For those used to a traditional classroom setting, deciding to pursue an online degree can be intimidating at first thought. Many people are not used to the format of online classes, and getting used to a new learning style seems daunting. However, that different learning style is exactly what makes these programs work so well: online programs foster a global learning community.
Online courses allow students to participate from just about anywhere, so classes contain people from all walks of life, each with a unique story to tell. Some people are marketing directors for major national companies while others are switching careers after years of working in a different field. This means that students’ opinions and experiences are far more varied, which can in turn cause students to learn more by opening their minds to new perspectives. Studies show that this is more than just a fun idea – diversity has been proven to enhance learning. Katherine W. Phillips of Scientific American states that, “Diversity enhances creativity. It encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving.”
Some believe that online courses are too impersonal, but the IMC/DMC program is designed to facilitate a class-wide conversation. In discussion board postings, students are required to share their views with the class, so every student gets to speak. Compare this to a standard classroom where only a few students are comfortable answering questions and it is plain to see how the global learning community takes its shape.
When these views and experiences come together in a group discussion, the entire class has a stronger foundation to build upon for their learning that week. By bringing in so many perspectives, classes have far more productive discussions with different examples, more detail and useful tips. The sheer variety in information is an undeniable benefit that aids students’ understanding of the topics covered in their coursework. With many courses requiring peer feedback or discussions with real world examples, this is especially helpful.
Through sharing their unique perspectives, students are not just helping themselves, but contributing to the overall success of their peers. By bringing together students and forming a global learning community, online programs create potential for growth that simply cannot be replicated in a classroom.
Caitlin Young is a student in the WVU Integrated Marketing Communications graduate program. She is currently a photographer and training facilitator at Walt Disney World.