Link to Home - Montgomery College Maryland
Academic Planning Transfer Career/Jobs Testing (Assessment/Placement) Academic Support Campus Life

Online Student Success Center   

Ten Disadvantages of Online Courses

How could there possibly be any disadvantages of online courses? Read on.

1. Online courses require more time than on-campus classes.

Believe it or not, you will spend more time studying and completing assignments in the online environment than you will in an on-campus course. How can that be? The online environment is text-based. To communicate with your instructor and other students, you must type messages, post responses and otherwise communicate using your fingers (i.e. through typing). As you can probably guess, typing is slower than speaking. (Try reading each word as you type it and compare the difference if you had spoken the same thing.) In the same sense, reading your lecture materials can take more time than listening to an instructor deliver them, although spoken lectures have a distinct disadvantage. If you are sitting in a classroom, it's likely that you'll miss a good percentage of what the instructor says, no matter how focused you are. It's human nature to zone out for brief periods of time. When you are reading, you will have a tendency to go back over the notes if you miss something and that takes more time. The point is that you will likely learn more in an online environment, but you will have to make a greater effort to accomplish that learning.

2. Online courses make it easier to procrastinate.

Just as there is a dark side to that controversial property known as the Force, there is a dark side to Internet-based courses. The dark side starts with procrastination. Procrastination is to a student what Darth Maul is to Qui Gon. Procrastination will chop you to bits in an online course. There is no one to tell you to get to class on time. There is no one reminding you that assignments are due or that exams are coming. There is no one to preach to you, beg with you, plead with you to stay on top of your coursework. (Sounds pretty good, huh?) It's easy to put off reading and assignments in the online environment. Before you know it, weeks have gone by, you haven't done any homework and it's exam time. Scary bad. Creepy anxious. Too real.

3. Online courses require good time-management skills.

An Internet-based course demands that you develop personal time-management skills. As with most things, if you don't manage your time properly, you will find yourself buried beneath a seeming insurmountable mountain of coursework. Online courses require the self-discipline to set aside chunks of time to complete your studies. It means you have to make online studying a priority and not let other activities interfere. Sometimes, it means making difficult choices.

4. Online courses may create a sense of isolation.

In an online course, no one can hear you scream. And that causes discomfort for some online students. Studying alone with only the computer as your companion can be terrifying. There's no whispering in the back of the room, no wise remarks from the peanut gallery, no commanding presence at the front of the classroom pleading for everyone to listen. The online environment is a much different atmosphere that takes some getting used to. Hopefully, your online instructor is sensitive to this problem and can help you overcome those feelings. In any case, you should be aware of them and seek help if they start to impede your studies. A quick e-mail to a classmate, your instructor or a counselor can help you feel better connected if the sense of community you seek is missing.

5. Online courses allow you to be more independent.

In my opinion, it's a much better situation for the student. By the time a student enters a community college, they want to be independent. They don't want someone telling them what to do all the time. They want is their freedom. (At least, that's how I was when I went to college.)

6. Online courses require you to be an active learner.

It's a sink or swim proposition and you can't have it both ways. If you desire to become a responsible, self-sufficient, independently minded citizen of this planet, then now's the time to start. Life is not a dress rehearsal. Get busy with it.

7. Online courses don't have an instructor hounding you to stay on task.

I also think it's an advantage for the instructor. I don't have to become the all-powerful Oz and threaten you with dire consequences if you don't do your work. I don't have to control you, manipulate you, scold you, act like a parent or babysitter to you. I can treat you like an adult with the respect that you deserve.

8. Online courses give you more freedom, perhaps, more than you can handle!

This freedom can be dangerous if you don't learn how to handle it.

9. Online courses require that you find your own path to learning.

Personally, I think it is far better to let students find their own way. Instructors can be beacons, lighthouses of knowledge, so to speak, but we can't steer the ship. Hopefully, everyone makes it safely to harbor. Occasionally, someone shipwrecks. But in all cases, everyone learns, and I think that is important.

10. Online courses require you to be responsible for your own learning.

Only you are responsible for your learning. I can't force it on you. I can't make you study. I can share a little knowledge and experience, show you a few tools and hope you get it. The spark and desire to pursue your dreams must be yours.

So, in a philosophical sort of way, the real disadvantage to an Internet-based course is that you might not own up to it. You might not take responsibility for your studies and your goals. You might get way behind and never catch up.

Copied with permission from Sean Chamberlin, Fullerton College


 Content Manager: Anita Crawley

Questions: Germantownn | Rockville | SilverSpring/Takoma Park
Last Updated: July 27, 2006