursework in significantly less time than attending a traditional university, they are better able to focus on other areas in their lives, such as the priorities and needs which make them a non-traditional student in the first place.
In addition to the convenience and flexibility offered by an online education, the non-tradition student will find that this method of education is affordable. Some online colleges offer comparable tuitions to a traditional university experience, but in some cases, an online education can be much less expensive than tuition at the universities. This is important for the non-traditional student as the escalating costs required for a college education are often too high for many students who cannot afford to stop working to obtain a degree (Bromley, 2010). This is why an affordable education is essential for the non-traditional student who does not have the financial resources to attend a traditional brick and mortar school. As online colleges do not restrict a student to live near their facilities, the online student can evaluate all online programs and seek out the most affordable program to best suit their needs, regardless of the location.
Take for example the adult student who does not have the financial resources to quit their job and attend college as a full time student in a traditional university. By having an affordable alternative and being able to complete their entire education online, this student can go back to college and obtain a degree without having to forfeit their primary source of income. Without a viable alternative to the traditional brick and mortar university experience, this type of student may not have the flexibility to obtain further education. In an article written by the current president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Reif (2013) acknowledges the rising costs of college education and indicates that colleges around the world are competing in the online arena to combat these rising costs. When more and more colleges are competing to offer affordable online education programs, the non-traditional student has more options to choose from than having to enroll at the closest university. This makes attending college for the non-traditional student more realistic because there are more affordable options to them.
Speaking to the lower costs that can be offered by online education, Reif (2013) states that educational institutions will incur lower operating costs when providing these types of courses, which can be passed down to the students. For example, Harvard and MIT have both recently released fully online learning programs and over 1.25 million students have accessed these learning modules (Reif 2013). These attendance figures show there is a significant increase in popularity with online education because it is affordable, which is especially attractive to the non-traditional student. These online course offerings will lower the cost to the education system and the savings may be seen by the student.
In addition to the actual tuition, many universities have additional costs and fees that online education programs do not have. These include the cost of books, other study materials, health, student, and parking fees. The costs of books for some students may be as high as $200 per class. However, many online programs include free access to education materials, thus providing additional savings to the students. There are also the costs of transportation to the traditional college, which may include the costs for public transportation or the high cost of gasoline for taking a personal vehicle. These additional costs eat into the pocket books of students and act as a deterrent for many non-traditional students who have other bills to cover. However, these costs do not exist when taking courses online. Milliron (2010) indicates that only about 50% of students will finish a college degree and less than 25% will complete their education if they are low-income students. Milliron asserts that these statistics show a legitimate need for non-traditional students to have an affordable alternative to the more costly brick and mortar school. “Traditional methods aimed at traditional students won't work (Milliron, 2010, p. B31).” To avoid these unnecessary costs completely, non-traditional students are better suited to undertake an online education experience instead of going through the traditional college experience.
As previously illustrated, the online college experience is more flexible, convenient, and affordable when compared to the traditional brick and mortar college experience. However, a student needs to also analyze the quality of education they will be receiving. In addition to the aforementioned benefits, an online program can offer a high quality education. With the rapid increase in technology, access to the internet, high technology self-efficacy, online education for certain non-traditional students can be as high of quality as what is offered at the traditional university. However, only certain types of students may thrive in an online format.
According to study results appearing in an article by Wang, Shannon, and Ross (2013), those students who have high technology self-efficacy will do better in an online learning environment than they would do in a classroom setting. The opposite is also true. Students who have little experience using online business or education programs may experience difficulties with online schools. The results and findings from the study of 256 students identified that those who have previously taken online courses will do better because they are more aware of what is needed to complete the class (Wang, Shannon, & Ross, 2013). The authors assert that students who are self-regulated, can set aside quiet time to study and complete program materials in an appropriate setting will be the most successful in an online learning environment (Wang et al., 2013).
In another study published in the “British Journal of Educational Technology” that compared online learning to a traditional education, Emerson and McKay (2011) state that most of the student outcomes were similar, including student satisfaction, quality of education and the learning process. Their findings indicate that certain non-traditional students who are driven, motivated to succeed, and can work independently without much assistance from other students can thrive in an online education. (Emerson & McKay, 2011). These types of students can obtain critical thinking skills and master the study materials as well or better than when they receive the same instructional material in a traditional education setting. For these reasons they students obtain a high quality of education from attending an online college instead of the traditional university.
