Historically, whenever humans made some great engineering advancement, it always seemed to be down to a bit of technological boffinry. The wheel, the internal combustion engine, the Sinclair C5… Alright, the C5 was a disaster.
That just goes to show that we don’t get it right every time.
If forced to condense the premise of technological innovation into a single, short catchphrase, it may well boil down to 'perpetual motion'. And, at this point, who can be sure whether technology drives innovation or if the inverse is true?
Does it matter, so long as we continue to progress?
The answer depends on many factors, not the least of which would be one's definition of progress.
To illustrate that point, think about those who may argue that virtual reality is a waste of time and money. They posit that VR games and devices are an escape hatch from the magnificent real world that's ours to discover if only we could disconnect from our electronic devices.
We wonder, though, how many of those VR naysayers would board an aircraft piloted by someone who hasn't honed their skills in a flight simulator - a virtual reality device?
Fortunately for everyone including your Superprof, such philosophical discussions are too far-reaching to broach in an article tallying the pluses of online learning.
For philosophers who would like to discuss the relevance of VR and online learning, we welcome your comments but, for those interested in learning about the upsides of online education, let's get this show on the road.
The Prevalence of Technology
Today, technology touches every part of our lives. The range of 'smart' devices we arm ourselves with attests to that. Everything from televisions and phones is 'smart' these days. Even our cars are so computer-laden that DIY auto repairs are practically out of the question.
Education isn’t immune to the technology invasion. That's a good thing... right?
Much like the virtual reality question we wrestled with in our opening, technology in education has its good and bad points.
For those old enough to remember and those who live in less-developed areas of the world, standard classroom technology was/is limited to perhaps a television and VCR or DVD player bolted to a rolling cart. In some areas of the world, even that primitive setup is beyond reach.
For students in the developed world, however, the dawn of the internet era, the prevalence of personal communications devices and the burgeoning Virtual Learning Environment could signal an end to school-centric learning.
For some, it may herald the start of a kind of do-it-yourself education model where you search for information and study from materials provided by several sources. In effect, such learners become autodidacts; self-taught students who take lessons whenever and wherever they want.
Massive Open Online Courses - MOOCs, as they're known, are a sterling example of lessons delivered online. the topics are usually advanced; targeted to university students. Indeed, many universities host MOOCs, sometimes at no cost.
The advantages of a renown university hosting such courses include:
- reaching a wider audience
- disseminating information more broadly
- the ability to host classes on a variety of subjects
- the assurance of the most up-to-date information
- requires fewer resources
- demands less time from teachers
- learners in degree programs can earn extra credit by taking a few such courses
- saves money for teachers and students, as well as the college or university that hosts them
Out of this mish-mash of ideas will emerge specific advantages for all of the parties involved: students, teachers and facilities who have embraced virtual learning.
Before we dig into each online education participant's pluses, we have to point out the obvious.
We enjoy this marvellous age of technological possibility while also living in a frightening biological reality.
Since the advent of COVID, we've had to retreat from our usual routines of going to school, meeting our friends and colleagues; sharing the same space and breathing the same air.
Few would dispute that online learning presents a distinct advantage to all concerned solely from a virus safety perspective. Now, let's look at distinct pros for each party involved in education.
How Schools Benefit from Online Learning
Some might say that schools derive the most benefit from hosting their courses online. A facility that offers strictly-online degree programs does not need an expansive campus and large buildings to house multiple classrooms. It doesn't need dorms to house students, either.
Any school that dispenses with face to face learning may incur initial expenses to set up their remote teaching facilities but, after that, they may record lectures and play those recordings in multiple classes. Teachers may be restricted to marking student papers while technicians curate and access the school's lectures database.
Any college or university that plans for their readers and lecturers may pay for those educators' training.
Traditional teaching is vastly different from delivering lessons online; professors need to arm themselves with the skills and techniques necessary to make online learning as close to a social experience for their students as possible.
If COVID lockdowns have taught us anything at all, it's that school is only partially about education, the rest is all about practising and mastering social skills.
Every degree program course offered online improves students' learning experience and diversifies teachers' skills sets while saving the school, college or university a ton of money.
More importantly - and the biggest 'pro' of all: educational facilities should strive to be on the cutting edge of innovation. Otherwise, how can they teach those who will shape tomorrow?
Lucky for us, the more courses offered via the internet, the more degree plans taught through distance learning, the more schools that offer them demonstrate that they remain vital.
