Earlier this month, billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates predicted that place-based colleges soon will be significantly less important as online learning continues to grow. Writing for the Huffington Post, lawyer and professor Larry Atkins begs to differ. “There is no doubt that online learning … is increasing in popularity,” Atkins writes. “Millions of college students are participating in online learning, and most major universities offer many courses online. Some of the benefits and advantages of online learning include cost, convenience, and schedule flexibility. It is often a good option for adults who work full time, people with disabilities, and those who live in remote areas or don’t have regular transportation.” However, Atkins says he still believes in the value of traditional campus learning, too. “One of the main goals of college is to develop independence,” he writes. “Living in dorms with a bunch of people that you didn’t know at first helps students get away from their familiar home surroundings and teaches them skills of living with and cooperating with other people. Having social interaction with a group of diverse people is likely to make young people grow as a person. Strong bonds can occur during 2 a.m. study groups or a midnight pizza run. Having face-to-face interaction with faculty and other students makes it more likely to develop strong and meaningful relationships. The learning is hands-on, and the feedback is more immediate.” Besides, he writes, there’s a sense of “excitement, passion, and energy about a college campus atmosphere that can’t be replicated anywhere else.” Online learning works for many people, he concludes—“but so does the traditional university setting.”
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