Is there a place in education for online learning? For some the answer might be a straight up no … not a chance. But the reality is it has been here for a while and continues to pick up momentum. There is a lot of research that would boldly say that an online environment can be at least effective as a traditional environment. For some this would be seen a blasphemous statement. That only a teacher in a classroom conveying knowledge to the students in a face to face environment is effective. But if an online environment is well organized has rich content delivered in an engaging manner with assessment opportunities, how different is that from a typical traditional classroom?
In fact, an online environment could provide many opportunities that a traditional classroom just can’t afford. One such advantage would be the ability to work at one’s own pace. Let’s face it, traditional experiences are bound by that beginning and ending bell. Where learners are supposed to be able to learn at same pace and only have that designated time to ‘learn’ that concept. On the other hand, if you are ‘catching on’ to things quickly the class can seem to drag on and motivation can dwindle to boredom or loss of interest. An online experience could alleviate this anxiety and the learner could dictate the pace of learning as needed and move forward with confidence and conviction. The ‘physical’ aspect of traditional classroom can also limit or deter learning opportunities. Health concerns, extracurricular opportunities, classes not offered where you are located, credit recovery, sustained travel, and more are examples where an online solution can provide a learner with the opportunity to take that class or get that credit that would not physically be possible in a traditional only system. With technology improving the online experience can become very robust with online forums that are open 24/7, video conferencing to provide synchronous interactions, formative assessment with efficient and effective feedback, increased accessibility, and other options that can be lacking in traditional settings.
Of course there are ‘pitfall’ that are present in this environment. A disorganized online course can leave a learner confused and frustrated especially if there is no one to turn to. Many 'Aha!' and teachable moments that occur in a face to face setting (which are very powerful) can be lost in an online setting. Student motivation and procrastination can be harder to monitor and correct when the learner is not in a teacher’s presence. Of course, there are always the questions of who submitted or what was the academic integrity of assigned assessments? These questions are also pertinent in a traditional setting, but the anonymity of the online environment make academic integrity an extra sensitive topic in this setting. Not seeing your students faces and building those crucial relationships can be more difficult in an online environment, but not impossible. There are unique challenges that an online environment can offer such as tech issues like bandwidth and other specs, but all of these challenges can be overcome and provide a rich learning opportunity for those who want or need this option.
As with any learning opportunity it takes effort from both the instructor and the student. A teacher can design and deliver an online experience with the same passion and drive as they can in a traditional setting and in fact might have more tools and time to differentiate instruction and meet learners’ needs. Classroom management definitely takes on a brand new look. Students will need to employ self-discipline and self-regulation, but will have the flexibility and freedom to choose their own learning path. There are many institutions that offer online opportunities, not only in the field of Education but in other sectors. There are a plethora of online course already available that cover a vast array of topics. I feel that students should at least have blended opportunities as the progress through K-12 education to help students feel comfortable in these situations and acquire the skills to learn in an online environment. The online learning world will only continue to grow. We are preparing students for a world that is and will have drastic and dynamic change. Understanding and being able to thrive in an online learning setting will only grow and become more necessary, as we head into these uncharted water.
Thanks for reading. What are your thoughts? Feel free to reach out to me @vendi55
This week's vlog gets two students' perspective on the pros and cons of online learning.
Dean Vendramin. Educator for over 20 years. Currently Education Leader for Math/Science at Archbishop M.C. O'Neill Catholic High School. Have a passion for all things in education with emphasis on technology integration, assessment, professional development, and 21 Century Education. Posts are articles he has written for the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation monthly newsletter The Bulletin, Saskatchewan Math Teachers' Society The Variable, blog requests from memberships he is a part of, and his own thoughts.