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Is Online Learning Effective? Education during COVID

Have you ever wondered whether what’s taught online is reaching students or are efforts wasted? Sure, teachers had their share of self-doubt when they swiftly shifted from in-person teaching to online mode in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yes, they have embraced this concept of full-fledged online classes, assignments, and examinations, but sometimes wonder if efforts will bear any fruit. Although online classes are better than no classes, is this form of teaching and learning effective? Is it truly serving the purpose of education?

Many online and distance learning courses are held on platforms such as Coursera, Udemy, Skillshare, etc., and are also directly hosted by well-established institutions for a decade or more.

But, these are focused on providing additional skills for professionals, students, or anyone interested in learning a new skill/technique/subject. Although online learning essentially meant MOOC, it’s now no longer limited to them.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes to the way we live our lives now, and the education system is not untouched by this reform. Due to the pandemic, the entire education system has shifted to a virtual model of teaching and learning.

We have to take classes, whether of schools or colleges, online. It’s just not about the change in tools we use or shifting from brick-and-mortar classes to Zoom classes, but it’s about the efficacy of this shift.

Imagine having the pandemic two decades earlier. We would not have been able to conduct online classes as smoothly as we do today. The technological advancements we have today help the education system operate a bit more smoothly.

Though online teaching and learning are a blessing during the pandemic, where we have some form of engagement with the students, let’s discuss its effectiveness.

Rise of Online Learning during the Pandemic

man teaching student online

The estimates say by 2025, the massive open online course (MOOC) market could touch a net worth of $25.33 billion (Global News Wire). But lately, MOOCs are not the only digital classrooms. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the conversion of traditional classrooms into virtual classrooms using platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, etc.

Although there was substantial growth in education technology even before the pandemic, its onset has accelerated the growth, with the online education market projected to reach $350 Billion by 2025.

Now, we have various apps, websites, and tools to help students and teachers collaborate online. With the development of online meeting apps, e-learning websites, virtual classroom management tools, it is an exponentially growing field, and this pandemic has only hastened the process.

Traditional vs Online Learning

virtual class on Macbook screen

5 Reasons Why Online Learning is Here to Stay

Let’s discuss the five major pros of online learning — convenience, cost, time investment, better understanding through the use of multimedia content, and access to the material anytime.

1. E-learning is Convenient

Learn from wherever and whenever is the mantra of e-learning. And those who hate to commute, it’s even better — no to-and-from campus. Instead, log in to the virtual campus, and you’re ready to learn from your bedroom as long as you have a high-speed internet connection.

The ease of accessing high-quality educational content from anywhere has helped many previously disadvantaged people, either due to location, time, or money. They can now join any course of their choice and develop their careers.

Online classrooms are beneficial in this time of the pandemic, where it’s safer to stay at home.

2. E-learning is Cost-Effective

That’s good news for students and professionals interested to learn a subject or a skill that is usually pricey or inaccessible at times.

Generally, online courses cost substantially less compared to traditional classes. Traditional classes are more expensive due to various additional resources such as infrastructure, teaching faculty, supporting staff, and scheduling.

But with online classes, many costs are reduced, and the profits of the teacher/institute hosting online classes are increased, without much burden on the student. Reduced business expenses can be passed on as savings to students — a win-win situation for all.

Online learning is rapidly becoming one of the most cost-effective ways to educate the world’s rapidly expanding workforce.

Jack Messman, former CEO at Novell

3. E-learning is a Time Saver

Time is money. And yes, online teaching and learning is a cheaper option, but teachers and students can juggle more tasks due to its less time investment. Be it a full-time mom, a highly busy executive, or a tradesman, anyone can take up online classes and manage their busy schedules. This lets them progress in their careers without compromising their full-time jobs or other responsibilities.

4. E-learning is Visually Appealing

Animations, videos, PowerPoint presentations, and various other multimedia options make online teaching visually appealing to various students. These have twofold benefits.

First, it keeps the students engaged with variety.

And second, engagement results in increased content retention.

As a result, the overall understanding of the concept is enhanced, and chances of learning the content effectively increase.

5. E-learning Lets Students Pause, Rewind, Forward

In a traditional classroom, students can listen to the class only once, when taught by the professor. But with online learning, they have access to video recordings of the lectures, materials, and other content. This gives freedom to the student to revisit the video any number of times, slow it down or pause it. Thus, students can learn at their own pace, unlike in a traditional classroom. 

One Reason Why In-Person Classrooms are Needed

brick and mortar classroom

Lack of human touch in an online classroom.

A brick-and-mortar classroom provides better interaction between the teacher and students as well as among the students themselves.

Lack of human touch or social interaction can hamper the overall development of students, especially the younger ones in elementary or high school.

In a research study, previous students that failed algebra were assigned randomly to take up online or traditional classes for Algebra I. They found that the students who took online classes performed worse than those who took face-to-face classes.

Additionally, the students found the online classes to be more difficult than those who took offline classes. This clearly emphasizes the significance of traditional classes, especially for technical subjects or for students with learning barriers.

There are always outliers who will perform well irrespective of studying online or offline, but on average, it is found that students who take up traditional classes perform better. One of the reasons may be the social pressure which is highly motivating to perform better.

Yes, there are challenges in teaching in any of these modes. Thus, the most crucial factor is to have a well-structured curriculum and lesson plan, and innovative teaching practices.

With the improvement in tools and pedagogical principles used in online classrooms, many teachers facilitate online group tasks, student collaborations, and interactions. Thus, trying to enhance social interaction even in online classes.

In times where small instructor-led classrooms tend to be the exception, electronic learning solutions can offer more collaboration and interaction with experts and peers, as well as a higher success rate than the live alternative.

Keith Bachman, Corporate eLearning Executive, W.R. Hambrecht and Assoc.

How Effective is Online Learning?

Access to equipment and high-speed internet, poor pedagogical principles, and the disruptive environment at certain times during online classes are a few reasons that reduce the effectiveness of online learning. On the other hand, we should focus on its numerous benefits, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With its anywhere, anytime, and any pace, online learning proves effective in most situations.

Online teaching and learning are here to stay. Thus, it is time for teachers and students to plan and learn how to make this process as effective as possible.


Although we have no choice during the current situation of the pandemic but to continue with the online mode of education, we do have a choice to make it more effective with the right tools.

Whether it’s a traditional classroom or an online one, teachers have to be on their feet and get accustomed to any mode now. Build up their skill set to be effective in teaching. You can go a long way with the right tools.