Online education or eLearning has exploded in popularity over the last decade, as the web and schooling have merged to provide individuals with the opportunity to acquire new skills. Since the COVID-19 epidemic, people’s lives have been more centered on remote working and online learning. The epidemic has caused educational institutions and businesses to operate remotely, which has increased the use of online learning. More specifically, online learning has grown over time mainly due to the technological advancements made in recent years. Undoubtedly, the proliferation of online learning has made education opportunities accessible worldwide. However, it remains to be seen whether eLearning use will continue to grow in the aftermath of COVID19 and how this transition will affect the global education industry.
Conceptualizing Online Learning
Online learning is a method of delivering and acquiring education when participants are in a completely virtual environment. The instructor and learner are separated by space or, in some cases, time. Mayer argues that as a novel learning method, it takes a step ahead to offer education outside the traditional classroom setup (154). Students and teachers can access learning from any place as long as they have the required gadgets, electricity, and Internet access.
One does not need to attend classes or lectures physically. Students are not in the exact physical location of the teacher or lecturer. Occasionally, students may never meet their teachers until they graduate to the next learning phase. However, learners and tutors can quickly get more personal feedback when it comes to online learning. Students respond to their teacher’s work while teachers, on the other hand, can comment or compliment their students more often than in traditional learning.
The mode of communication between students and their teacher is through emails, classroom discussion forums, and social media platforms such as Whatsapp. Student-to-student interaction is also mainly online oriented through; emails, group discussion forums, and social media networks. Online learning comes in handy in cases where the learner has a tight schedule. It is available for students to log on at any time of the day and go through the lecture that was taught previously; this requires commitment and hard work to succeed at the end of the day (Mascarenhas). Therefore, both the students and tutors must have the necessary computer skills to make online learning more accessible.
There are three types of online learning comprising asynchronous, synchronous, and hybrid learning. According to Orabona asynchronous learning does not occur in real-time (16). It involves teacher-learner engagement via social platforms, emails, discussion boards, and assignments. Synchronous learning involves simultaneous interaction between the learner and tutor (Raspopovic et al. 148). The interaction is via social chats and video chats in a virtual classroom. This enables learners to participate actively in class at that particular time though they might be in different geographical places. Finally, hybrid learning involves in-person (physical) and virtual interaction between the learner and tutor (Mayer 156). In other words, it puts together both synchronous and asynchronous learning.
The Advantages of Online Learning
There are several distinct advantages that online learning offers. These benefits vary in different forms from different learners to tutors or lecturers. To begin, online learning increases the overall intake in institutions (Yuhanna et al. 16).
Schools can extend their teaching services to students who wish to continue their education even from a distance (Orabona 33). Another advantage is that it reduces the cost of staff mobility since instructions are given to a large number of audiences at the same time via media platforms such as video conferencing, emails, and messages. Staff and students are therefore not required to travel to the institution to give or send important information. Likewise, virtual teaching offers a variety of teaching and learning methods hence diversifying the education process (Mayer 153). Many platforms can be used to enhance both teaching and learning. For example, students can use research websites to better their understanding.
Moreover, online learning is flexible for learners since they can log on to their saved classroom lectures whenever they are free to do so. This comes in handy, especially for students who have to work partly and join classes partly (Dumford et al. 451).
Students can therefore enjoy a flexible schedule that suits their available schedule and physical location. Online learning is also cheaper as compared to face-to-face learning in terms of mobility. Students do not have to travel to school to attend classes. All they need is the required gadgets and devices and a stable network connection. In this regard, it is logical to argue that online learning is cost-effective. At the same time, online learning is convenient for students who prefer to take distance learning due to the nature of their work, health, or status. Similarly, it allows students to access courses and programs of their choice and preference. This is because all the courses and programs are available in a wide variety on the internet.
Furthermore, the videos and audio instructions can be listened to and watched repeatedly by students offering them constant revision and mastery of content. Consistently, online learning promotes independent learning as students have more opportunities to research their courses and unit on the internet. This gives them the chance to acquire more information than they were taught in their various classes and lectures. Furthermore, through online chats with classmates and other colleagues, students can interact with their comrades to help them get important information and clear any doubts. Finally, institutions can control who accesses their Web pages and classes. According to Orabona (48), students who register for the courses in the various institutions are incorporated in the institution’s system and can access classes and Websites. In this way, online learning makes it difficult for an outsider to access these.
The Disadvantages of Online Learning
Though online learning is commendable, there are significant drawbacks that come as a result of the same. First, online learning is impacted by issues such as internet connectivity. With the intensive use of technology in the currently growing economy, many countries invest more in penetrating internet connections throughout their jurisdiction (Alpert et al. 380). There are, however, marginalized areas where internet connection is still a problem.
This has made it difficult for some students to attend online classes or even carry out their research work. Likewise, online learning demands that tutors, teachers, and lecturers be conversant with technology. However, not many have the basic knowledge to handle online classes (Dumford et al. 453). At times, they even lack the required resources and gadgets to use in virtual teaching.
