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eLearning: Six Reasons Students Take Online Classes

Director of Academic Technology
College of eLearning & Extended Education,
Humboldt State University

Many students are taking online classes at Humboldt State University. Online learning is no longer “distance” learning; the majority of our online students are from the local North Coast region. Despite the fact that online learning requires more student motivation and commitment, online learning is increasingly popular. Here are six reasons why students are choosing online courses:

    Online students can work on their courses and listen to lectures between jobs, appointments and other classes. They can access course materials 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Course work can be done around family schedules, and students can study on their phone, laptop or anywhere else they have an Internet connection.
    For some disabled students, attending courses on campus can be challenging. In an online environment, the other students and the teacher may not know that the online student has a disability. That can make online classes more attractive to students with special needs. In addition, students who are non-native English speakers can review an online lecture multiple times or review complex concepts at their own pace.
    Attending online courses eliminates the expenses of gasoline, bus fares, and parking fees. Some instructors use online, free, openly licensed text books, further reducing the cost of attendance. When instructors accept papers online, students and schools save printing costs.
    Students in online classes tend to communicate more thoughtfully. Some students find it difficult to speak in class. Posting to an online discussion forum allows students to take their time and formulate their thoughts in ways that the face-to-face classroom environment may not allow. In our experiences with teaching online, we have found that we actually know our online students better than many of our face-to-face students because of the social dimension of online learning. Students often find that online classes can provide more personalized attention.
    Students who take online classes become more proficient and comfortable with using computers. Through assignments, discussion forums and group projects, students can learn to connect with one another online and with information in meaningful and useful ways. Skills like these are in demand by employers. Some students prefer to learn in the same medium they are using for managing information and communication in their life outside of school.
    If a student needs to take a class to graduate, they may have the option to take it online. Students who take online classes are more likely to take classes to update their professional skills later in their careers. They will already have the ability to participate in online training and webinars offered by future employers or universities.

Geoff Cain
is the Director of Academic Technology for the College of eLearning & Extended Education at Humboldt State University. A version of this article appeared in the Eureka Times-Standard and his blog at