The virtual classroom has gone mainstream for today’s students

Sally Rummel for TC Times writes: While traditional classroom settings are still the norm for most students in the U.S., especially in K-12 schools, online learning has become a mainstream reality for most college and university students today.

 The trend toward online learning prompted the Michigan Legislature to pass a law in 2006 to require all Michigan high school students to take at least one online course during their high school career, with the goal of preparing students for this virtual style of learning.

 Today, more than 80 percent of public universities and half of all private colleges offer at least one fully online program. Approximately 30 percent of all college students take at least one online course and almost three million are earning their degree entirely online, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

 Education analysts estimate that eventually, one-third of college students will study fully online, one-third will study only on campus and one-third will do both.

 Business is the most sought after online degree at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

 Despite of the popularity of online learning, the campus environment still remains the main hub of daily life for most students. Students taking online classes must often visit a campus to obtain materials, join study groups or do research. It becomes a hybrid approach to learning, offering the best of both worlds for many students.

 Professional fields such as business, information technology, nursing and criminal justice have the largest online enrollments, but online degrees are now available in more specialized studies — from aeronautics to radiology.

 Central Michigan University emerged in a tie with State University of New York College of Technology at Delhi for the top spot for online bachelor’s degree programs, rated by U.S. News & World Report.

 The online graduate business program at Indiana University at Bloomington ranked first. Rankings for all online programs were based on peer reputation, student engagement, faculty credentials and training, student services and technology and admissions selectivity.

How to get the most out of an online education:

STEP 1: Read the syllabus

 Highlight and record due dates for assignments and threaded discussions.

STEP 2: Plan weekly study times

 Time management is vital. Plan a regular study time, blocking off set times each week on your calendar.

STEP 3: Log onto the course home a minimum of three times per week.

 Get in the habit of checking in consistently to read discussion posts, instructor announcements and/or review course materials. While you’re logged on, get involved and be an active participant in discussions. You will enhance your learning experience by feeling a part of a community.

STEP 4: Ask questions

 If you have a question about course content, need clarification on a difficult concept, ask. Know what you are asking and why. Be clear and concise in your communication.

STEP 5: Make connections with fellow students

 Connecting with online classmates and building a learning community is easier than you think, with all the social tools and apps available today. You can send an email to ask a question, create a Facebook group for your class or even create a small study group. If you’re assigned to a group project, try Google Docs, and Google+ Hangouts, an app that allows you to video chat and discuss in real time, share documents and web pages.

Source: Online Learning Insights

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