Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash

I grew up in a small, K-12 school with 250 students. My school was so small that the only labs available were for regular biology and chemistry, and even those classes usually had fewer than six students. So, when I decided that I was going to take a physics course online, the responses in my school were mixed.

“Don’t take a lab science when there’s no lab,” said a high school senior.

“Online classes? Isn’t that where people cheat?” asked a classmate of mine.

“Are you serious? You’re not going to have any instructor helping you,” said another teacher.

In fact, this class would be completely self-taught–without a single instructor to help, as there were no physics teachers. With the help of effective study skills, Youtube tutorials, online study guides, and Khan Academy, I received an A in that class.

While I was not able to visually see the effects of certain experiments or have the privilege of having my questions answered by a teacher, I was able to exercise valuable study skills, manage time wisely, and learn to memorize key concepts effectively.

Here is a list (not comprehensive) of the positive and negative aspects of learning science online.

Pros:

  1. Working at one’s own schedule. As a high school junior with seven other classes to take throughout the year, it was definitely helpful to have one class that offered me flexibility and freedom.
  2. Improved study habits. Having a planner, taking notes on every topic and organizing them into binders, completing assignments ahead of time, and communicating effectively became even more crucial in an online class.
  3. Maintaining Integrity. Although some might have viewed online classes as an “easy way out” or a format that encourages cheating, I personally created an Honor Code for myself: no open tabs while taking tests, cite all sources, study before (not during) tests. Therefore, I was able to maintain the same level of integrity online as the one that I had maintained in more traditional classroom settings.
  4. Increased Resourcefulness. I decided to be proactive about finding resources, such as Youtube channels and concise study guides, to supplement my online class.
  5. Nearly 24/7 Access. I was able to access my classes through my mobile phone or my laptop whenever necessary, as long as there was Internet.

Cons:

  1. Little to no instructor feedback. This is quite self-explanatory, but when one is taking a class online, most instructors will not take the time to comment on one’s work or reply to every single question that is asked.
  2. No second chances. At least in my case, there were no “do-over” assignments, no deadline extensions, no partial credit accepted for late work, and no extra credit assignments to boost up a grade. However, this was personally a “pro” for me because I was able to manage my time wisely and finish all of my work ahead of time.
  3. No labs. This was probably the biggest con for me, because I was unable to actually see many of the key concepts in action. Youtube videos helped me the most in this area because I could research concepts and find similar or related experiments and explanations online.
  4. No guaranteed access to Internet. While I was privileged to own two electronic devices, when my family moved in the middle of my second semester, we had no access to Internet for a little over a month. Therefore, I had to walk over a mile at a time to gain access to Wi-Fi and to my classes.

If there are other pros and cons to online learning that I have not specifically addressed yet, or if you were able to relate to some of my own experiences and ideas, feel free to comment!

1 comment on “Learning Science Online: Pros and Cons

  1. Pingback: How to Self-Study for AP Classes – The Student Scientist

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