According to a study by Dibiase and Kidwai (2010), an online education can offer a high quality education, but this method of learning is better suited for certain types of students, including adult learners. This study further concludes that certain types of students will do better in an online format than other types of students. The authors’ findings include research showing that certain non-traditional students, such as adults, have a better attitude towards learning in this type of environment and do receive a high quality education (Dibiase & Kidwai, 2010). Dibiase and Kidwai noted that learning in a standard, campus-based institution is better suited for younger students because some of these types of students are not capable of pulling together the resources offered in an online education and may need more face-to-face guidance to help them get through a course successfully. Further, some younger students rely on the assistance of their peers. However, certain non-traditional students, including adult learners, are more capable of meeting the demands of self-paced studies and internal discipline associated with online education.
Another aspect to be considered when speaking to the quality of an online education is how it is received in the professional world. As more and more students are obtaining an online education they need to know if the same employment opportunities will be available to them. These students need to understand whether or not job recruiters will perceive this form of education to be as high of quality as the traditional university education. Research conducted by Tabatabaei and Gardiner (2012) shows that employers no longer regard the traditional university based education as superior to education obtained in an online setting. Tabatabaei and Gardiner suggest that along with the significant increase in the number of students receiving an online education in recent years , the quality of this type of education has also increased significantly. Because of this, the perception of job recruiters toward these students has changed. Many job recruiters no longer feel that an online education model is the less preferred method when compared to the traditional university experience because they see that it does offer a high quality education.
An online education has never been more popular than it is now and educational institutions are racing to compete in this arena (Lei & Gupta, 2010). An online education can eliminate problems with overcrowded classrooms and the number of classes available all while providing a high quality education. Non-traditional students who attend online classes, including working adults and parents, will no longer have to spend time commuting to and from school. They will no longer have to face other frustrations with having to physically be in a classroom such as having to find parking and walking potentially lengthy distances across campus to be in class. They will no longer be bothered by class clowns or face other, in-class distractions. These types of students have the flexibility to study and complete coursework around their own schedules. They will no longer be limited to attending a school in their area because they can access any online education programs from the convenience of their own homes or offices. They can seek out the most affordable online education, or one that meets their financial needs, and the decision will not be based on proximity to their location. While some students do require the more traditional university experience, research shows that an online education is often better suited for the non-traditional student because it is more flexible and convenient, affordable, and can offer a high quality education.

Bromley, P. (2010). Online learning: Anywhere anytime education for specialist nursing. Neonatal, Paediatric & Child Health Nursing, 13(3), 2-6.
Dibiase, D. & Kidwai, K. (2010). Wasted on the young? Comparing the performance and attitudes of younger and older US adults in an online class on geographic information. Journal Of Geography In Higher Education, 34(3), 299-326. doi:10. 1080/03098265. 2010. 490906
Dyrbye, L. , Cumyn, A. , Day, H. , & Heflin, M. (2009). A qualitative study of physicians' experiences with online learning in a master’s degree program: Benefits, challenges, and proposed solutions. Medical Teacher, 31(2), 40-46. doi:10. 1080/01421590802366129
Emerson, L. , & MacKay, B. (2011). A comparison between paper-based and online learning in higher education. British Journal of Educational Technology, 42(5), 727-735.
Hill, J. (2006). Flexible Learning Environments: Leveraging the Affordances of Flexible Delivery and Flexible Learning. Innovative Higher Education, 31(3), 187-197. doi:10.1007/s10755-006-9016-6
Milliron, M. (2010). Online education vs. traditional learning: Time to end the family feud. Chronicle Of Higher Education, 57(11), B30-B32.
Lei, S. A., & Gupta, R. K. (2010). College distance education courses: Evaluating benefits and costs from institutional, faculty and students' perspectives. Education, 130(4), 616-631. Reif, L. (2013). Online learning will make college cheaper. It will also make it better. Time, 182(15), 54.
Tabatabaei, M., & Gardiner, A. (2012). Recruiters' perceptions of information systems graduates with traditional and online education. Journal of Information Systems Education, 23(2), 133-142.
Wang, C., Shannon, D. M., & Ross, M. E. (2013). Students’ characteristics, self-regulated learning, technology self-efficacy, and course outcomes in online learning. Distance Education, 34(3), 302-323. doi:10. 1080/01587919. 2013. 835779

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