Kendra MacLean – Shifting Paradigms: the Ongoing Evolution of Learning

Education extends well beyond the confines of a classroom. Learning is a mindset. It is a person’s decision to embrace the fact that there will always be more to discover. With endless possibilities, online learning promotes an individual’s pursuit of knowledge, as a person’s potential to thrive increases exponentially when they are no longer constrained by the rigid expectations that the traditional education model inadvertently imposes.

Catering to what is best for the majority, emphasis is placed on the memorization of a set curriculum. Individual interests are suppressed, as students are required to memorize a large number of facts, regardless of if that information is relevant to their lives. Unable to form a personal connection, students struggle to grasp the importance of what they are learning, As a result, countless individuals are forced to resort to cramming as a method to prepare for their tests, only to forget quickly the bulk of the information within days. Although the intention of a school is to foster learning, this constant routine of not committing what they memorized for the purposes of a test to long-term memory does the exact opposite. Furthermore, students become disenchanted in the process.

Success is determined by the mark on a test. However, the grades on a student’s report card are unable to capture the essence of one’s abilities. Instead of expressing a student’s potential to succeed, marks are a reflection of a person’s ability to write a test under pressure. Impacting the extremes on the academic spectrum, individuals who struggle with tests will become discouraged from striving to pursue their intellectual goals, and students who excel at exams will also face ramifications.

In the midst of constructing an authentic identity, students are at an age in which they are in the process of discovering who they are and who they aspire to become. When teachers stress the importance of achieving high marks, students begin to associate their self-worth with their test score. Having received 100% on exams in the past, students who excel at the traditional educational model fall victim to the illusion that perfection is achievable. After graduating, an individual will continue to strive to reach a level of perfection. However, the self-inflicted pressure to attain the unattainable will be the source of immense stress, hindering a person’s ability to be fulfilled, making it more difficult for them to optimize their happiness.

Online learning lacks leeway for perfection. Over the past decade, the Internet has been transformed into an outlet for personal expression, providing a platform that fosters self-acceptance. It changes the filter through which an individual views the world by creating a global community. The mass amount of people interacting and exchanging ideas forces a person to acknowledge that no one is perfect, as there will always appear to be someone who is smarter, more talented, and more qualified. The focus shifts from being the best, to how one can contribute to the best of their abilities, which results in personal growth.

Instead of being forced to learn about a specific subject, individuals have the opportunity to explore their own interests, delving into a topic in-depth if creates a spark. Regardless of if their topic of choice is considered worthy of thorough understanding, there is an increased likelihood that the information will be retained when curiosity fuels an individual’s desire to learn.

After graduating from a traditional school, there are people who adopt the mindset that they have learned everything. In their opinion, the purpose of going to school was to prepare them fully to succeed in the world. This belief becomes dangerous, as when a person assumes that they have reached their peak, they will stop striving to improve, and, as a result, will plateau inevitably. By closing their minds off to the world around them, they will be unable to adapt as society changes. Online learning does not provide this opportunity. There is always more to learn, as new discoveries continue to be made when individuals are able to build upon the ideas of others.

Online learning is beneficial to everyone, specifically those who possess a genuine thirst to learn. This eagerness to keep an open mind and absorb all of the information that surrounds them allows them to thrive.

Learning, after all, is a life-long process of growth.

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