Advantages of Accelerated Learning

The benefits of online learning are undeniable. Students can take classes at their convenience, allowing them to keep up with their regular jobs or family responsibilities. They can pursue degrees in a variety of fields, even if they live far from a traditional brick-and-mortar campus. And advances in technology have made it easy for students to take part in interactive, multimedia lessons and live chats that simulate the classroom experience. There are even online resources such as cyber-libraries that provide online students with all the tools they need to succeed. There is one additional benefit of online learning that hasn't been discussed as frequently, however. It is the benefit of accelerated learning. Most online learning programs are designed to convey a vast amount of material in a limited time frame. At schools such as AIU Online, Colorado Technical University and the University of Phoenix, students who already have an associate's degree can complete their B.A. studies in just over a year. Earning an MBA may take even less time. To help students retain everything they have learned, courses are taught on an accelerated schedule. Instead of taking several courses at the same time, as is the norm on traditional campuses, students zero in on one key component at a time. Courses generally last about six weeks, so students are able to focus intently on that material. Because course material is divided up into discrete blocks that are taught one at a time, students don't have to deal with distractions from any other courses going on at the same time. They can put all their energies into learning about the topic at hand. In the real world, where work is often project-based, this ability to delve deeply into a particular subject becomes a valuable tool. Studies also show that a compressed learning schedule actually improves memory retention. A summary from The Learning Revolution, by Gordon Dryden and Dr. Jeannette Voss, provides examples of this seeming paradox. For instance, in one study, American soldiers were taught German in either a 12-week course or an 18-day accelerated course. Surprisingly, those in the shorter course gained a better ability to read and speak German. In traditional semester schedules, students often complain that by the time the final comes around, they have forgotten what they learned in the first weeks of class. With the accelerated schedule that is typical of most online programs, there are unlikely to be any such complaints. The material is always fresh in the student's mind. Shorter classes also mean that students are more likely to remain interested in the material throughout the course. Longer courses can sometimes cause students' interest to flag. The accelerated course structure of online learning also means it's easy to review key concepts, because the course material is available 24 hours a day. Concepts are also reinforced via a variety of delivery methods. One idea might be the basis for a chat room discussion, a multi-media presentation and some online reading material. The more often students encounter key concepts, the more likely they are to remember them. In addition, if a student does not understand a concept, he or she can quickly and easily make contact with the professor or with other students, via email or class message boards. And since students can study course material at any time that's convenient for them, they can spend more time on more difficult concepts while breezing through the information that is easy to them. Accelerated learning is particularly well suited to adult learners, who tend to pick up certain concepts faster, thanks to their real-life experiences. The online learning model offers a plethora of advantages. Its accelerated format helps students earn their degrees more quickly, of course, but it also gets them more deeply involved in the learning process, holds their attention longer, and helps them retain information better. Clearly, accelerated online learning creates an environment in which students can do their best work.