More importantly, many learners and parents are concerned with the amount of time they spend on screen. This is due to their health that is at stake due to excessive screen time use. Developing bad posture and other physical problems are some of the issues that have been raised due to excessive use of the screen. Such concerns negatively impact the adoption of online learning technologies. Online learning also affects students’ concentration in class and ability to immerse in a school activity (Yuhanna et al. 15). Most students cannot focus for long during online classes as they are easily distracted by social media and the internet. It, therefore, becomes imperative for teachers to make virtual classes engaging and interactive to avoid these situations.
How Students are Affected by Online Learning
Analyzing past research, results on how students are affected by online learning, which poises due to the pandemic, have been relatively consistent. However, with the current move to virtual learning from the traditional system, the main concern stands to be what we expect from migration. Compared with in-person education, analysis on how virtual learning tends to impact student outcomes is done. Deriving points from sources of higher education, the efficacy of online learning when analyzed and compared with traditional learning has mixed findings.
Broadly, current literature indicates that online learning tends to yield worse students as compared to the traditional systems. These adverse effects are more magnified in students who are less advanced academically and those undertaking undergraduate courses. It also appeared to be the leading cause of students not completing their courses. Studies have been done to compare the causal impacts of performance on end exams and grades in both learning systems (Tran and Nguyen 69).
Online learning seems to dip in, resulting in lower student performance than the traditional method, with rare students in both systems achieving the same results. These impacts were more pronounced in males and students who were less academically prepared (Wihastyanang et al. 182). In this way, research indicates that online learning degrades students’ final scores.
Other studies have assessed the impacts of online learning versus in-person learning with extraordinary results. In one study, it was shown that students with high ability performed better than those with low ability in online learning (Griffith 306). This finding creates critical link between the learning systems in that online learning can aid in cases of no attendance, like when a student is ill (Griffith 307). On the other hand, projecting online learning not be used as a substitute for in-person knowledge.
Traditional Learning Versus Online Learning
Many people understand online learning as a type of “distance learning.” On the other hand, traditional learning features the old system as it occurs in a classroom context. Therefore, many students cannot focus in class when it comes to online learning since they are far away from tutors who cannot monitor what they do. In traditional learning, however, students are easily monitored while in the classroom by their tutors. Hence they concentrate and can achieve highly academically. Moreover, the two types of learning are different in that traditional learning supports learning from and with each other, which entails sharing ideas with colleagues and consulting one another (Mayer 157). On the other hand, online learning does not support it since it happens independently on his personal computer or phone. As a result, traditional learning may be advantageous and promotes teamwork.
Additionally, it is essential to note that online learning is flexible compared to rigid traditional learning. For example, one can undertake classes online while in another continent without incurring travel and accommodation expenses required in traditional learning purposes the learner comes from another country. Correspondingly, online learning offers learner-tutor interaction at a personal level (Raspopovic et al. 150).
This is due to their communication via platforms such as emails and social media like WhatsApp. As a result, they can ask questions and clarify various areas they find problematic. This, therefore, boosts their confidence, and they can score well academically. However, in traditional learning, since students are many with fewer tutors, it becomes difficult for tutors to interact with them. This makes most of them feel left out and less confident, thus reducing their academic performance.
Finally, students can research and find more study materials on the internet as far as online learning is concerned. Access to more academic materials can help improve their academic performance significantly. On the other hand, in traditional learning, students may lack necessary resources that can be used to improve their performance (Chingos et al. 220). This limits the amount of content they get to that of the classroom approach and consequently may affect their performance.
Academic Performance Online Compare to Traditional
Student performance is a very critical element in the learning process since it sets to gauge its effectiveness. Online learning becomes more dominant at the expense of traditional education due to the pandemic setting and the rise of student numbers. Considering which teaching method serves to be practical concerning the students’ performance, few points emerge. Findings indicate that students subscribing to online studies tend to get lower grades than those in the traditional system while also performing poorly on follow-on coursework (Chingos et al. 222). This is attributed to the many challenges of online learning described above. It poses a significant risk on the likelihood of graduation as compared to the students under in-person learning.
Meanwhile, the negative impacts on performance tend to be more evident on male students and less academically prepared students (Alghamdi et al. 215). The long-term results, such as graduation and duration-to-degree, online studies advocate reducing graduation time when undertaking major subjects compared to in-person learning (Chingos et al. 231). With the discovery of lowered levels of performance, rare cases of students with performance leveling to those in traditional systems have emerged. With these findings, it is plausible to argue that due to lowered performance, professors and learning administrators ought to adjust the teaching and assessment strategies for online and, where possible, reduce the usage of online learning to increase performance.
It is noted that both online and traditional learning have their fair share of weaknesses and strengths. This is in terms of either improving or degrading both tutors’ and learners’ academic or social levels. Accordingly, it is imperative that before either of the two is adopted in learning institutions, the benefits should be weighed. The method of learning that has benefits that outweigh the demerits should then be adopted.
Without a doubt, online learning will eventually replace traditional classroom-based learning, which is the truth of today’s world. Mobile devices have made it possible for more individuals to gain from online learning. Thus this has resulted in a large amount of data being generated. Machine learning has subsequently been applied to course content to provide customized solutions based on a large amount of generated data. These new developments will likely occasion new and more enhanced approaches to online learning.
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