Are Online Courses The Future of Education?

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Exams / Online Education / Teaching Methodology

Are Online Courses The Future of Education?

The Covid-19 pandemic drastically changed the way we live our lives. One of the most profound impacts has been on the education system and the way the youth is taught. Schools across the globe were forced to reorganise their way of teaching. This meant moving from traditional face-to-face learning to online classes.

This revolutionary shift to online learning has been both liked and disliked for many reasons. But even after the pandemic subsides, it’s certain that online learning will become the new norm. This is a very broad debate and we’re only scratching the surface of it.

In this article we’ll try to determine if online courses are the future of education.

  • Is Online Learning More Accessible and Flexible
  • The Freedom of Learning Online
  • Physical Interaction When Learning Online
  • Online Learning is Age Sensitive
  • It Can be Cheaper to Study Online
  • Traditional Classroom Learning is Important
  • Are Online Courses Actually Worth it?

Is Online Learning More Accessible and Flexible

If the pandemic taught us one thing, it’s that the internet is everything. The power of the internet allowed us to stay connected to family and friends. It’s also allowed many to continue studying and doing their jobs all from the comfort of their homes. Online education is undoubtedly more accessible and flexible than traditional learning methods. People can take classes from anywhere, which makes student bodies a lot more international and diverse than before. The flexibility of being able to study whenever and wherever you want is a huge advantage. This is even more beneficial for university students or adults who need to fit their studies around busy working lives. Online courses are accessible to a wide range of people around the world.

However, online learning is only more flexible and accessible to people who’ve got access to electronic devices and WiFi. The shift to online learning in schools has highlighted the divide between the wealthy and the poor. It’s easy to study online if you’ve got your own computer and fast internet connection. But for people living in poverty it becomes inaccessible.

In the UK it’s estimated that 9% of children don’t have access to a laptop, desktop or tablet at home. That’s between 1.1 million and 1.8 million children who can’t learn online in the same way as their classmates. More than 880,000 children live in households that only have a mobile internet connection. This is unreliable for long term online study. Thus it creates a gap in the ability of students, as well as an increased social divide. To make sure online courses are obtainable  for disadvantaged students, we need to increase access to electronic devices and WiFi.

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The Freedom of Learning Online

Similarly to the increased accessibility and flexibility, online courses create a freedom of learning. Education was previously restricted by geography, where you lived determined what schools or courses you had access to. But now, with more institutions turning to online platforms as their way of teaching, students from anywhere can join classes that they couldn’t join before. For example, whilst living in England you could be learning Italian or be doing a course from an American university.

The dissolving of restrictions means that people now have the freedom to study whatever subject they want from a wider range of institutions. Online learning is great for foreign language courses as you don’t need to be in another country to have quality language lessons. Specialist online education companies like Learn&Co offer a range of courses that are accessible to anyone, anywhere and that are adapted specifically to online teaching.

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Physical Interaction When Learning Online

Sometimes the freedom of online studying can make learning a lot harder for students than traditional forms of education. There’s a lot less personal interaction when working through an online medium, and this can make it tough for students who need extra support from teachers. Students with dyslexia or ADHD may struggle to stay focused or to complete tasks to their best ability.

This is more of an issue for younger school students who need physical interaction as part of their learning experience. Online teaching can be very content based and heavy, which is great for mature students. But it’s difficult to include interactive teaching methods like games-based learning or kinesthetic-based learning which are important for younger learners.

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Online Learning is Age Sensitive

During one of the covid-19 lockdowns we’d witnessed a 4 year old try to participate in an online music lesson. Watching the teacher try to speak and get control of 12 kids who were all simultaneously rattling tambourines and hitting drum sticks on the table was very entertaining. The Wi-Fi delay meant that all the songs were sung out of sync and the attention span of the children was extremely short. After the music lesson we concluded that online lessons shouldn’t be available for younger children as they seem counter-productive when time is spent trying to maintain focus than actually learning.

That being said, a class of adults would behave very differently. The average attention span of a 4 year old is 5 to 10 minutes. Whereas the average attention span of teenagers and adults is 5 to 6 hours. This makes it clear that online learning is more suited for older students rather than younger. Online courses are perfect for university students or adults who are skilled with using technology. Online learning works for some stages of learning but not all. It should be adapted to optimise the learning ability of students.

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It Can be Cheaper to Study Online

Online courses tend to be cheaper than face-to-face ones. This is simply because there are less running costs for the classes. There are no overheads for the classroom, heating, lighting, equipment and printed resources etc. Educational companies can cut down on staffing and office costs so they can make their courses cheaper and more accessible to students.

However if we went completely digital then it could result in job losses. People who are essential to the running face-to-face institutions, like cleaners, caterers and reprographic assistants may lose their jobs due to the lack of need for them. So online courses may be cheaper but that comes at the cost of lower job opportunities for many important staff members.

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Traditional Classroom Learning is Important

Despite there being incredible benefits to online courses, face-to-face learning is imperative for child development. Children need interaction with other students and teachers because socialising is a key factor in their growth. It helps with forming friendships, communication skills and awareness of others, alongside many other things. It can be more difficult to achieve these cognitive and behavioural developments with only online learning mediums.

Children also need school environments so they can separate their home life from school life. Schools can be a safe place for students to deal with personal life problems. Schools are crucial for supporting children with mental health and abuse concerns. In the US 13% of adolescents receive mental health care from their schools and a large part of this comes from being physically in contact with teachers and staff in a school environment. Research also found that during the closure of schools reports of domestic abuse from children drastically decreased, which is unlikely to be because abusers changed their ways, but instead that children no longer had the safe facilities to report it and get help.

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Are Online Courses Actually Worth it?

Whilst writing this article, for every pro to online learning I found a con. With the way that the world is moving, it’s undeniable that online learning will become a staple feature in our education systems. The benefits are great and will help the world become progressively more connected with easier access to a range of courses and the flexibility of learning whenever and wherever you want. But with the transition to online study it’s important to give students the support they need. Getting a private tutor is a great option to help children develop with targeted learning experiences. Learn&Co offers tailored tutoring in modern languages for students to give them the support that their online school classes may not offer.

Online learning can provide a freedom not offered by traditional learning methods and can be cheaper, but it’s age sensitive and is only effective for certain age groups. Teenagers and adults benefit much more from online studying than younger children do as children need face-to-face environments for their social and cognitive development, whereas older students can optimise their online learning and work more independently.

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Traditional classroom learning spaces will always be important within our societies but online courses are a great new, innovative way of learning that will open up many more opportunities for both children and adults alike.

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