Online learning has consistently risen in popularity in the last two decades. Since 2002, every university-going student in the US has taken at least one online course during his academic years. But online or distance learning has taken a whole new meaning since the outbreak of the pandemic. Due to lockdowns, educational institutes worldwide had to resort to the online education system to impart learning among their students. It has now become ‘the new normal. But is it here to stay, or will we revert to traditional education mode once the pandemic is over? Let us explore the dynamics of online education and try to find out the answers to these questions.
Online learning vs. traditional learning
In a survey conducted by a US university, 75% of the respondents equated their online learning experience at par or higher than traditional learning. It is a significant number and shows that online education has made inroads in society. Even before the pandemic hit us, some six million students enrolled in different online courses in the US. Online education does offer some obvious advantages over the traditional mode of instruction. Let us highlight some of them below;
Boon for inaccessible areas:
There are many difficult to reach areas around the world. They have scattered settlements, and students are concentrated in geographically dispersed locations with only one or two schools to cater to them. For such areas, distance learning is nothing short of a blessing. Students can learn from their homes and do not have to travel long distances. But there has to be infrastructure like the internet, electricity, and this technology to work in these areas.
Online education will not bound you that you have to attend a lecture in a particular time slot. You can get the recorded lecture and can watch it whenever you feel like doing it. It cannot work when there is a live session going on, but the recordings of those live sessions can be made available to the students for later viewings.
It is cheaper than regular education. The institute is not spending money on the upkeep and maintenance of a vast campus. So online courses are usually offered at a meager price comparatively.
As is traditionally believed, online education is not a solitary activity. You can have interactive live sessions. Even if you are getting recorded lectures, there are online community boards, groups, comments sections, etc., that you can join and interact with your fellow coarse mates.
You can access your lecture from even your mobile. It makes it super easy for you to attend your lesson. You can take it even when you are riding a metro to work. If you miss something or do not understand a concept, you can access it again and again. It is not like you miss a lecture in a classroom, and it is gone forever.
Variety of courses and lectures:
Online learning offers a plethora of disciplines and skills that you can learn and increase your knowledge. Many of these courses are given by online companies that do not look at your qualification to decide whether you are eligible for it or not. You can take a painting course even though you are a biochemist; the choices are endless.
As you do not have to attend a traditional school for a specific time, you do by rules. This independence should make you more responsible and disciplined. You learn how to manage your time, be more productive, and more accountable to yourself.
Learn as you like:
Online learning gives you the option of learning as you feel. You do not have to sit in a boring class for one hour straight even though you do not understand what the teacher is saying. You can switch off your device or pause your lecture whenever you feel like losing your concentration. You can take a break, have a cup of coffee, go for a short walk, listen to music, and come back refreshed, ready to take on the challenge.
Drawbacks of online learning
For all its excellent benefits, online education is not without its challenges and pitfalls. Let us highlight some of them below;
Dependence on education:
Online education requires the deployment of technology and various digital infrastructure. Be it the availability of laptops, electricity and the internet. Sometimes the internet can break down, or you can lose your data. As there are no hard copies, it can cause you trouble.
No real-time interaction:
A physical classroom is a fun, exciting, and lively place. Sometimes the discussion completely drifts away from the given topic, and everyone enjoys that diversion. You cannot do it with the same ease in an online environment. Not everyone has the same level of internet connection and devices to support a real-time discussion. Time-lags prevent that, and voices get lost too. It hampers a genuinely energetic and immersive discussion as you get in a physical classroom.
No student-teacher bonding:
There is little or no interaction between the teacher ad his students. Often he cannot see all his students and does not know if they understand what he is teaching or not? The teacher cannot develop a rapport with the students either.
A Hybrid model?
Each model of education has its share of perks and drawbacks. The experts opine to get a fulfilling learning experience; we should go for a hybrid model of education or what they call ‘blended learning’ It takes the best of both worlds and try to get the comparative advantages of each model. It is no surprise that this model is gaining traction.
It is up to the student to decide which model would suit him the best? He should look at his particular circumstances and determine what education mode would serve him better and go for it. We cannot be sure that a specific model of education would work best in all situations. There is no one-size-fits-all solution here.