Benefits and Pitfalls of Online Learning

By: Iavjot Kaur,

Benefits and Pitfalls of Online Learning

Our knowledge about online learning and teaching has rapidly grown over the last decade and especially this past year as a response to the current global pandemic. Although online learning, also known as e-learning, was implemented in most schools around the globe long before Covid-19 happened, most schools did not bother learning how to fully utilize online resources to enrich students’ learning until they had to. Since the shift from in-person classes to online classes happened so abruptly, it is easy for students and teachers to feel overwhelmed, especially for those who do not have any prior experience in online learning. In light of this, the following article will discuss the benefits and the problems of using online learning.

Research has shown that there are a myriad of benefits of using online learning (Community College of Aurora, 2020). Undoubtedly, most people can agree that online learning brings about flexible schedule and environment for both teachers and students (Heap, 2017). The flexibility that comes with asynchronous learning gives students and teachers a chance to work at their own pace (Community College of Aurora, 2020). This prevents students and teachers from overwhelming themselves by not having to schedule their time around a packed school timetable. Personally, studying online has also freed up my schedule by saving me from the daily 2 hours long commute to and from university. Moreover, it also allows students and teachers to customise their learning environment (Dambauld, 2020). Online learning gives students and teachers the flexibility to learn and teach from the comfort of their own homes or even outside of their homes if they wish. As opposed to traditional classrooms that can be quite noisy, online learning also provides a quiet learning environment for students which minimises disruptive environments and allows for better concentration (Dambauld, 2020). However, this will vary from student to student as it depends on how quiet their home environment is. I usually have no problem studying during the day as my family is off to work. However, my home environment becomes quite disruptive at night when everyone is watching TV and having dinner. For this reason, I prefer to work during the day as I am able to better concentrate then.

            Another benefit of online learning is that it helps students develop essential skills, such as self-motivation, self-discipline, time management and communication skills (Heap, 2017; Segaren, 2020). Since online learning now takes places remotely, students have to really be self-motivated as they do not have someone physically present to constantly remind them to stay on top of their studies (Heap, 2017). Asynchronous learning also gives students more responsibility and control over their learning as they will be the ones deciding how they will delegate time towards their studies (Community College of Aurora, 2020). This not only helps students become more self-disciplined, but it also helps with improving their time management skills. Before the shift towards online learning, I would always procrastinate and put off doing assignments till the very last minute. However, over the last few months, I have learned the importance of self-discipline and have trained myself to stick to a fixed working schedule to avoid procrastination. Furthermore, as students are working remotely outside of classroom, they will have to work harder in communicating with their teachers and peers (Segaren, 2020). This can improve students’ both verbal and written communication skills as they can use various methods to communicate with their teachers and peers, such as via video-conferencing, emails or even instant messaging apps.

            Furthermore, asynchronous learning can promote students’ career advancement and cultivate their hobbies (Heap, 2017; Segaren, 2020). As studying online gives students more flexibility, they will have more time to do internships and part-time jobs since they can fit their work schedule around their coursework easily (Heap, 2017). Moreover, flexibility also gives students more time to cultivate their hobbies which they normally could not do as they have to attend school from morning till evening. Despite the global pandemic, I have actually been able to take on more part-time jobs and virtual internships due to the flexibility granted by asynchronous learning. As asynchronous learning does not require students to attend live online classes, I have been able to allocate more time to my career advancement and simply listen to pre-recorded lectures and participate on discussion forums at my own convenience (Heap, 2017).

            On the other hand, online learning comes with its own challenges. One of the drawbacks of online learning is that it can create a sense of isolation (Chamberlin, 2020). On top of the enactment of social distancing rules in response to the global pandemic, having only the computer as their companion especially for asynchronous learning can be lonely and even terrifying for some students (Chamberlin, 2020). Consequently, not being able to go out and being trapped in their room studying all day can intensify students’ sense of isolation. As the online environment is completely different from traditional classrooms, where one is constantly surrounded by their peers and teachers, it could take some getting used to for students (Chamberlin, 2020). I have heard cases from my peers of some students falling into depression due to the lack of human interaction. Thus, schools and teachers in particular need to be sensitive towards this issue and provide students with not only academic but also emotional support to the best of their abilities.

            Another challenge that online learning brings about is the worsening problem of procrastination. Although asynchronous learning aims at promoting self-discipline and self-motivation, every student is different and not everyone can achieve these goals. Instead, it can backfire and cause students to procrastinate. When learning online remotely, students have no one to remind them to attend their class, to complete their assignments on time or to study for their upcoming tests and exams (Chamberlin, 2020). Teachers are not physically present to preach to students and chase after them to make them complete their work (Chamberlin, 2020). In fact, if parents are also not involved in students’ academic life, it will make things worse as students will then have no fear of consequences. Thus, if students do not have any authoritative figure present in their lives making sure that they are staying on top of their studies, it is easy for them to put off their readings and assignments while engaging in online learning (Chamberlin, 2020). Luckily for me, with a lot of perseverance and self-discipline, I am able to avoid falling into the procrastination trap most of the time. However, it is understandable why some students, especially younger kids, would feel disengaged and demotivated from learning if there is no around to pester them to do their work.

            In addition, technical issues and adapting to unfamiliar technology is another challenge that both students and teachers have to overcome. Experiencing technical issues is not uncommon for students and teachers while learning online, especially during synchronous learning. Sometimes, the computer might not work or might unexpectedly shut down and sometimes the Wi-Fi connection can be poor (Friedman, 2020). For poor Wi-Fi connection, I have found that turning off your video camera helps a lot with stabilizing the connection. However, students should notify their teachers of their technical issues as soon as possible especially if they require everyone to turn on their cameras. Moreover, due to the transition to online classes, most schools want students and teachers to make use of digital tools to facilitate online teaching and learning, such as Zoom, Audacity and Canva. However, sometimes students and teachers need to work with digital tools that they might have not even heard of let alone know how to use (Friedman, 2020). Thus, this could lead to students and teachers wasting precious class time on figuring out how to use unfamiliar technology. I know from experience how frustrating that can be for both students and teachers when they cannot even figure out how to share-screen or use the breakout rooms on Zoom.  

References

Chamberlin, S. (2020). Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Courses. Montgomery

College. https://www.montgomerycollege.edu/academics/online-learning/distance/advantages-and-disadvantages-online-courses.html

Community College of Aurora. (2020). Benefits of Online Education.

https://www.ccaurora.edu/programs-classes/online-learning/benefits-online-education

Dambauld, B. (2020, September 16). 13 Great Benefits of Online Learning. StraighterLine.

https://www.straighterline.com/blog/34-top-secret-benefits-of-studying-online/

Friedman, J. (2020, May 4). Tackle Challenges of Online Classes Due to COVID-19. U.S.

News. https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/how-to-overcome-challenges-of-online-classes-due-to-coronavirus

Heap, T. (2017, June 5). 5 Benefits of Studying Online (VS. Face-to-Face Learning). Illinois

Online. https://online.illinois.edu/articles/online-learning/item/2017/06/05/5-benefits-of-studying-online-(vs.-face-to-face-classroom)

Segaren, S. (2020, April 21). 5 Major Benefits of Online Learning. Study International.

https://www.studyinternational.com/2020/04/21/benefits-online-learning/