Online Learning Needs Improvements

The recent report from Digital Learning Compass shows that 30% students have enrolled in distant courses and nearly half of them exclusively take distant education. On the contrary of the growth of distant learning enrollment, on-campus enrollment has dropped 5% since 2012. But is our online learning mature enough for students to exclusively learn online?

Ross Smythe ‘s answer is no. The ten disadvantages associating with online learning in his article can be divided into three categories – student, teacher, and system. First, from the students’ perspective,  online learning requires strong self-discipline and basic knowledge of technology.  Students who haven’t developed strong enough self-discipline will face procrastination and distraction when learning online. Training is necessary for students to develop self-discipline and gain basic technological knowledge before taking online classes. But this training will also greatly benefit their study life and work life afterward, even become their lifelong assets.

As for teachers, they usually cannot provide immediate feedbacks for students studying online. Sometimes a student has to wait for weeks to get their answers. The mechanism of office hour should be introduced to support students’ studying process. Also, virtual teachers give students too much flexibility and fail to give students enough interaction among peers. Collaboration plays an important role in classroom education and this ability to work in a group also influence students’ future career path. To a certain degree, assigning group projects to students might make up the missing of collaboration in online learning. Another disadvantage Smythe stated is that students learning online might face information overload since they do not have teachers to filters information for them. But in fact, when teachers design online courses, this process itself can serve as a filter. Teachers already chose the most relevant information to present in online courses.

Lastly, the system of online education itself is far from perfect. Online institutions vary in quality. My microeconomic professor found a significant incorrect analysis in an online course, and the incorrect information may mislead thousands of students. So the proper censorship is required to maintaining the accuracy of course content. Additionally, many online schools do not have accreditation to give degrees, which will cause students’ resume discarded by employers. Also, the recognition of online degrees is a serious problem for online learners. According to US News, 25% employers have negative impressions on online degrees. The market of online learning needs more regulation.

Online learning is growing at an astonishing rate and more and more students turn to online learning. Students’ self-discipline and technological knowledge, teachers’ dedication, and online institution’s accreditation are indispensable for a successful online education.  But there are still some unique experiences of traditional classroom education cannot be replaced by online education for now, such as the collaborations with peers and the face-to-face interactions with teachers. Online learning is not mature enough to take over traditional education. There are still improvements need to be made for online learning and the value of traditional learning will not be undermined.

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