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Is distance learning the future of education?

by Loknath Das

Is distance learning the future of education?

Online learning was once frowned upon and thought to disturb the normal learning process students were accustomed to in the classrooms, but with the impact technology has on the life of every individual nowadays, that’s not the case anymore.

Online courses can help students reach the depth of different subjects without having to take an excessive number of classes in a semester as they can do it at their own pace in a familiar environment and with all the help they would get in a normal study group.

Numerous studies have been conducted over the years, to determine whether online learning is more effective than face-to-face courses or should it only be used as an additional method, in parallel with conventional classes.

The results were varied and while some students did better with online classes, others reported their grades were significantly worse. In 2017, a study showed that online classes are a poor option for students who did not have an advanced knowledge of the subject and the dropout ratio was bigger. However, other studies showed that online courses are the best option for students who have a more challenging life such as working full time or raising a kid.

Research conducted on students from rural schools that lack specialised and advanced courses for those more advanced than their peers, shows that online courses can be an excellent addition to conventional studying. The study showed that students who took the online courses did better than those who stuck to the curriculum.

Online teaching has no geographic boundaries
Another advantage that has been brought up when discussing online classes is the cultural diversity and the chances students have to connect with either colleagues or teachers from all over the world. Students have more time to discuss and exchange opinions with other individuals from different cultures, without the pressure of a ticking clock.

Coming in contact with people with a different background can have a huge impact on individuals, as they learn to communicate and listen to different opinions. This increases their opportunity to familiarize themselves with the way other communities see things, an experience they would not have in a classroom.
For instance, an individual from Cyprus can choose to take an online chemistry tuition form a teacher in Singapore, an option that would not normally be available in a conventional classroom.

A way of reaching the masses
Studies have shown that distant learning benefits those less fortunate, who have limited access to education. Whether we are talking about rural communities or individuals who have difficulties attending regular classes due to various reasons regarding time, distance or particular situations at home, online courses come to their help. Children from less developed communities, who have limited access to resources like textbooks or attend schools who suffer from a deficit of personnel now have the opportunity to fathom the subjects they are interested in. They can this way prepare for higher education without feeling they are missing out on vital information.

What do professors think? 
While most studies and discussions about distance learning focus on the students, it’s worth knowing what opinions do teachers and counselors have about it. Teachers who embraced the idea of online tutoring want to remind others that learning communities can also be found online. They say the process is much more complex than just downloading 100 pages of content and uploading their final paper at the end of the course. Communication plays a huge role in effective teaching and the online community knows it.
Other professionals say that online teaching helped them enhance their teaching abilities. They learned how to construct their courses and now have a better understanding of the education system and their institution policy, skills they did not develop with just working in a classroom and following a strict curriculum.

What will the future bring? 
It is becoming more and more obvious that online education is going to continue to change and adapt to suit our needs and lifestyle. But what direction is it taking and how will it look in the future, as special education apps are no news and courses are already available everywhere? Will it one day replace the conventional classroom?

Researchers say that online learning is going to be based more on projects than papers, as technology nowadays makes it really simple for students to present and broadcast their projects with the use of a mobile phone.
While online education will not replace classroom education anytime soon, there are many reasons why they should work together, to compensate one another. Teachers should be more open to the idea of bringing their teaching into the present day and adapt to the ever-changing needs of students.



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