Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, online learning has grown exponentially, with an +400% increase since 2020 (GMInsights, 2022). The shift to online learning has become not only an innovative alternative, but in many cases, a necessity. So, what does online learning look like? And what are the advantages or disadvantages for teachers and students alike? Discover everything you should know on how to make online learning work for you!
The rise of online learning
The term “online learning” first appeared in the 1990s when the internet was democratised. The internet is continually evolving and becoming a part of our everyday lives. It is no wonder then, that students can now learn in a completely virtual environment, in-line with the online method. This modern method of education readily meets the needs of a growing population of students, who have a preference for learning outside a traditional classroom setting in a more flexible way.
Synchronous and asynchronous lectures
There are two types of online learning lectures: synchronous and asynchronous.
Synchronous lectures (or virtual classrooms) allow real-time interactions where multiple students can be online simultaneously.
Asynchronous lectures give students the ability to follow an online course autonomously, wherever they are, at their own pace, with the ability to replay courses multiple times. The added benefit of asynchronous lectures is that students are not required to be online at the same time, and can continue their learning via discussion threads and emails to complete their coursework.
Learning management system (LMS), what is it?
Web-based technology or software applications, like LMS, are used to prepare, implement and assess a specific learning process. There are two elements to this process: a server with base functionality, and a user interface operated by teachers, students and administrators. Here are some well known LMS: Moodle, Blackboard, Canvas… but many exist.
Advantages and disadvantages of online learning
Why choose online learning?
For convenience and flexibility
With 24/7 computer and internet access, online learning is highly convenient. It enhances learning by increasing students’ understanding as well as content retention, creating more constructive discussions, and skill-set improvement (writing, technology, time management, autonomy, self-discipline and life skills).
Asynchronous lectures allow students to create their own schedule, and prioritise quality time to review learning materials or prepare for exams.
For interactions and discussions
Online learning also levels the playing field for all students to stop, reflect and then respond as they interact with other students. This is a great advantage to introverted students, who prefer the anonymity of online environments, thus encouraging all students to consistently participate. Interactions and discussions between students and teachers also increase thanks to a more active, student-centred learning environment.
For innovation, creativity and improved administration
Online learning is an innovative teaching method, allowing ongoing opportunities for a variety of creative learning activities that are more engaging than the traditional approach.
Administration is improved, as coursework can be examined more thoroughly, and grading can be managed online by documenting/recording online sessions. With reduced demand on campus infrastructure, physical resources are maximised, and thus greater savings are made.
Limitations of online learning
Despite the numerous advantages, online learning does have certain barriers:
- It requires both teachers and students to be computer literate and have access to an internet connection.
- As it is a student-centred approach, students must learn autonomously, thus learning becomes complicated if they aren’t motivated to complete coursework. However by adopting an engaging approach, teachers can definitely overcome this barrier.
- There is also the concern of increased screen time, with students having to avoid eyestrain, and take breaks after long stints in front of the computer screen.
- And lastly, some students may suffer from isolation, with a lack of physical interactions that studying from home doesn’t supply.
Online learning is expanding as a viable method of interactive education. It empowers students to go beyond course requirements, engaging and encouraging them to get ahead by using technology. Online learning is functional, but also fun, meeting the expectations of today’s students, to feel included in their education. The YouTube generation wants to grow, and online learning tools are the answer! But to do so, teachers should not hesitate to innovate when teaching online so that students do not feel any kind of isolation and instead engage with course materials in a way they did not before.
Want to know more? Discover our ultimate guide on online and blended learning.