Online (distance) learning has become very popular in last 10 years or so. Reasons for this are numerous:
PROS OF ONLINE LEARNING
1. LACK OF TIME if you asked people what they lack the most, I believe that most of them would say TIME. We are constantly in a rush, either due to too many obligations or bad time management. So, if one wishes to attend any kind of course, one literally has to ‘steal’ the time. This is where online courses come on stage. They can save not only time, but also money and they are accessible round the clock.
2. THE LATEST CONTENT AT MUCH LOWER COST – online courses do not include costs such as: textbooks, boards and markers, rooms etc and the availability of latest material is easily accessible. This is why they can be offered at much lower price than regular F2F courses.
3. IMMEDIATE RESULTS AND FEEDBACK – most tasks in online courses offer immediate results. If the course is well designed you will get appropriate feedback, not only percentage.
4. SUITABLE FOR 21 CENTURY BUSINESS – there are numerous examples of companies which have offices in various places within one country, but also in different countries. For people working in such environment, online learning has proven to be very handy, bringing excellent results within short period of time.
CONS OF ONLINE LEARNING
However, online learning has also some downsides. According to my experience, these are the main ones:
1. Technology issues – Technology has changed our lives, no doubt about that. It is extremely helpful most of the time, but the question of its RELIABILITY is often on the agenda. Even the most sophisticated devices and tools are not 100% reliable. Breakdowns and failures occur completely unexpectedly, the Internet connect can be slow or could fail, PCs can have numerous issues which could limit students’ access and which the teacher cannot predict and so on and so on. Consequently, this leads to loss in students’ MOTIVATION
2. Motivation – it is a well known fact that a dropout rate in online learning is much higher than in regular F2F learning. According to some studies it ranges from 20-80 percent. How can that be?
While online learning can be a perfect method for independent, self-disciplined students, computer literate students it is not as beneficial for less self-conscious and less mature students who need a tutor and not a facilitator. Many students are keen on online learning because they can control they learning time, pace and it allows them to be more independent. However, online learning is probably not a solution for students are not self-motivated enough, well organized and have good time management skills.
3. Curriculum – My experience has shown that the importance of the curriculum, but more significantly the necessity for a qualified teacher is frequently overlooked. The online course can be successful ONLY if the curriculum and teaching methods fit the purpose. Transferring a F2F course to online environment is a very serious and time consuming work. If educators are not prepared to invest time and effort in this part, they SHOULD NOT (in my opinion) teach online. Unfortunately, there are too many lousy online courses on the Internet which harm the image of this kind of learning.
So, at the end I would say that e-learning is good if the student is self-motivated, self-disciplined and has good time management skills and if the teacher is able to devise a good online curriculum and has appropriate skills for this kind of teaching.