Education on campus vs. online education! Is one better than the other? Can one completely replace the other? In fact, it seems that online education is the way of the future. Educational institutions, businesses and government organizations are already offering various forms of e-learning. But can a computer really replace a teacher and a blackboard?
How people learn
Everyone has a way of learning that suits them best. Some people get fantastic results from online courses, but most people drop out of the 100% computer-based courses. When conducting staff training, educational institutions as well as corporations must recognize that there is no ideal way to deliver instruction to a large group of individuals and therefore must design programs that best meet the needs of the group as a whole.
People learn with multiple senses. This includes learning both through theoretical components of a course and through social interaction with lecturers and other students. Students learn from each other’s mistakes and successes, not just from what their teachers tell them.
Each individual student has an ideal learning pace. Instructors therefore face the challenge of designing courses that progress in a way that does not leave slower-paced learners behind, and not move so slowly that faster-paced learners become bored.
In the age of high-speed information transmission, online education is becoming a popular and inexpensive means of delivering instruction to people outside of the classroom and, in some cases, around the world. Instruction can be delivered via CD, websites, or through real-time online facilities such as webcasts, webinars, and virtual classrooms. However, the different methods of online education each have their own pros and cons.
Online education is still a relatively new concept and in many ways still in its infancy. Therefore, different problems arise in different online education environments. For example:
1. Lack of instant feedback in asynchronous learning environments: While some online educational environments like webcasts, webinars, and virtual classrooms work live with the addition of a teacher, most don’t. Lessons delivered via a CD or website, while offering the benefit of being self-paced, do not offer immediate feedback from a live teacher.
2. More preparation required on the part of the instructor: In an online educational environment, an instructor cannot just stand in front of a whiteboard and deliver a class. Lessons in online educational environments must be prepared in advance, along with any notes and instructions that may accompany the lesson.
In many cases, it would also require the instructor to understand not only the concepts being taught, but also the technology used to deliver that instruction. This therefore increases the required skill levels of online education teachers and places higher demands on educational institutions.
Staffing levels may also be higher for courses conducted in an online educational environment, which may require, for example:
The Instructor – able to both convey course content and be proficient in the use of the technologies involved
The Facilitator – to assist the Instructor in delivering content but can do so remotely
Help Desk – to offer instructors, facilitators and students assistance with the use of software and hardware used to deliver the course.
3. Not all people are comfortable with online education: Education is no longer sought only by the world’s youth. With an increasing trend towards adult and continuing education, there is a need to design courses that are suitable for students of a larger age range as well as students from diverse and varied backgrounds. However, it is difficult to design online educational environments that are suitable for everyone.
4. Increased Potential for Frustration, Anxiety, and Confusion: In an online educational environment, there are a greater number of parts of the system that can fail. Server failures can prevent the operation of online courses. Software-based instructional applications may require other specific components to function. Computer viruses can infect software required for the operation of online educational environments. When these systems are complex, students can opt for the simple on-campus education instead of taking the extra time and effort required to master the use of online education systems.
5. The Digital Divide: Many people living in remote areas and developing countries do not have access to computers, making any form of online education virtually impossible. Because of this, online education can only be targeted towards those people who are fortunate enough to be able to take advantage of the technology involved. Likewise, offering live classes around the world means different time zones and nationalities increase the demand for multi-skilled instructors.
In addition, there are also several legal issues related to maintaining an online educational environment. For example, intellectual property laws, particularly those relating to copyright, may or may not fully cover electronically generated intellectual property. For example, information on a website is not necessarily considered to be in the public domain, although it is available to everyone. However, Australian copyright law was amended in 2001 to ensure copyright owners of electronic materials, including online educational environments, could continue to offer their works commercially.
education on campus
The most common form of teaching is still traditional classroom learning. These teacher-led environments are more personal than online educational environments and also have the benefit of allowing instant feedback to and from students and teachers alike. However, the classroom offers less flexibility than courses conducted in online educational environments.
Teachers in modern classroom environments are still able to utilize various forms of electronic teaching tools while maintaining the atmosphere associated with the traditional classroom environment. For example, PowerPoint slides can be used instead of a whiteboard or blackboard. Handouts may be distributed prior to the event via the course websites. However, students can still actively participate in class on this day.
Like online educational environments, campus education has certain disadvantages, the most common of which is the classroom itself. To do this, a group of people, which can reach several hundred people in a university, for example, must gather at the same time in the same place. This requires an enormous amount of time and money on the part of both the students and the educational institution.
However, it is this type of environment that is most familiar to students around the world. People of all ages can access an educational environment and feel comfortable with the way a classroom-based course is delivered. Older students who may be unfamiliar with the use of information technology are not required to navigate their way through potentially complex online educational environments, making campus education the most accessible form of instruction.
On-campus education has an advantage that 100% electronically delivered courses cannot provide – social interaction. Learning comes from observing, not just what is written on a page or presented in a slide show, but also what is observed in others. Most students are naturally curious and want to ask their teachers questions. The classroom environment allows students to clarify what they have learned not only with their teachers, but also with other students.
So what’s better?
There is no one teaching style that is best for every student. Studies have shown (Can online education replace on-campus education) that courses that use online education to complement on-campus education have proven to be more effective than courses that are entirely delivered using just one method . These courses use both online educational materials and a live teacher and have achieved results that are better than students in 100% online education or courses in face-to-face settings. Students have the benefit of the immediate feedback and social interaction that comes with the classroom environment, as well as the convenience of self-paced online educational modules that can be completed when it suits the student best.
It seems that online educational environments will never fully replace on-campus education. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all teaching method. Teaching styles continue to be adjusted to find the method that best suits the learning group. With a mix of online educational environments and face-to-face events, educational institutions, businesses, and government organizations can ensure training is delivered that is convenient and effective for both educators and students.
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Thanks to Mathew Simond