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Diana-Abasi Anthony Ubokudom – Changing the Traditional
Technology has undoubtedly, simplified various aspects of human life. One of such areas where the impact of technology can be felt is education. Thanks to technology, people do not have to be physically present in classrooms to obtain an education. They can now do so comfortably in their homes, over the internet. This is indeed impressive, as it will benefit many different groups of people globally. However, on the other hand, there are downsides to this new method of learning. This essay will address two key aspects of online learning: First, why and how it will change the way students learn; and secondly, those who will benefit the most from online learning, and why.
Online learning will change the traditional model of learning because it lacks some major features which must be part of quality education. One of such key features is social interaction. A classroom is not only an environment for learning, but a place to interact with peers, and build long-lasting relationships. These are absent in online education because the learner is isolated from other learners like him/her self. In class, there are opportunities to apply ideas in the form of small group interactions, class presentations, practicums, etc, but there are little to no opportunities like these in online learning. Therefore, skills which are essential for the job market such as team spirit, public speaking, peer-group interaction, which are cultivated in the traditional model of education, are absent in online learning.
Online education is also changing the traditional model of learning by increasingly reducing the type of exchanges that can occur between student and instructor. Although generally, there is an email or phone number to contact the instructor, nothing defeats the importance of seeing them one-on-one, sitting and discussing course requirements, getting feedback on assignments, and having them supervise the student's work, as in the traditional model of education. Moreover, course Instructors will also be disadvantaged as the sole purpose for which they went into the profession; (teaching, as opposed to just uploading notes online for students to study) is defeated. Thus, in online education, although students are learning, they are not being taught. Learning and being taught, are two different scenarios. In the traditional model of education, learning takes place through that exchange between a teacher who is physically present, and students alike. But in online education, the students are present, but the Instructor, regardless of the fact that he/she is at the other end; is physically absent in the student's life. Thus, online learning is gradually encouraging a "do-it-yourself" model of learning, which in some cases is not beneficial to the learner. However, as earlier stated, there are several beneficiaries of online education.
The top beneficiaries of online learning will be those not privileged to obtain traditional education due to financial and distance barriers, specifically, students living in rural areas. These students will no longer have to travel great distances to get educated, because they can do so in their communities through online learning. For example, in some Aboriginal communities in Canada that lack all-year road access, education is delivered primarily through fly-in Instructors and online learning. Furthermore, some subjects are available online free of charge. This can help this group of people to save costs, while still being educated. The next group of beneficiaries will be people living with disabilities. These people can learn comfortably through online education in their homes, without having to be present in the classroom.
Another group that will benefit the most from online learning are paced learners. For students who find it difficult to assimilate a lot of information at once, online learning is a great alternative for them to learn at a pace which is convenient for them.. In the traditional model of education, there isn't really a focus on this personalized learning, and individual strength of the learner, because usually, a one-size-fits-all approach is applied by the teacher. Therefore, online learning for paced learners, shifts control from the instructor to the learner, allowing them to customize education according to their personal tastes and abilities. A similar group of beneficiaries to the paced learners are part-time students who work full-time, and older people with families, who are returning to school. For part-time students with jobs, who are unable to be physically present in the classroom, online learning enables them to successfully combine their jobs with school, as they can study on-the-go: during their lunch time at work, or on their off- days. For people with children, online learning enables them to carry out their domestic duties, while at the same time, learning conveniently. This is almost impossible in the traditional/classroom model of learning, as it is either one or the other. Hence, online learning encourages multi-tasking.
Finally, institutions can also benefit by offering online classes, as they can save a lot of resources like; computers, chairs, lockers, running costs, etc. As more students enroll in online classes, these resources become increasingly available to the students receiving traditional education.
This essay has examined the ways in which online learning is changing the traditional model of education, and the groups that will benefit the most from online learning. It was argued that online learning reduces social interaction between learners, and instructors, as it isolates them from each other. Online learning as I also argue, is gradually shifting the focus from teaching to mere learning, (a do-it-yourself approach), as opposed to the traditional model of learning that emphasizes a balance of both. However, there have also been beneficiaries of online education, like; low-income populations, rural residents, disabled people, working mothers, and even traditional academic institutions. Therefore, while online learning may be viewed by many,
as an advantage, it also comes with its downsides; but so does technology in general. It could be seen as a blessing. It could be seen as a curse. In both scenarios, what matters is perspective.