Full-time online education is something of a new paradigm which educators, parents, and students are approaching with varying levels of concern and enthusiasm around the world. The question is what its merits are and whether it is indeed effective at teaching, or at least more or less effective than physical learning. In this article, we shall explore the relative strengths and weaknesses of online education, with a tentative verdict at the end. We won’t be too opinionated about the subject, just so that you can form your own opinion on are online classes less effective at teaching.
What are the strengths of online learning?
There are a host of reasons why online learning has become popular in higher education today. The online environment is unique in that it offers a variety of opportunities that simply weren’t there before. It also brings with it a new paradigm that allows educators to deliver higher quality learning to students.
Students are able to interact with high quality professionals who can offer learning help. For example, essay writing can be a hassle sometimes. Online assignment help is essential in such cases. As a writer from UK Best Essays, who prepares a lot of paper writing service reviews, I have met many students who have made use of such facilities. Here are some of the greatest strengths of online learning:
You can learn anywhere
The greatest advantage of online learning is that it is physically decentralized. Students can participate in high quality classes from anywhere in the world. This is especially important for students who might have otherwise been hampered by distance and schedule related issues. Now all a student needs is a computer and an internet connection, and they can participate from anywhere in the world.
Online learning also makes it possible for physically challenged teachers and students to participate in classes where they might have had a hard time physically going to classes.
You can learn at any time and at your own pace
Online classes are typically available 24/7, on top of being available from anywhere around the world. This introduces massive gains in time efficiency, which allows people to more easily fit classes into their demanding schedule. Asynchronous learning allows students to participate in classes, quizzes and discussions without sacrificing work and family time. They also have continuous access to the learning materials, including lectures and class discussion threads, allowing them to revisit the material and take the time to fully understand the material before moving on to the next subject.
Online learning involves more synergy
Online learning makes for a more dynamic interaction between teachers and students, as well as among the students themselves. It allows for easier sharing of ideas and each individual can contribute to a discussion with something as simple as a comment. This synergy makes online classes feel more inclusive, even at a large scale, than physical classrooms.
The dialog is of a higher quality
When you participate in an asynchronous class environment, it is easier for you to take time to reflect on a discussion and your comment before you contribute to the discussion. There is less pressure than in a fast-paced, face-to-face environment, allowing you to take the time to synthesize and digest information before forming a measured response on the matter. This makes for higher quality discussions and debates in online classes than you would otherwise get in a physical classroom environment.
Online learning is student centered
In an online discussion, everything revolves around the student. The schedules are made to make you feel comfortable. The lectures are constantly there so you can revisit them for a deeper understanding, and discussions are mostly student driven, with the instructor playing a supervisory role most of the time. Also, as a student, you get the privilege of responding only to conversations and topics that speak to your concerns as an individual.
Such a unique blend of situations leads to smaller discussions taking place simultaneously in a way that they couldn’t in a physical class. Online classes also give you the opportunity to take control of your learning experience and tailor your participation and responses to your individual needs and preferences.
What are the weaknesses of online learning?
Despite its many strengths, online learning is not without weaknesses. Some of these are inherent to the medium, while others may be remedied through a careful crafting of online learning programs. Here are the most prominent weaknesses of online learning.
Accessibility to technology is not universal
Before you can roll out a successful online program, you have to make sure students have access to the online learning environment. Any lack of access, for whatever reasons, unfairly excludes students who would otherwise qualify for the course. This is especially rampant in rural environments as well as socioeconomically challenged communities. Even from the perspective of the school. If your students have trouble accessing your online learning technology of choice, you have lost them as customers. Another issue is that both students and instructors must have a certain minimum level of computer literacy to take full advantage of the benefits of online learning.
Students are at a danger of lacking motivation in online learning environments
Online learning gives full control to the student over their learning experience. However, for them to thrive, they should be mature and self-disciplined. A student who lacks self-motivation, self organization, and poor time management will suffer in a 100% online learning program. Online learning is therefore better suited to older students in higher education than younger ones in elementary school and below.
Not all subjects lend themselves easily to online learning
Despite all the benefits online learning has to offer, not all subjects fit an online learning environment. These include subjects like dentistry, surgery, sports, and even stuff like public speaking. Many subjects can only either be taught in a full physical environment or through a hybrid course that combines the best aspects of both physical and online learning.
The faculty might not be fit for online teaching
Being a good teacher in a physical environment does not necessarily mean you will also be a good teacher in an online environment. Facilitators should be properly trained in online teaching methodologies if an online program is to be successful. A good online teacher should be well skilled in both written and spoken communication, and should be able to create a supportive environment to compensate for the lack of a physical presence. If they don’t do this, they can easily alienate their students, both from the teacher and from each other.
Conclusion: So is online learning effective at teaching?
The most important lesson to learn from this piece is that online learning is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It works very well for certain subjects and certain students and teachers, and poorly for others. Moreover, it is important to craft online curricula in ways that mitigate the natural shortcomings of this medium of learning. Online learning is a powerful teaching mode, with unprecedented benefits that cannot be ignored. To dismiss it summarily is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. On the other hand, to consider it the hammer with which we can drive all nails is to be naive about its flip side. I welcome you to decide for yourself whether online learning is effective for your unique situation, and to ponder how you would design an online learning program that would work for you and other students.