Group-based options refer to groups of people learning together online. These opportunities are run by organizations like companies and schools. Sometimes you meet with the instructor and other learners, and sometimes you don’t.
What does group-based online learning look like? There are modules, webcasts, Zoom meetings–you name it! There are tons of different choices being offered at any given time.
There are more “traditional” group-based options related to work and school. They might help you to gain new skills, or they might lead to an end goal, like a certification or degree. In addition, there’s a wide variety of options that learners can do just for fun.
Group-based options can be broken into two categories: those which include face-to-face meetings, and those which allow you to work independently. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of these two formats…
Face-to-face options (sometimes referred to as “synchronous” or “F2F”) happen in real-time. You meet online with the instructor, and typically there are other learners. Common platforms include Zoom and WebEx.
For example, you might be enrolled in an online class which leads to a grade or certificate. When it comes to a virtual face-to-face format, there are three main benefits:
This last benefit is especially helpful if the subject matter is challenging. All three of these aspects–along with a potential end goal, like a grade–provide extrinsic motivation. In other words, this learning environment can really motivate you to succeed.
Note: If you want to learn more about how to use Zoom, check out our free tutorial. Their “basic plan” allows you to set up an account for free.
Working independently is sometimes referred to as the self-paced or “asynchronous” format. You don’t meet with your instructor or other students face-to-face. You might watch a pre-recorded lecture of a person talking, but it isn’t happening in real-time.
Massive open online courses–more commonly known as “MOOCs”–fall into this category. Anyone can enroll, so sometimes there are thousands of participants. Common platforms include edX and Stanford Online. Benefits include:
MOOCs aren’t the only asynchronous options. Many companies and schools provide similar formats, but instead of having zero interactions, you do get feedback from an instructor and have assignment deadlines. You’re still working independently, on your own time–but there’s written work, too, and sometimes an end goal (like a grade or certificate).
Many learners appreciate having flexibility. But in order to be successful, you really need to be intrinsically motivated, or self-motivated. It’s helpful if you’re enthusiastic about the subject, or feel strongly that it’s important; otherwise you might lose interest, or not dedicate enough time to your learning.
It’s important to know that not all of the group-based options fall neatly into these categories. Maybe you only meet once, for a talk or special event. Here are a few more terms you might stumble across:
If you want to learn more about the online learning platforms that are out there, check out our Additional Resources under GCF Teacher Guides. While many of these websites offer little to no-cost versions and courses, you’ll need to spend some time researching your options before making a decision.