Why don’t more people understand why online college courses are better than traditional, face-to-face school? Perhaps we can answer that here.
In 2009, a survey of 10,000 university faculty was conducted by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. It found that 70% felt online learning was either “inferior” or “somewhat inferior” to traditional, face-to-face learning.
Even those experienced in online teaching expressed doubts that online school could be better than face-to-face learning in any way. Online classes still have many skeptics—often outright detractors. This is true from grade school through the post-graduate level.
Table of Contents
- Little Has Changed With Online Learning
- Five Reasons Why Online School Is Better
- 1. Online Learning Is Available When We Need It
- 2. Online Learning Builds Essential Skills
- 3. Online Learning Enables Greater Participation
- 4. Online Learning Is Flexible
- 5. Online Learning Is Good for the Environment
- Is Online School Better?
Little Has Changed With Online Learning
Things haven’t changed that much since 2009. In traditional schools, especially, online learning is still seen as insufficient and makeshift. In other words, it’s not a substitute for “real” or “quality” instruction. This is true from grade school through the post-graduate level.
Moreover, many teachers don’t want to learn the technology involved as thoroughly as they should. Nor are they interested in trying proven strategies for online teaching success.
If online school isn’t actually better than traditional face-to-face learning, we’d like to think the two learning modes are at least rough equivalents. Unfortunately, though, online learning is still considered inferior—even in 2020.
Five Reasons Why Online School Is Better
The following sections explain why we believe online school is better than traditional school—at least much of the time. We hope you’ll give these points some consideration.
1. Online Learning Is Available When We Need It
Closing schools during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic saved many lives, but what happened to the learning itself? Mothers seldom worked outside the home, so they were there for their children.
However, like many parents today, they lacked the training to teach their children school subjects.
We’re witnessing one benefit of online learning at this very moment. It’s the fact that parents can be at home with their children while formal lessons are being delivered online by their regular teachers.
Today, all of us are learning ways to keep social institutions running during a crisis. This knowledge is unlikely to lose its value in the future.
2. Online Learning Builds Essential Skills
For students with learning challenges, one reason why online classes are better is that those students can learn at their own pace. For many, this means reviewing material (including captioned videos) as much as needed—and without falling behind.
Reading and writing skills can be developed and enhanced through online learning activities. Not all online instructors have the experience to vary the types of learning done online.
It isn’t surprising that reading and writing are inevitably part of the experience, though!
Social Skills and Learning Efficacy
Students can also learn behavioral norms by observing the words and actions of their teacher and classmates. Yet, they don’t need to feel pressure regarding their own behavioral choices since they can be “invisible” observers.
Students also can develop greater self-sufficiency and self-discipline in an online classroom. This is due primarily to the self-paced nature of the work. Monitoring and encouragement from the teacher are needed, of course.
3. Online Learning Enables Greater Participation
Isn’t full student participation and engagement one of the primary goals of schools in general? So, shouldn’t all students have the opportunity to participate fully?
Physical and cultural differences have hindered learning throughout history. The less comfortable someone feels in a classroom, the harder it is to learn. This phenomenon is called “privilege,” and it’s an ugly but (for now) inevitable facet of our social structure.
One way an online school is better for many students is that it allows them to express themselves free from the demeaning looks of classmates. It gives those classmates, as well as their teacher the reflection time to process the new perspectives.
Physically disabled students can learn online from home without worry or stress over whether or not adaptive technologies (even ramps at building entrances) will be available. They can do their learning activities where it’s most comfortable and well-equipped for their needs.
This is also true of many hearing or vision-impaired students. Home can be a more comfortable place to use their assistive technologies or modes of communication .
Schedule and Lifestyle
Scheduling convenience can be critical to the effectiveness of online learning. Home access to routine activities like work and school has helped people maintain aspects of their pre-pandemic lifestyle. In some cases, it’s also preserved their paychecks.
Online work and learning can ease the burden of parents with children at home. Unless there are scheduled online meetings, this allows the parents to block off work and learning time when it’s most convenient.
4. Online Learning Is Flexible
Flexibility and convenience go hand-in-hand in many cases, as discussed in the previous section. However, there’s a lot more to online learning’s capacity for flexibility than merely allowing schedules to be rearranged.
Online learning can take place literally anywhere in the world where there is a computer with decent Internet access. It can be done “on-demand” as well as on a regular schedule, and it can integrate many other delivery modes.
5. Online Learning Is Good for the Environment
In this consideration of online learning vs. traditional learning, we will end by stating that online learning is better for the planet. If a home is adequately equipped—as it should be—there’s no need to drive or take a bus anywhere.
Now, if only we could reduce the problems with littering and excess packaging too!
Is Online School Better?
Are you still thinking about why online school is better? Or at least might be better? In some instances, and for certain reasons?
Online learning can’t and won’t replace or effectively replicate face-to-face contact. Perhaps, though, it can build more incentive to value live human interactions more when they do occur.
Human interaction is a natural part of the informal learning that occurs every day, and nearly everywhere. This interaction won’t go away simply because it’s currently curtailed due to social distancing.
Don’t overlook the benefits of online learning, though. Encourage it as an alternative or complement to live learning.
More instructors need proper training in and experience with online teaching. We believe that, if they had this, they might have been better able to weather the abrupt shift to this learning mode at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
They might be happier about teaching online!
If you liked this article, keep reading our blog since there are always detailed and engaging articles about education.