How Teachers Benefit from Being Online Educators
Statistics show that older people are less apt to embrace new technologies. Your teacher(s) will defy that stereotype by becoming a master of online teaching.
The very ethos of the teaching profession is guiding their charges into new fields of knowledge.
Today's students - every one of them a digital native, seem to have more aptitude and affinity for the cyber-world so, at least in this instance, learners might instruct teachers how to teach their course via webcam.
Teachers often bemoan the fact that much of their personality and pedagogy must be stifled to teach to today's curriculum standards. But with all of the tools and resources available in the digital realm, teachers are free to make their lessons as creative and interesting as they'd like, in part because teaching online saves them a lot of time.
For one, teachers might record lessons, at least the part where they deliver instruction. Teachers could also design a grading template to mark students' papers and use already-created response bubbles to give students feedback.
Another, rather odd way that distance teaching benefits teachers: not having to decipher students' handwriting.
Reading through students' written papers can be quite time consuming but when assignments are turned in online, they are more likely to be typed than written by hand. Some might say that this is one of the cons of online tutoring but far more agree that grading papers online is a far more efficient way to review students' work.
It is more environmentally friendly, too!
How Students Gain from Classes Online
For most students, the traditional learning environment - teacher talking and students listening is something to be subjected to and endured rather than an experience to clamour for and eagerly anticipate. That is why the best teachers make learning fun.
Thanks to digital technology, learning online turns into a game - sometimes literally. Especially for young learners who might not have the patience or attention span needed to truly benefit from lessons online, maths games and spelling bees make learning more vivid and fun.
For the secondary school student, online learning becomes more personalised. They may establish their profile and set preferences - anything from the colour of their pages to the animations that herald correct answers.
Beyond that, the software used to learn with will help them to remember where they left off in their studies, suggest review points based on wrong answers given in previous assignments and often come with video tutorials built-in.
Perhaps the greatest advantage for students learning online: a level playing field.
You don't need to worry if your new haircut will bring you jeers, if your shoes are too worn or if you have the best and brightest of everything. If you need to take extra time to answer a question, you have it but if you're ready to respond as soon as your teacher finishes speaking, feel free to do so.
The utter flexibility of online learning works well for college and university students, too.
Simply log in when you're ready and submit your work by the deadline. Watch tutorial videos or delve into the vast troves of information the internet houses for your subject matter. Find like-minded classmates or fellow learners from around the world.
Digital education makes possible all of that and so much more so let’s look at the benefits online learning brings to education.
Putting Everything Together
Leaving aside VLE’s and looking at all online training and educational options, we recognise the immediate benefits.
For those who partake, the convenience of learning at leisure is unmatched while for those who instruct, the tools at their disposal are unparalleled. For facilities pivoting to cyberspace, being on the cutting edge of innovation in learning proves that such institutions are both relevant and necessary.
it is possible to schedule learning for when it suits, allowing you to access all the resources you need from the comfort of your own home.
Coincidentally, instructors may enjoy the same advantage. They might record the next day's lesson - or an entire week's worth, draw up templates to grade papers with and respond to students' questions... all from home and when they're ready to.
Where does Online Tutoring Fit In?
The standout benefit of online tutoring is cost.
Face to face private tutoring is generally an ongoing proposition; such an arrangement usually demands regularly scheduled, hour-long blocks over several months. With an online tutor, while many sites require you to sign up for a month or more, the overall cost is considerably less.
With Superprof, the cost is even more affordable. Tutoring takes place using our micro-tutoring system. Students pay by the minute as they work through problems with their tutors.
Most people agree that the biggest advantage of online learning and online tutoring is that it fills the inevitable gap left when students can’t keep up in the classroom.
The stigma attached to falling behind and having to ask for help in front of the class can be devastating. Kids are acutely aware of their peers from an early age and, often, bullying is a very real fact of life.
That’s why web-based classes, online tutoring and homework help websites are great assets for every learner.
News reports often detail how students fail to meet expected learning targets. This BBC report shows that five out of six pupils failed to make the new English Baccalaureate measurement. Could that be why online tutoring is on the rise in the UK?
Web-based applications can help in this situation, too.
Clever instructors are cluing in to their classes earning a few minutes playing their favourite game (or accessing social media) during class time in exchange for completed work. The same might apply when learning remotely, on one's own or with a tutor.
Fifteen minutes on Facebook could reward an hour spent on revision, homework help or online tutoring sites. Such a trade-off works to keep kids motivated while receiving the extra help they need.
Find out why you need to use online tutoring here.