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In Defense of Online Learning

Online learning has become a significant factor in education in recent years. Students of all ages can be enrolled in e-learning programs and learn on the same level as their peers or even at more advanced levels. It is truly an innovation that I feel will continue to be more popular as time goes on.
I have been enrolled in online classes since my freshman year of college and while it requires a good degree of self-discipline, it is an investment that you won’t regret. You can do the class on your own time at your own pace and if enrolled in an online class through your local college or university you can still ask your instructor for assistance if necessary. There are discussion forums where you can engage in conversation with your fellow students and discuss topics that have been brought up in the class you are enrolled in.
Some may feel that online learning may affect the idea of the traditional learning environment. I can agree with these detractors in some respects as there is a benefit to learning in a physical classroom that can be both academically and socially advantageous. Some students are only able to learn in a classroom where there is enough assistance for them to succeed in the class.
I can attest that online learning has become one of my favorite ways to learn. I love the challenge it brings to my life and the ability to take classes taught by professors at prestigious colleges and universities. There is a wealth of free online courses available from reputable institutions of higher education that cater to every interest. Some popular websites to find online courses are http://www.coursera.org, http://www.academicearth.org, and http://www.edx.org. These websites offer free online courses from colleges such as Duke University, University of Virginia, Harvard, Yale, MIT, and the University of Pennsylvania among others.
While the idea of taking an online class can be daunting to those who have never tried this type of academic experience before, there are ways to overcome your anxieties and fears about e-learning. Some helpful tips include:
• Finding a comfortable quiet environment free of distractions where you can take time to focus on what is being taught to you
• Setting a daily schedule for yourself so you can arrange your time to keep up with the class and its assignments
• Taking the time to connect with fellow students for assistance in discussion forums
• Discussing topics that have been presented to you with family and friends
While I would highly recommend online learning I do understand how it may not work for everyone. However, I feel that courses from the websites I previously referred to make higher education free and accessible for everyone regardless of their financial situation. That is something that makes this type of learning experience a beneficial one.
Tom Snyder, the president of Ivy Tech Community College, wrote an article for the Huffington Post about the benefits of online learning and stated:
“I believe that online learning has the potential to revolutionize higher education. Students will be able to learn at their own pace and problems as simple as finding a place to park on campus will be eliminated. Public colleges and universities simply cannot build new facilities to accommodate all those who need credits in higher education.”
There is a professional benefit of being enrolled in online classes as well. You can earn academic certificates that can make your resume more attractive to potential employers and make you an asset to their company. Snyder commented on this when he said, “Lifelong learning must now be a part of everyone’s career plans. In today’s job market, taking online courses help workers remain competitive and they don’t need to take time off from their jobs to do this.”
He added, “Online learning not only trains the workers of the future, it can also provide a career path for someone employed, who needs to learn new skills. Employers should recommend online courses that will help with career advancement and, if possible, offer tuition reimbursement.”
The Open Education Database enumerated advantages of taking online classes and I can agree with some of them. In a 2012 article they mentioned benefits such as a variety of programs and courses, lower total costs, more comfortable learning environment, and convenience and flexibility. With online classes you are able to learn whenever it is the best time for you and do not have to worry about commuting to a physical school. You can enroll in one of the hundreds of free massive online open online courses (MOOCs) that can help fulfill general education requirements in a more affordable way.
Is online education a good choice for everyone? I would have to say that it is not. Some students may not feel like they have the discipline to handle an online class on their own. They may need to be present with instructors and classmates so that they can stay motivated and focused on the coursework. Some segments of the population such as individuals with disabilities may need to have access to services that are simply not available in online programs such as extended time for tests and one-on-one help from teaching assistants or learning assistants.
However, I feel that online education is a phenomenon that will continue to grow and improve as time goes on. Colleges and universities have dedicated support teams to assist students enrolled in their online classes so that students can turn to these teams for technical assistance. New tools and applications are being added to these online classes to make them more interactive and accessible for different types of students and learners. I have learned so much from the online classes I have completed and it has enlightened me on topics that I can apply to the professional world. Online education is an innovative way to learn and allows even economically disadvantaged students to enroll in college classes from institutions they simply could not afford to physically attend.

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Raising the Minimum Wage: The Pros and Cons

New legislation has been passed in New York, Washington, and California among others raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. While I do feel that those who work part-time jobs should be paid a fair wage depending on the type of work performed, I also believe that $15 is simply too much of a wage for the part-time positions considered under this legislation.
One job sector that has achieved a higher minimum wage is the fast food service industry. Those who work in this industry do not perform highly skilled work and at times only possess a high school diploma. Why should someone who works at McDonalds be paid more than someone who provides skilled labor perhaps for a part-time office position or a position at a retail store?
From my personal experience I can attest that I have office experience from working at a nonprofit organization for 1.5 years and over seven years of experience working at a major department store, Kohls. I was paid $10 an hour at my nonprofit position which in hindsight was a very low rate of pay but allowed me to attain office skills that I can translate to my next office position. This was a job that required a college degree and involved appearing at medical conferences to publicize the work of the foundation.
In comparison I have worked in the same department at my retail job for over six years. This is not a job that you need a lot of skill to perform but does necessitate some social finesse to successfully engage with customers on a regular basis. I am paid only a little bit above minimum wage but receive annual raises that range between 20-25 cents. I have coworkers who have worked at this store since it opened fifteen years ago and some frequently complain about their rate of pay. My thoughts on these complaints are that you should appreciate the job that you have or leave if you’re not satisfied with working there.
Do I believe that we need to raise the minimum wage? I can honestly say that I do believe that it could help economically vulnerable members of the general population such as college students working to pay their way through school, parents working so they can put food on the table, and retirees trying to earn extra money to supplement what they receive from pensions and Social Security. However, I feel that a raise in the minimum wage should not specifically be targeted to one particular industry but should instead be targeted to all industries.