UC Answers: What are the benefits of online learning?

UC Clermont accounting professor shares insights about online education

Patty Goedl, PhD, is an associate professor of accounting at UC Clermont who has been teaching in-person and online courses for more than a decade. She has presented on best practices for online teaching at multiple academic conferences and has published a peer-reviewed journal article examining grade equivalencies between online and in-person courses.

How will online learning compare to in-person classes this fall?

Online learning has evolved significantly over the last two decades. Faculty use similar methods to deliver content in both online and in-person courses. With the technologies available today, faculty can recreate much of the in-person experience online.

For example, I use technologies provided by the university to record a series of lectures for each topic in my class. The recorded lectures are similar to the lectures I would give in an in-person class. In either course format, online or in person, the student is learning by listening to my lectures and actively working through the content with me. I also use software to oversee my exams so students receive a proctored final regardless if the course is online or in person.

What are some of the advantages of online learning?

A major advantage of online learning is that the content is more accessible for students that need to hear the information more than once. In many traditional classrooms, students attend the lecture at a specified time and that is their only opportunity to hear the lecture. If they get confused or miss a point during the lecture, the professor has already moved on and the student is no longer effectively learning.

In an online classroom, students have the flexibility to review the lecture or other posted materials as many times as they need to learn the content. If they miss a point, they can review that section until the concept clicks. Further, in my experience, students are sometimes more comfortable asking questions in an online classroom versus interrupting the professor’s lecture to ask a question in a physical classroom. 

What would you say to a student or parent who is concerned about the online education experience?

We are a technical society and a significant number of everyday activities, such as shopping, getting information and socializing, are routinely conducted online. This online space is also an effective way to deliver educational content. Online learning is facilitated using the same technologies that are already an integral part of everyday life for most faculty and students. In addition to delivering the content, faculty can use this online space to create a sense of community that is similar to the online social media communities that many students already engage in on a daily basis. 

How can a student have the best online learning experience?

The key to successful online learning is weekly participation. Two common misconceptions are that online courses are easier and that the work can be submitted at any point during the semester. Both are untrue. Online courses cover the same amount of material and require as much work as in-person courses.

Most online courses require weekly participation, and students must submit assignments periodically throughout the semester. A student would not expect to attend the last lecture of the semester and do well in an in-person course. The same is true online. Successful students participate regularly in their online courses.

Which is better — online or in person?

In most disciplines, online learning is not better or worse than in-person learning. It is just a different way of delivering the same content. Both modes of delivery have pros and cons.

After a decade of teaching online and in-person sections of accounting courses every semester, I don’t feel that students have a better educational experience taking in-person courses. The social experience might be different but the educational experience is equivalent in my opinion. In some cases, students even do better online since they have unlimited access to the content and feel more comfortable asking questions.


Featured image at top of Patty Goedl by Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative + Brand

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