School closures across the globe have encouraged institutions to embrace the digital curriculum. These curriculums were initially combined with classroom lectures to promote retention and improve the teaching process. However, it is now serving as the primary source of education in most parts of the developed world. Whether you call it online learning or distance learning, there are several differences between these forms of learning and in-person classes. Technological innovation has led to a lot of improvement with virtual learning but it still isn't enough. Understanding these differences will give you more clarity about the subject.
1. Differences in Interaction
As if digitization hasn't done enough harm to face-to-face socialization, online learning has made things even worse. Because of the lockdown, going out with friends was prohibited and the only real chance students had to interact with their peers was stopped. While learning can happen without face-to-face interaction, studies have shown that it isn't as efficient.
Virtual conversations don't cut it whether it is between peers or students and teachers. To replace face-to-face interaction, chat rooms and other interactive tech tools have been used by schools. Video conferencing apps like Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Lifesize have become the most suitable alternatives to face-to-face, in-person classes. Is it enough to simply video chat with students and teachers?
2. Differences in Experience
Over the last decade, teaching has become less about theories and more about hands-on experiences with practical applications in the real world. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has prevented many students from getting the hands-on experience they need to thrive. While this isn't an issue for students that deal primarily with theories, those who need hands-on experience to learn are lagging.
In place of hands-on practicals, schools are using augmented and virtual reality tools. Tools like Titans of Space, Discover VR, InMind VR 2, and Tilt Brush come in handy in the education sector. However, these tools were meant to contribute to real-time practicals, not to substitute in-person classes altogether. So, can you say they are truly suitable replacements?
3. Differences in Flexibility
When it comes to flexibility, online learning gets a point over in-person classes. Other than during video conferencing classes that last for a few hours a day, students have control over when they study. They can also decide the time, place, and volume of each lesson. You can't get this kind of flexibility from traditional learning programs.
While flexibility is a good advantage of online learning over in-person classes, it is only favorable to older students who have excellent time management and self-motivating skills. People who work and school at the same time benefit significantly from online learning. Younger students need assistance from their older siblings, parents, or guardians if they are to successfully follow online learning programs.
4. Differences in Cost
Online learning offers cost-saving benefits over traditional schooling. Or at least it did before the Covid-19 pandemic. Students and business owners who opt for online learning programs save a lot of money on transportation, resources, and tuition. Since all classes are virtual, you can move from classroom to classroom without paying a penny for transportation. Following the Covid-19 pandemic, some private schools continued to charge high tuition fees for online learning. Students in such schools don't enjoy a lot of cost savings.
5. Differences in Accessibility
A completely virtual education system might be successful in the developed world but it remains a fantasy in developing nations. Before the coronavirus pandemic, UNICEF was working in collaboration with many developing governments to provide education for all. The pandemic has made their work much more difficult. This is why millions of students stayed home for months without any form of education. It also explains why many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa rushed into reopening schools. Only a few children had access to the tools they needed for online learning like Internet connection, computers, and electricity. They don't even have access to a digital curriculum that works.
Online learning comes with many advantages but it is still far from being perfect as a viable alternative to in-person classes. This is one thing we can learn from the Covid-19 pandemic. With time and innovation, a digital curriculum might become better than in-person classes. For now, however, the only real benefit it has over in-person classes is safety from exposure to the virus.