The number of students choosing online learning programs is increasing.
And clearly, this is not a ‘fading trend,’ with remote students anticipated to make up at least 39 percent of college enrollment by 2026.
Why the expected growth?
Many students recommend remote learning, citing different factors, including employment and career goals, as per the BestColleges 2021 Online Education Trends Report. Administrators, likewise, anticipate an increase and the need for E-learning, according to the same report.
But as you know, nothing is perfect. Several considerable disadvantages are holding back this mode of learning. And due to these drawbacks, unfortunately, digital learning doesn’t suit everyone.
But before we come to that, let’s learn why virtual classes are soaring.
Pros of Online Learning
Internet-based education appeals to many students and instructors because of the following advantages.
1. Accommodates various learning styles
Learning styles matter a lot as far as academic success is concerned. That’s why different students prefer different learning styles.
Online learning allows you to pick from many options that suit you best. You have visual materials, educational websites, and audiobooks at your disposal, and you can, as well, personalize the learning styles.
There are also online learning resources that allow you to color gradient text, improving your reading efficiency. Moreover, many online educational programs are AI-powered and work with the strengths and weaknesses of learners to ensure productivity.
One of the main advantages of online learning is the sheer amount of convenience it affords you.
Firstly, you have the luxury to study from anywhere in the world. All you need is a computer and internet connection. You can choose to learn at the comfort of your home and invest the time you would have otherwise spent commuting on your other priorities.
You’re also free to create your own schedule, although you have to keep an eye on a set deadline.
The combined convenience of place and time is helpful, especially if you’re balancing family, work, and school.
3. Saves money
Compared with in-person classrooms, digital learning is way more affordable.
Yes, you have to buy a computer and set aside money for paying for internet access, and that’s unavoidable.
But that means you save money you would have used on transport, real estate, or food at those expensive eateries on the campus.
Additionally, the tuition fee for online courses themselves is pocket-friendly, as learning materials are often available online free of charge.
4. Accustoms you to modern workplace requirements
As you interact with your instructor and other students while learning online, you gain first-hand experience of how the virtual world works. For instance, you can learn how to communicate remotely, a skill gaining traction globally in business.
What’s more, You can become familiar with online tools, including Microsoft Office 365 Suite and presentation tools, and develop valuable computer skills.
All these not only give you a competitive advantage; they also prepare you well for the tech-infused modern world. Many organizations, including Apple and Amazon, are now shifting to long-term remote work, hence why online learning gives you the advantage of landing and maintaining high-paying jobs.
5. Easy access to rich learning resources
Thanks to Zoom and other video conferencing services, it’s easy to invite experts to an online class.
Also, with the power of the internet, you can access rich learning resources far away from you physically. Instructors, more than often, create educational resources by compiling related online links to educational content and institutions for their students.
6. Helps build self-discipline
Self-discipline is an essential skill you can use in every area of your life.
But when taking digital classes, no instructor is around to tell you to log in and study.
That, however, turns out to be an advantage as it helps you self-realize the importance of prioritizing your most important things. At the end of it, you mature into an individual who highly values accomplishments.
And even better, self-discipline breeds many other skills, including time-management, as you have to create a study routine to improve productivity. These are critical skills for your personal and professional life.
Remote learning allows students to access their courses anytime and at their own pace. That allows you to maximize learning.
As discussions and lectures take the form of podcasts and audiobooks, you can pause and re-watch as many times as you please if you want to reflect on something or understand complex topics well.
Furthermore, if need be, you can first handle the easy bits of your coursework so that you can focus on the challenging segments later.
Cons of Online Learning
Sometimes online learning is not effective. Here we’ll discuss some of the cons.
1. Potential distractions
It’s no secret taking online classes at home — or anywhere else but a physical classroom — can be distracting.
To concentrate on your coursework, you need a serene environment. However, this is rarely the case when you can be surrounded by rowdy neighbors or noisy roommates who don’t always care about your lessons at home.
Family members, especially children, can also distract you from focusing on your tasks which can undermine the effectiveness of your lessons.
Also, It’s a lot easier to prioritize other fun things when at home. For instance, the ever-present urge to check your social media accounts can compromise your coursework.
2. Potential health hazards due to increased screen time
Spending time staring at screens is part of everyone’s life as computers, especially smartphones, have become a part of us.
But with online learning, you’re bound to spend more time on the screen than you should. An increase in screen time comes with an awful lot of health hazards for kids and adults alike.
For instance, too much blue light from a computer screen can cause sleep disturbances, while you can also suffer from eyes strain if you keep your eyes glued to the screen for a long time. Also, starring too much on a screen can impair your brain, which is associated with memory loss.
What’s more, staying in front of the screen for long hours can cause bad posture and a host of other physical problems.
3. Requires a high degree of responsibility
Online education comes with a lot of freedom as you can control your learning experience.
But this freedom means more responsibility. To succeed in online learning, you must be well organized, be good at time management, and above all, possess a high degree of self-discipline.
That makes digital learning inappropriate if you’re a dependent student with difficulties assuming responsibilities and need to meet in-person several times a week with a facilitator.
And even if, as a dependent student, you can establish a personal routine, it’s not easy to stick to it. That can create an imbalance between coursework and other priorities.
4. Requires computer literacy skills
This mode of learning relies a lot on computer programs. If you are tech-challenged, brace yourself for obstacles — although a few — if you want to get your degree or certificate online.
And this disadvantage often transcends the learners. Some teachers also possess only basic skills of using digital forms of teaching, like hosting a virtual conference session. That makes it easy for the trainers to compromise the online learning experience.
The good news is the internet offers various resources to help you master the software used in digital learning. Also, in many schools, you can get assistance from IT departments and help desks if you have difficulties with online learning portals.
5. Technology issues
It calls for not only an internet connection but a consistent connection with decent speed to handle your online coursework.
But this is not guaranteed in low socioeconomic areas, including many towns and even smaller cities.
This makes online learning not accessible by all, including students from low-income families without a reliable internet connection.
And these technological issues extend beyond the internet. Digital learning programs need reliable and user-friendly technology, which many computers are short of. The use of sophisticated tools — albeit overly expensive — might be the solution, but not when they are prone to system breakdowns that can cut off an online class.
6. Limited interaction among participants
There’s limited interaction among the students and the facilitator in digital classes, especially when more than 20 participants are involved.
Thanks to the freedom of creating personalized schedules, some students may not be active when the majority are attending an online class. Others may be present but not engaging.
Due to lack of interaction or enough of it, it becomes hard to create discussions. That may lead to ineffective education as class discussions are necessary when studying.
7. Limits some major courses
Although online learning supports many courses, some are either downright impossible or extremely difficult to conduct virtually.
Courses such as Music, Art, and Design require one-on-one interactions between the instructor and the students.
For such courses, the trainer needs to be physically available to help the student — and offer immediate feedback and support. For instance, if you’re doing a course in music, you need a teacher to help play instruments. That is, however, impossible when studying online.
Online learning has revolutionized education with the enormous opportunities such as convenience, flexibility, and freedom it promises.
To get the best of it, you can create strategies to minimize some disadvantages. For instance, you may take your coursework away from home, maybe at the public library, where there’s reliable internet and no distraction.
It’s not for everyone, though. So you need to go through the pros and cons before establishing if it’s a learning style that works for you. One thing is for sure, online learning won’t replace the classroom.