As an online student earning a master’s degree in communication from Purdue University, I have come to know that some of my most memorable and enriching learning experiences happen within the virtual classroom.
In my mind, there are three unique academic advantages of an online program.
1. Enhanced class discussions: The discussion forum of an online course offers the unique chance to gain an in depth understanding of your classmates’ views. In an in-person class, it’s sometimes hard to hear thoughts from introverted classmates who typically shy away from speaking up.
Through discussion forums, students can also learn how to accept constructive criticism from peers and effectively express gratitude or back up their argument through citations.
2. The chance to improve virtual communication skills: When interacting online, it can be easy for students to lose track of the tone they are projecting. Constructive feedback can come across as critical or arrogant. Thoughts written in a stream of consciousness style can be confusing.
To prevent any miscommunication, I’ve learned to be very organized and to the point in every message I send to my online peers and professors.
An online program also offers the opportunity to become functionally effective with new communication technologies, including new video conferencing tools. Being able to convey a message effectively through a webinar or Skype presentation is becoming essential to entrepreneurs and support staff in numerous industries.
If you have ever felt like your messages just don’t get across, taking an online program will advance your professional communication skills like you never thought possible. After all, with globalization in the 21st century, business will inevitably be conducted from a virtual office.
3. Increased knowledge retention: Let’s face it, without knowledge retention, the whole purpose of enrolling in a program to further your education would be pointless.
A strong online program takes full advantage of the interactive power of social and multimedia. The ability to engage through live or videotaped lectures, webinars and infographics and online groups opens up new channels in which to apply concepts in any given subject.
Multimedia tools have been scientifically proven to improve memory in our brains by providing strong sensory cues that help us remember what we learn. I know from experience that a highlighted section in a textbook is not as memorable as a large, colorful infographic packed with animated images and compelling facts.
The takeaway: If delivered well, online education provides a richer and more interactive classroom, allows students to develop a set of sophisticated virtual communication skills and utilizes the power of multimedia to help students remember what they learn!