Learning Online: To be or not to be, this is the question!

Hadi Attaran

Hadi Attaran

Product Manager

New trends are steering learning and education toward a blended or fully online style. The transition to this learning style was born from the crystal-clear results of game-changing events in the EdTech industry [read more about it here. However, despite the competitive nature between the two learning styles, face-to-face (F2F) and online education still share a lot in common. A learner or student still needs to learn the material, complete assignments, submit answers, and work on projects. On the other hand, a teacher, instructor, or content creator also needs to design the curriculum, offer the best quality content, encourage and motivate learners and students to be engaged in the learning process, and answer questions.

There may be differences in the media and equipment required to implement the practices, but the concept remains the same. The differences are the source of creation and innovation in learning. Many learners discuss similarities in their teaching style preferences and, at the same time, can recall examples of when they criticized their teachers’ teaching methods. The topic of teaching styles and different online learning platforms is also often discussed, often comparing the interactivity and efficiency of the content provided.

Why is F2F learning unbeatable?

In the history of educational development, face-to-face learning has evolved over several centuries into a well-structured instructional medium. F2F instruction has numerous benefits not found in its online counterpart2, like helping students digest information creatively by asking innovative questions. In addition, it has the potential to be highly dynamic by supporting the quick response of teachers and flexibility in content delivery. Another advantage of F2F learning is its establishment with learners over centuries. Understandably, changing pre-existing processes that have been in place for centuries is always scary because change always involves risk.  Moreover, pre-and post-session interaction with other learners F2F is very encouraging and supports communal learning and networking. F2F learning provides a more focused time for education than online learning, where many potential distracters can ruin or affect the learning session. In F2F learning, the teacher’s set pace directly impacts the student’s chance of completing the course or learning material.

The glorious time of online learning

Despite the benefits of F2F learning, sociotechnical requirements, developments, and trends brought online learning to the top. Especially in recent years and with unpredictable events like COVID-19, research and proven experience have shown how valuable and important online learning can be in difficult situations. Accessibility to learning material is easier than ever; as long as internet access is available, the learner can access it. There is no longer a need for physical carrying or storing textbooks and materials. Besides, transitioning to online platforms will reduce the relevant commutes, cutting the marginal costs of learning3. Furthermore, online learning suggests a wide variety of courses and flexibility in pace and place. It is encouraging to be able to attend classes and follow the courses whenever and wherever you want in the comfort of home or the silence of a library while wearing pajamas or dressed up.

 

Additionally, learners are free to choose an instructor who is more appropriate for them based on their learning style and have the option to select from various media and content presentation models. The pleasure of customizing online learning and education experience is superior to F2F learning in this respect. A learner could, for example, choose an instructor based only on their accent, assuming that the quality of instruction is the same.

But these amazing features and other astonishing capabilities of online learning should not blind us from seeing diverse potential distractors that can hinder the achievement of learning targets. While online learning relies on digital technology, it can cause distractions. Online learning participants are multitasking and engaging in two or three other actions like listening to music, surfing the web, messaging, and all other things that we do while connected to the internet.

 

It gets even worse when you count how likely you are to complete a course, whether it’s online or on-site. Data from Edx educational platform reveals that only 3.13% of those who enrolled in a course have completed their courses4. However, attending online learning can improve other personal characteristics of a participant, such as determination, self-motivation, self-organization, self-direction, and time management. A person who knows how to start and finish an online course successfully can also save a noticeable amount of money and time to spend on other preferred activities.

Learning moves to the next (digital) level

We are at the edge of education and learning transformation, and various media, technology, devices, and products make online training and learning easier and more accessible. Despite the advantages mentioned above, some individuals prefer F2F learning anyway, especially when teachers can use various media and facilities to enhance the learning experience.

It can be expected that modernized F2F learning will soon conquer the traditional model. New ideas, platforms, products, and services will assist content creators, facilitators, and instructors to perfect imitating the non-substitutable traditional F2F learning experience in an online session. Soon, new emergent communication methods and artificial intelligence (AI) will enrich the education experience more and more. Consequently, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will thrive on augmented F2F learning, and we will witness a new era of learning and education.

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