Table of Contents
- E-Learning in Education: Why People Love It and Hate It
- #1 Pro: Flexibility and Freedom
- #1 Con: Lack of Structure and Self-Discipline
- #2 Pro: Reduced Costs
- #2 Con: Reduced Quality of Education
- #3 Pro: Accessibility
- #3 Con: Unequal Access to E-Learning Tech
- #4 Pro: Synchronous and Asynchronous
- #4 Con: Students Want To Be Taught
- #5 Pro: The Rise In Digital Education Tools for Teachers and Students
- #5 Con: E-Learning Tech Can Get In the Way of Learning
- What's Next for Online Learning?
Online learning has become the norm in education since the pandemic forced students and teachers out of the classroom. The UN estimates that at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, over 1.6 billion students worldwide were forced home because of school closures. But even before lockdown, the online study was ascendant.
The availability of the Internet, new communication, and multimedia technologies democratized education. However, while distance learning has its advantages, the fact that it was forced onto everyone because of the coronavirus also revealed some flaws inherent to learning online. This article will look at both sides of the coin and discuss how online study is advantageous for some, but not all.
E-Learning in Education: Why People Love It and Hate It
There is no denying that online learning has become a force to be reckoned with in education. Since the 2000s, the amount of students entering distance learning courses has grown every year. A 2018 collaborative study by the Babson Survey Research Group and the University of California San Francisco found that:
32% of all higher education students in the US were taking at least one distance course
In-person attendance decreased by almost 1 million students between the years 2012 and 2016
There is little to no disparity between students enrolled only in distance courses and those enrolled in a combination of both in-person and distance courses
There are many reasons why distance learning has not overtaken in-person learning in popularity or effectiveness. Several factors come into play when deciding which is better or worse for students, just like it is difficult to say which particular school or university is best for one student.
The main divide between those who are for distance learning and those opposed to it has to do with whether it was their choice (as it was pre-pandemic) or done out of necessity (because of the pandemic). The following list will highlight both sides of the debate and consider why online learning works for some but not others.
#1 Pro: Flexibility and Freedom
The freedom that online learning gives to distance students is often cited as its primary advantage. However, even though many distance students reside in the same state as the university they are attending online, other responsibilities (work, families, etc.) can prevent them from attending in-person classes.
Having the ability to learn at their own pace gives distance students an important leg-up in helping them complete their degree. Students can choose what courses they want to learn from the comfort of home and can do so at their own pace. They also have an unlimited array of options to choose from, For example – Digital Marketing, Business Analyst, or Python Online Course – all available just a single click away.
#1 Con: Lack of Structure and Self-Discipline
While those who are forced to take distance courses because of other commitments in their lives relish in the freedom it gives them, those who have had to switch to online study because of the pandemic may find it harder to keep up. In addition, students who thrived in the structure of in-person learning may find themselves unprepared to maintain that discipline when studying from home.
#2 Pro: Reduced Costs
Student loan debt in the US has risen from $1.3 trillion in 2017 to $1.7 trillion in 2021, and it keeps growing every day. In addition, 38% of all US adults cannot save for retirement because they are continually paying off student loans. These worrying statistics are enough to put off anyone from pursuing higher education in the US, but distance learning is nearly 80 times less expensive than in-person learning.
#2 Con: Reduced Quality of Education
While the exorbitant costs of higher education are enough to dissuade many from enrolling, those who have the resources have found that the “quality and academic rigour of courses has significantly decreased” because of the pandemic. As a result, thousands of students and their parents filed a suit against 25 different American universities last year, demanding a refund of their tuition and other fees. While the cases are still ongoing, the lawsuits will have to resolve the debate of whether online learning is as good or as effective as in-person learning.
#3 Pro: Accessibility
Even though many distance students do not live far from their campuses, many find it easier to access class lectures, course materials, and assignments through electronic learning apps. Universities and even high schools have shifted many of their learning modules online so students can familiarize themselves with Learning Management Systems and e-learning websites that cater to distance students.
#3 Con: Unequal Access to E-Learning Tech
While accessing online courses requires a minimum of a reliable Internet connection and a computer/laptop, even those bare necessities are out of reach for many students. School closures laid bare the uneven distribution of technological resources in the US, even for such basic utilities as high-speed internet. In addition, a broad range of factors, including cost, connectivity, and quality, complicates Internet access for many students who need a stable Internet connection to continue their studies during the pandemic.
#4 Pro: Synchronous and Asynchronous
Synchronous means learning happens in real-time, where students are required to log in at a specific time and date to “attend” a specific course or lecture. They can interact with their instructor and classmates through a variety of different e-learning websites.
Asynchronous means that students can review, study and interact with learning material on their own time without participating in a live class.
Both formats are possible with online study, and a combination of both offers the best replica of in-person learning for students, even if they are studying remotely.
#4 Con: Students Want To Be Taught
While both synchronous and asynchronous learning is possible at a distance, many students do not want to go through material and assignments alone. Instead, they crave that direct interaction with a teacher or professor that helps them better understand the material and spontaneous discussions that may arise during an in-person session, something that is not possible even with the best e-learning tech. This lack of presence may account for the fact that students who study online consistently earn lower grades than students who attend class in person.
#5 Pro: The Rise In Digital Education Tools for Teachers and Students
Gone are the days of correspondence courses done through the mail. Instead, digital education platforms have emerged as invaluable tools for both students and teachers to continue their education, especially when in-person classes are not viable. E-learning websites like ThingLink, Pear Deck, and Nearpod, as well as PDF editing software like Lumin PDF, have risen to the occasion to provide students and teachers with seamless interactivity, a wealth of multimedia resources, and other tools to bring a sense of normalcy to their distance learning. You may also want to check out www.sodapdf.com/it/, as they have easy-to-use PDF tools and they are always evolving.
#5 Con: E-Learning Tech Can Get In the Way of Learning
While many of the learning platforms mentioned work without any problems, nothing online is ever free of glitches or technical problems. While these interruptions may seem minor, any student – or teacher, for that matter – will tell you that even the slightest distraction can impact focus and concentration. In addition, many e-learning websites offer free versions of their software. Still, the cost of premium versions – which are usually loaded with more features and learning materials – can put a barrier between students and quality education.
What's Next for Online Learning?
The international rollout of online learning schemes has seen successes and failures. The massive disruption to education systems worldwide saw educators scrambling to lessen the impact on student development with whatever tools they could find.
A survey done by UNICEF found that educators rated online learning platforms as either:
Very effective (36%)
Fairly effective (58%)
While there is no doubt that these platforms could be and must be improved, they have still managed to facilitate a makeshift learning environment for students worldwide to help them continue with their growth and development.
Thank you for reading!