Some universities now offer their courses on the Internet so that people can study online. Is this a positive or negative development?
It is true that online courses are becoming a common feature of university education. Although there are some drawbacks of Internet-based learning, I would argue that there are far more benefits.
The main drawback of the trend towards online university courses is that there is less direct interaction. Students may not have the opportunity to engage face-to-face with their teachers, and will instead have to rely on written forms of communication. Similarly, students who study online do not come into direct contact with each other, and this could have a negative impact on peer support, discussion and exchange of ideas. For example, whereas students on traditional courses can attend seminars and even discuss their subjects over coffee after lessons, online learners are restricted to chatting through website forum areas. These learners may also lack the motivation and element of competition that face-to-face group work brings.
Despite the negatives mentioned above, I believe that online university courses are a positive development for various reasons. Firstly, they allow learners to study in a flexible way, meaning that they can work whenever and wherever is convenient, and they can cover the material at their own pace. Secondly, the cost of a university education can be greatly reduced, while revenues for institutions may increase as more students can be taught. Finally, online learning offers open access to anybody who is willing to study, regardless of age, location, ability and background. For example, my uncle, who is 65 years old, has recently enrolled on an online MBA course in a different country, which would have been impossible in the days before Internet-based education.
In conclusion, while I recognise the possible disadvantages of online learning, I consider it to be a positive development overall.