Thursday, May 3, 2012

Digitalizing the World from Online Payday Loans to Distance Learning

The internet has become an integral part of our global and American culture, shaping the future by touching nearly every aspect of human life: we bank online; we learn online; we shop online; we socialize online; we obtain payday loans online; we live online.

A primary reason for this life-altering phenomenon is the growing desire for instantaneous satisfaction. If you are hungry, you stop by a drive thru for fast-food; if you have a question, you do a Google search for an immediate answer; if you need quick cash, you request an online payday loan or cash advance. With the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, the internet has quickly become America's favorite, and possibly most valuable, resource.

The cultural shift from more traditional, and time consuming, face-to-face interactions to conveniently quick, completely digital relationships has reached beyond the binary-walls of social media networks, changing some of our most foundational institutions--namely, our schools and our banks. According to a 2011 PEW study, more than three-quarters of America's higher education institutions now offer online courses. These courses cover the breadth of America's capstone educational requirements, as well as vocational and elective options, allowing busy individuals an opportunity to obtain a college degree at their convenience and from the comfort of their own homes. However, according to the same study, only 39% of adults who have taken an online class do not find this method of teaching as effective, as thus as valuable, as a traditional classroom environment.

It appears that despite the rise in popularity of online learning, students aren't as satisfied with the educational experience that this medium provides. While there are a variety of factors that might cultivate this dissatisfaction, the most common complaints appear to revolve around the miscommunications that arise from the lack of face-to-face interaction. Human communication is more than just relaying words: tone, body language, and facial expressions all influence the way a message is received. In an online environment, this interaction is missing, as the printed word becomes the primary means to communicate and, thus, more confusion results. While video conferencing has established a place in distance learning and can eradicate some of the confusion associated with the misinterpretation of written words, it is still not the primary means of communication in this forum and is used sparingly.

Intriguingly, this isn't only an education issue. More American companies are appealing to consumers who do not like automated delivery systems and prefer to speak with company representatives in a face-to-face setting by advertising the value of interpersonal human communication. This seems to be a particularly popular trend amongst banks and investment companies. Although banking online is extremely common, many people prefer asking questions about their finances in person. The same goes for payday loan borrowers, who may be apprehensive about taking a loan without asking questions, and, let's face it, sometimes an FAQ link isn't a sufficient reassurance.

This raises a puzzling question: how can the modern desire for instantaneous results and convenience fit compatibly with the human desire for face-to-face interpersonal communication? Many institutions, including banks and colleges, have begun to provide solutions by employing a variety of mediums and forums for interpersonal transactions. Colleges have been discovering that hybrid classes offer a great mix of convenience and face time, while banks offer online, phone, and in-person services to aid costumers. Likewise, payday loan lenders are now offering online and phone services, rather than the old-school on-site services of the past.

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