The Pros and Cons of Online Learning

Published on: December 28, 2020

2020 saw a bigger shift towards online learning thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic and this is something that is expected to continue in 2021. Colleges and universities that would ordinarily not have used this method of teaching have been forced to adapt in an effort to protect students as well as continue with classes. However, while online learning is undeniably very useful there are some pros and cons associated with it. Here are a few of the reasons why a bigger focus on online learning can be useful as well as the areas where it still falls short.

Pros

1. A Surge In New Courses

There has been a growing trend towards online courses, but the pandemic saw a surge in new courses being created. This dramatic spike in new online courses means that there are more subjects to choose from. The pandemic also highlighted the importance of remote work, which saw an increase in the number of students enrolling in software and technology courses to expand their skills in this area. It is still unclear what a post-Covid-19 world would look like, but the fast-tracking of online courses to help prepare students for a digitally mediated world is a good start.

2. More Accessible

As more colleges and universities beginning to offer online courses it means students who would typically not have been able to attend classes now have a chance to enroll. Learners with physical disabilities also benefit from the opportunity to study online instead of having to attend classes. Online learning also tends to be more flexible while the improved virtual communication and collaboration that it fosters will be increasingly important skills in the future. In addition, since online courses do not require extra expenses such as travel, meals, and accommodation it can also become a more affordable option for many students, especially those in lower-income categories.

3. It is Safer

Safety remains a big concern for students as colleges and universities can quickly turn into Covid-19 hotspots if are is not taken. By taking courses online the risk is decreased considerably for students as well as their loved ones.

Cons

1. Inadequate Access To Required Technology

Many students live in provincial and rural areas where reliable access to high-speed Internet can be an issue. Some students might also not be able to afford laptops, tablets, or other devices that are required to view or access online materials. Studies have shown that lower-income students are up to 55% more likely than higher-income students to delay their graduation due to Covid-19 (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0047272720301353?via%3Dihub).

2. Not All Subjects Are Suitable For Online Teaching

Although a lot of information can be conveyed via online teaching methods it is not suitable for all aspects of all subjects. For example, a study has shown that the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown adversely affected the academic performance of students in the veterinary medical science field due to a lack of practical lessons (https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2020.594261/full). However, it was also found that by making lessons more interactive and providing 3D virtual tools that are able to mimic real situations the online lessons could be improved.

3. Rushed Online Courses Can Leave Students With A Negative Experience

Many colleges and universities had to rush to get out online courses for students and the results have been mixed. Many students feel like they are not getting value for their money and that the online courses lack the type of enrichment and learning they expected from their chosen learning institute. Some colleges and universities offered refunds on room and board fees, but the lack of tuition refunds has seen some students filing class-action lawsuits.

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