All educators have concerns about the increased use of online learning. How would you evaluate your level of concern? Do you want to know how you can improve your teaching and offer unprecedented learning opportunities for your students, or do you want to know what you will be up against when delivering your classes online? It’s important to do thorough research on the pros and cons of online learning so you can be better prepared to work in this new environment, as well as embrace the new opportunities that it has to offer.
Advantages of Online Learning:
Online programs have many benefits that traditional on-campus and blended courses do not. The internet provides an environment to access unlimited educational resources, but it also offers new opportunities for educators. Online programs offer a wide variety of benefits, including:
- Accessible from anywhere:
The main advantage of online learning is that it allows students who are far away or have busy schedules to participate in high-quality learning situations. Students can participate from anywhere in the world because classes are conducted online. In addition, the flexibility allows physically challenged students to participate better. Participants use their computers to access classroom content.
- Anytime approachable (24 hours a day, seven days a week accessible):
The Virtual Classroom is accessible twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Time efficiency is another strength brought by the online learning format. Communication through online conferencing programs allows the professional to juggle work, family, and study schedules to participate in class discussions. There is no question about studying; you can do it whenever you want. Students can access their courses at any time of day or night. Furthermore, students have access to lectures and course materials at any time. This is convenient for those who need more time to reflect on some material before moving on.
- continuous synergy
Online learning allows the instructor to dynamically interact with the students. Resources & ideas are shared, and continuous synergy will be generated through the learning process. Each individual can contribute to the course discussions and comments on the work of others.
- High Quality Discussion:
The learner may reflect on comments from others before responding or moving on to the next item. Students can respond in a more thought-out way than in a traditional discussion situation, where the participant must analyze the comment of another and formulate a response or otherwise loose the chance to contribute to the discussion.
- Individual student responds:
Individual students respond to course materials and to other students as part of a broader conversation that speaks to their own concerns. When students feel like they are not good at writing, they tend to shy away from the writing process, and therefore do not engage in conversations, leading to smaller dialogues. Students will have full control of their learning experience, tailored to their own specific needs. They will take away a unique mix of relevant information that they have contributed to choosing.
- Level Playing game:
In the online environment, learners have a certain measure of anonymity. Discriminating factors such as age, dress, physical appearance, disabilities, race, and gender are largely absent. Instead of focusing on the content of the discussion and the individual’s ability to respond and contribute thoughtfully and intelligently to the material at hand, the focus is clearly on the other person’s appearance.
- Easy approach to resources:
Today’s students may access resources and materials from any location. For this reason, it’s easy to include experts and students from other institutions in an online class. However, the instructor must be aware of copyright and intellectual property issues. An instructor can post links to scholarly articles, institutions, and other materials relevant to the course topic for students to access for research, extension, or in-depth analysis of course content material.
- Creative Teaching Techniques:
Educators and adult educators have made great strides in using interactive learning environments to facilitate self-directed learning and critical thinking. Some educators who do this also do this on their regularly scheduled courses as well. However, many classes still exist which are based on lectures and rote memorization of material. In the online environment, the facilitator and student collaborate to create a dynamic learning experience. It would be hoped that those who move into the new technology would leave behind bad habits as they adopt what is a new paradigm of teaching. You need to reflect on your course objectives and teaching styles. Those qualities that make a successful online facilitator are also tremendously effective in the traditional classroom.
Disadvantages of online learning:
While online programs have significant strengths, they also have certain weaknesses that can pose potential threats to the success of any online program. These problems fall into the following main categories:
- Accessibility to technology:
In order for an online program to succeed, students must have access to a computer and Internet connection. In lower socioeconomic neighborhoods, Internet access is not as available as it is in more affluent neighborhoods. Furthermore, if students cannot afford the technology the institution employs, they might be lost as customers. Furthermore, Internet access is not universal, and in some areas of the United States and other countries, Internet access poses a significant cost to the user. If the participants have to pay for Internet access, then they will be able to spend their time online only as much as they can afford.
- Computer Knowledge:
In order to function successfully in an online environment, both students and facilitators must be proficient with computers and basic computer technology. For example, they must be able to use a variety of search engines and be comfortable navigating the World Wide Web. If the student or faculty member does not possess technology tools, they will not succeed in an online program.
- Restriction of technology:
Because user-friendly and reliable technology is so important to an online program, you should ALWAYS have a backup plan in case your technology fails. However, problems can still occur. For example, the server that hosts the program could crash and cut all participants off from the class; a participant may access the class through a networked computer which could go down. Access to an individual PC may be limited by a number of problems, such as viruses and system crashes. The Internet connection of an institution could also fail or become bogged down with users and either slow down or fail altogether. In situations like these, technology can get in your way and make it hard to learn.
While online education can be a highly effective alternative means of education for mature, self-disciplined students, it is an inappropriate learning environment for more dependent learners. Online education gives students control over their learning experience and allows for flexibility of study schedules for nontraditional students. Online programs are usually run by learning management systems, so students should be well organized, self-motivated, and possess a high degree of time management skills in order to keep up with the pace of the course. Online education is not appropriate for younger students and other students who are dependent learners and have difficulty assuming the responsibilities required by online education.
- The Facilitator_ Lack of needed Online Qualities:
If facilitators are not trained well in online delivery, the success of the online program will be compromised. Facilitators of an online course must be prepared to communicate in writing and in the language in which the course is offered. The instructor must not only create a supportive environment where all students feel comfortable participating and especially where students know that their instructor is accessible, but also must do so in the Virtual Classroom.
- The Administration:
An online program generates a lot of activity. If you have disruptive students, they may disrupt the online program. Administrators or faculty members who are uncomfortable with change or technology often inhibit the process of implementation. These particular people are a weakness in an online program because they can inhibit its success.
The Online Environment:
- High Synergy:
Online learning has its most promising potential in a virtual classroom. Larger classes encourage more independent study, thus reducing class learning synergy. While in this stage, participants and the facilitator do not use the medium to its fullest potential.
- What Should Not Be Leant Online?
While online programs can be very effective, it is important to recognize that some subjects should not be taught online because the electronic medium does not permit the best method for instruction. Examples include activities where physical movement and practice are parts of the learning experience, such as sports, surgery, public speaking, and dental hygiene. These subjects are best taught in a traditional classroom. This may represent a short-term solution to this problem, thus making that portion of the course more accessible to a wider number of people who would otherwise have difficulty accessing it. However, solutions of that sort still do not solve the issue that it may be technologically possible to simulate a physical learning experience, but it is still not necessarily the best way to teach it.
Online training programs have the potential to provide a variety of instructional environments and top-quality education. Online programs are a convenient solution for adults who have family or work conflicts that interfere with their ability to attend daytime classes. Furthermore, a large number of institutions have found that providing online programs is a good way to stay in touch with the population they wish to serve. For an online program to be successful, the curriculum, facilitator, technology, and students must be carefully considered and balanced.