From the time the coronavirus evolved into this worldwide pandemic, the adoption of online education started to attract heavily politicised views by both state and private schools, leaving them with the decision between ceasing classes altogether or quickly adapting to online education and distance learning.
Most schools took the initiative to adapt themselves to online education and online classes.
It made sense, at first, to move to an online alternative in a time when no-one could have frequent physical proximity to other people, and had to social distance for prolonged periods. The pertinent questions now are:
Is it still a good option for students and parents? Is this type of education good enough?
What has been the evolution of online education?
Online education has grown over the last few years and has experienced mainstream acceptance. This growth has been propelled by the fact that, with online classes, one gets to control one’s learning environment, which ultimately brings a sense of flexibility, convenience and mobility.
According to US News, more than 6.3 million students in the U.S. – most of whom were undergraduates – took at least one online course in the fall of 2016, a 5.6 percent increase from the previous year. This is the 14th consecutive year that Babson Survey Research Group has reported growth in online enrollments.
Let us look into a few reasons why online education is growing and will be an integral part of the future of education:
Online learning is perpetually available
Online has replaced some homeschooling systems that were previously in place. Parents are now able to use technology to teach their homeschooled children.
Not only that, if a child is slow at reading, for instance, they will, theoretically, have a bunch of online resources to assist them in catching up on the subject during their spare time.
Whilst some naysayers will deny it, the reality is that there is a multitude of quality online courses for all levels of education, in addition to the high-quality learning materials that have been developed by qualified online educators.
Ultimately, you can enroll in all sorts of viable online courses, including online certificate programs, online college courses, and online degree programs.
Online education brings a lot of flexibility
In a live class, you have to sit through the whole session until the teacher is through with it. With e-courses, students are able to work at their own pace, without being restricted to time, space or location.
The main advantage of being location-free is that you do not need to go through the rigorous process of acquiring visas and other travel documents prior to commencing your course.
You will only be required to schedule lessons around your available time slots, with minimal to no impact on your current work and family commitments.
Overall, the online education system is very effective for working students or committed mums who have to juggle parenting and school, or work and school.
Live support is offered by qualified teachers
Worth noting is that some online systems have live support, allowing students to be guided by a teacher when they require assistance. My English Skype lessons are an example of how online education can tackle specific student needs without compromising on quality.
The biggest advantage of these lessons is that both the teacher and student can operate from any location in the world, as long as they have a reliable internet connection.
Additionally, teachers are able to provide lessons to students from around the world without requiring a visa or permit to enter a specific country, and without making any travel arrangements (or associated costs) to do so.
Online Education is, generally, more affordable than traditional education
The overall cost of online education is considerably lower than its counterpart. Firstly, some lessons are automated in order to eliminate the need for live instruction, and secondly, visa and travel arrangements are totally eliminated from the equation.
Also, generally-speaking, you are able to even undertake a large number of free online courses without spending a single cent. That way, you can find out if you have an aptitude for a subject before actually spending any money on learning it.
An unlimited number of students can be enrolled
A substantially greater number of students can be enrolled into online education/distance learning classes when compared to in-class training. As a result, this type of education enables international students to be given the opportunity to attend studies, at their preferred university, without leaving their home country.
And, most importantly, without spending tons of money in visas and airfares.
Although teachers may still have to incorporate live online lessons as part of their curriculum requirements, most of the lessons are automated, which allows students to self-learn at their own pace and in the convenience of their homes.
The work of a teacher is reduced to preparing the lesson plans and placing them online and marking and checking the progress of the students. Teaching is replaced by mentorship across a broad range of topics.
Interactive learning environment
Online students can enjoy the interactiveness of the materials supplied by online providers. The most frequently utilised materials include videos, photos, graphs, quizzes, puzzles, worksheets and infographics.
The variety of materials allows for lessons to be lively, interactive, flexible and productive.
Automated or robotic systems are yet to be invented that can mark students’ assignments or other academic work, however it is undeniable that online education offers flexibility, lower costs, automation of procedures and caters for a wider audience across the world.
Whether or not online education is the future of education, the fact of the matter is that online education will certainly be part of the future of education. Doubters will continuously try to downplay the value of this type of education, however the success of YouTube, TED Talks and other similar platforms clearly prove that there is a place for online education.
Nonetheless, it is understandable that in areas such as medicine or law, where specific academic parameters need to be met, traditional education is the best fit for students. Whilst some medicine or law subjects could easily be taught online, the practical components of those programs would be extremely challenging to be effectively taught online.
Similarly, courses like mechanical engineering and piloting still require the live experience of operating machinery and may not be entirely online; only a part of the system can be taught online.
However, the reality is that new models of learning are always springing up in the marketplace, providing students with varied opportunities to fashion their education into something that fits them, not the other way around.
The future of online education looks extremely promising, and opens up education to a larger section of the population than ever before.
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