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Are there Downsides to Free Online Courses?

Posted By Miranda Marquit On 06/10/2013 @ 12:15 pm In Education | 6 Comments

One of the great things about the Internet is that it offers you the chance to access a great deal of knowledge. In fact, it’s possible to learn a great deal from free online courses [3].

However, there are downsides to online courses. First of all, with free courses, you won’t earn college credit. So if you are interested in getting a degree with online courses, you will need to pay for the credits, and do the schoolwork.

But if you are just looking for your own edification, free online courses can help you boost your knowledge base. Even so, there are still downsides.

Natalie Novoa, the co-founder and CEO of tech startup Teachmeo, has been researching how to address some of the issues associated with online courses. “We have been researching the space for a while,” Novoa says, “and found that the disadvantages of a free online course are many.”

This is especially true if you are serious about your learning. Here are some of the issues Novoa believes are inherent to free online courses:

  • No one-on-one support: One of the biggest drawbacks to taking a free online courses is the lack of support. With a paid course, or a course connected to a degree, you can receive support via email, live chat, or other options. With a free course, you probably won’t receive support, unless you get a little help in the comments — and you can’t expect a fast response in that case. “The majority of free courses online don’t offer one-on-one support,” Novoa says.
  • No customizations: In many cases, paid courses and university courses can adjust the work to your level. “Free online courses do not customize the course to your skill level and want.”
  • Unprofessional: “Free online course video and audio tend to be non-professional and hard to follow at times,” Novoa points  out. While you can be sure that accredited college online classes [4] are taught by professionals, a free course may not be properly vetted, and you can’t always be sure of the information.

What about Paid University Courses?

Even when you take a paid online course with the expectation of earning a degree at the end of it, there are still disadvantages to online courses. Yes, there is more flexibility, allowing you to study and work on your own time, but you also have to deal with some of the same issues that come with free online courses.

The biggest difficulty is the lack of support some university courses come with. While you do have access to an instructor, you don’t have that face-to-face interaction. Additionally, you can miss out on some of the classroom engagement and discussions that can prove beneficial in ways that go beyond just learning material from a book or doing homework exercises.

Some college online courses attempt to replicate some of these aspects of instruction by holding webinars and chats in real time, but there is no way to truly replace the experience of being in the classroom. While some learners thrive in such an environment, others need that in-person contact to really find success.

What do you think? Do think there are downsides to online courses? How do you learn best?

Image: nyuhuhuu [5]


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