Pittman is credited by many as the "Father of Distance Learning" and the modern version of distance learning. Taking online courses is currently booming, with 14 consecutive years of online enrollment growth, according to the Babson Survey Research Group. That survey found six million students taking at least one online course and three million enrolled online full time.
Of course, Pittman can't take a bow, since his distance learning system was created in 1840 when he taught shorthand courses for students by mailing them postcards with texts transcribed into shorthand. Students then mailed him back their transcriptions and he responded back with corrections.
Even with the rising tide of online learning, traditional in-person learning is still the norm.
For those seeking alternative teaching certifications, how do you know if online programs will work for you?
Advantages of Online Programs
Sir Isaac Pittman was taking advantage of new uniform postage rates in Great Britain to launch his distance learning system in 1840. Today's students utilize high-speed Internet to get the following advantages of online courses:
Variety of programs and courses available: The benefit of online learning is that it opens up a world of programs and courses by taking the distance from you to the educational institution out of the equation. Put simply, I may live in Texarkana and find an educational program in El Paso that suits my needs. I am not, however, jumping in my pickup to drive 813 miles to attend class, but with a click of a mouse I can be online and in class.
More comfortable learning environment: They say your home is your castle and what better place to learn in. You can be as comfortable as you want when taking online courses. Fancy wearing your favorite PJ's with a bowl of popcorn or enjoying some BBQ on the back porch while logging on, then go for it. Just don't drop your laptop in the tub, if you are taking your class in the vicinity of scented candles and a bubble bath.
Convenience and flexibility: Study when you want and still make your job and your family a priority. We all know "life happens", and if your kid has a toothache and you need to pick them up at noon, then you won't have to miss class if you are learning online. You can study at Starbucks or in line at the DMV. You have complete flexibility.
Less distractions: Not all in-person learning environments suit students' needs. If you have ever sat in class next to somebody wearing too much Hai Karate aftershave or a person jangling their leg after 12 cups of coffee, then you know how distracting this can be. Room temperature, distance and sight lines to the teacher, and projection of the teacher's voice can all be distracting. At home you control the distractions.
Complete while working: Unless your uncle is Jerry Jones or you are a cousin of the oil tycoon Bass Brothers, then you most likely still need a paycheck while getting your alternative teacher certification. Online courses allow you to do this.
No commuting: Commuting is never fun. And studies have shown that Texas is a dangerous state for driving, according to an article at Crosley Law. The time you normally spend commuting can be spent on more important needs.
Disadvantages of Online Programs
Sold on online programs? Not so fast, as there are downsides to not learning in-person:
Less face to face interactions: If you have seen the movie "Stand and Deliver" about high school math teacher Jaime Escalante and his tutoring of inner-city kids in calculus, then you know how inspiring a teacher in the classroom can be. Online, you will never have a chance to meet the Escalante's of the world.
Can't ask questions: In person, you can shoot that hand up to confirm a point or ask a teacher to rewind so that you can understand. This can't happen online.
No personalization in the process: You will miss the opportunities to work in groups, exchanging ideas and thoughts among peers, and to do exercises such as role playing.
Program staff can't get to know you and how they can help you: You may feel like just a number instead of a person where instructors can put a name to your face and know your personally.
Missing networking opportunities: Sometimes, what happens before and after class is what can leave a lasting impression. Online learning leaves you without those unscripted networking opportunities.
Unable to build potential lifelong friendships: Being in class together can create comradery and bonds that often last a lifetime.
Who Do Online Teaching Certification Programs Work For?
So, you know you are definitely cut out for online teaching certification courses if:
You work full time
You need more flexibility than the average student
You enjoy learning by yourself
Who Isn't A Good Fit For An Online Program?
You might want to take a pass at online learning if:
You learn by doing
You value personal interaction
You want to network for job opportunities
At ECAP, we have done a lot of thinking on the topic,and we are not going to tell you one method is better than the other. Because we think the best alternative certification program provides a combination of in-classroom training as well as the ability to learn online.
Micah is the Director of Curriculum & Technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in British Literature, from the University of North Texas and a Master of Arts in Teaching, from Louisiana College. In his previous career, Micah served for 14 years as a banker and bank manager. For the majority of this period, Micah managed the Downtown Fort Worth location of Frost Bank.
In 2005, Micah finally surrendered to his true calling to be an educator. After a brief, but fulfilling term teaching high school English at Flower Mound High School in Lewisville ISD, Micah went to work for the family business, training teachers.
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7166 Baker Blvd., Suite B · Richland Hills, Texas 76118 Phone 817-284-7731 | Fax 817-284-3396