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Pros and Cons of Online Learning

Introduction

Institutionalized education has been affected significantly by the current Covid-19 pandemic because schools have been closed as one of the countermeasures to address this global problem. As such, online learning has become the preferred mode of delivering instruction to students. With the rapid rate of technological growth in the last 20 years, people are now enjoying one of the most significant technological booms in human history. In the field of education, online learning is becoming more dominant and heavily debated as it expands out of the traditional classroom towards anyone with access to the Internet. As an educator, I have a particular interest in this topic because it affects the way I deliver content and interact with my students. This paper identifies the advantages and disadvantages of online learning and how technology is vital to help me make informed decisions in the future.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Learning

In their study, Kaplan and Haenlein argue that parents are sharply divided on the introduction of online classes (445). A good number of parents are in support, while others say that machines cannot replace the human element. George, a professional in the banking sector and a parent of a preschooler says that online classes are a new concept, and his son was excited initially to be part of it (Kaplan and Haenlein 447). Zoom is one of the popular online platforms being used to teach learners, and it has been highly helpful in facilitating distance learning. However, it has a major drawback, as it does not provide a way for students to submit their work for assessment. As such, the only option for learners is to photograph their work and email it, and this process could be complicated for some students, especially those in elementary classes. Therefore, parents have to be involved to help their children, which could be a barrier to online learning, specifically in cases where such adults are not available.

I agree with these two parents in the sense that they are highlighting real issues. For instance, George is expressing the excitement his son has courtesy of virtual learning. He believes that this being a generation of electronic gadgets, his son will benefit a lot. However, he pushes for modification of this online platform. On the other hand, Ruth is very definite. She calls online classes total rubbish because, according to her, her child is not benefiting a lot from technology. The teachers often send unclear photos of notes through a WhatsApp group, and parents are expected to write them down for their children to read. This article leaves me with one question – in today’s time, many families have both parents working, and thus they might find it challenging to do the tasks given by the school as a parent – is it not prudent for the school to devise an initiative to connect with the child directly?

In another article, Dias et al. argue that media platforms used in online learning avail minimal interactive environment for students (417). Learning institutions use tools such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Teams, among other related platforms. However, some learners still struggle to get online. Ms. Diana, a chemistry teacher from a city school, feels that virtual classes are not easy to handle because a lot goes into making them productive and interactive (Dias et al. 417). During online courses, teachers try to create an interactive environment by randomly asking questions to students, which is lacking in online learning.

I partly disagree with this article’s argument that teaching via online platforms is a struggle. I believe it is not difficult, but it is different in the sense that the physical presence of students in the class is missing. For example, from my experience, Zoom offers an interactive platform that allows users to plan and manage lessons effectively. In addition, it creates learning experiences almost similar to the traditional classroom set-up, including the ability for students to raise their hands, pose questions, and participate in discussions. I believe that this new experience excites students, thus facilitating learning in the process. One question that arises for me from this article– is it not ideal to appreciate the fact that there are minimal distractions by the learner’s classmates, which is common in a regular classroom?

In another article, Dumford and Miller argue that the significant relationships for engagement and amount of online course exposure reveal that the online environment might encourage certain types of engagement, such as more use of quantitative reasoning activities (454). Traditional face-to-face settings seem more likely to promote collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, effective teaching practices, quality of communications, and discussions with others. According to the authors of this article, with online learning gaining popularity in modern times, it is important to investigate the advantages associated with it for continued improvement to meet learning objectives. The article notes that proper research should be done on the involvement of students who access their learning content through an online medium at varying levels, exploring patterns of engagement for online learners and those in face-to-face settings through the percentage of classes in which a student is enrolled online.

I agree that it is worth noting that the education system still expects children to write exams in most countries. However, with online learning, it becomes hard for teachers to monitor how such exams take place. Additionally, while learners might have good typing skills, maintaining good handwriting in a normal class set-up might be a major problem. Moreover, many students have not been able to take advantage of virtual platforms because they do not have suitable devices at home, or they lack a good Internet connection. However, despite the many highlighted drawbacks, online learning serves the purpose of engaging with students, especially during this time whereby schools have been closed following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. This article raises an important question – what will happen to learners who come from poor and marginalized communities where access to the Internet is a challenge?

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Conclusion

As the technology used in online education continues to evolve rapidly, research must address the impact of online learning on virtual platforms. More research is also needed on whether there are disciplinary modifications that can be made on the online platforms to make the online curriculum more interactive. If the primary goal of online learning is to reach a broader range of students and provide educational opportunities for those who might not otherwise have such access, then it is essential to ensure that online education students are partaking in equally engaging educational experiences that contribute to their learning and success.

Works Cited

Dias, Patrícia, et al. “The Role of Parents in the Engagement of Young Children with Digital Technologies: Exploring Tensions between Rights of Access and Protection, from ‘Gatekeepers’ to ‘Scaffolders’.” Global Studies of Childhood, vol. 6, no. 4, 2016, pp. 414-427.

Dumford, Amber, and Angie Miller. “Online Learning in Higher Education: Exploring Advantages and Disadvantages for Engagement.” Journal of Computing in Higher Education, vol. 30, no. 3, 2018, pp. 452-465.

Kaplan, Andreas, and Michael Haenlein. “Higher Education and the Digital Revolution: About MOOCs, SPOCs, Social media, and the Cookie Monster.” Business Horizons, vol. 59, no. 4, 2016, pp. 441-450.

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