Online Education is the single biggest paradigm shift facing education in the last 100 years. Those who ignore it will be left behind. Those who embrace it will reap the benefits. For this reason, it is important to look at the advantages and disadvantages of this delivery medium, so that collectively more and more refining will lead to better overall education for every student. Here are some of the pros and cons where distance learning is concerned.
1. Flexibility- This is the number one factor that continues to drive more and more to this style of education. Students, teachers, parents, even administrators can balance other scheduling needs, no longer locked into a 7:30-3:00 mentality. Assignments can be done at 2 a.m. if the mood strikes. In addition to time flexibility, increased variety in class scheduling and completion is also a benefit. Students can immerse themselves in a single class should they so desire, or work more traditionally on multiple subjects at the same time. This accommodates multiple styles of learning successfully. In addition, kids can attend school anywhere they can get an internet connection, whether it’s in their PJs at home, or the local Starbucks with friends.
2. Privacy- Students who might otherwise be afraid to ask questions or actively participate in a “brick and mortar” school, seem to be much more open to freely and honestly communicating their educational needs. Parents can check on student progress without having to involve a counselor or administrator, or even a teacher in the process. Some students prefer not to be under the scrutiny of their peers. Given the age old stories of ridicule and harassment, teasing and taunting, who can blame them?
3. Connectivity- Those students who are more social and LIKE the spotlight have AMPLE opportunities to connect with other learners around the world. This opportunity falls short in a brick and mortar building, still weighed down by the past and fears of liability that keep them opposed to social networking, blogging, and open access to all resources that could enhance a student’s learning experience. Students actually have MORE interaction in an online school than in some face to face settings. Why? The way that kids communicate now has dramatically changed. Just sit in a car with teenagers who are texting each other even though they are sitting side by side! Regardless of whether one agrees with that behavior or not, it is part of the emerging kid culture- one that is immersed in multimedia exposure.
1. Uniformity- Not everyone has the same computer equipment or internet speed. Some don’t even possess either. Systems need to be built that accommodate all types of technology, and equal access needs to be addressed. With more and more businesses offering free WiFi, and libraries offering free internet, this disadvantage is quickly dimming.
2. Disconnection- Very much like brick and mortar, kids who are determined to fail succeed in doing so. It is easy to never log in, and never return email, phone calls, or letters. No system has a true solution for those who are intent on self-effacing behaviors, but online learning draws in many kids who otherwise would never succeed in the standard setting.
3. Authenticity- Despite many safe guards put in place, there is always the possibility that someone else is doing some of the work for a student. While this cannot be overlooked, the same is true in brick and mortar situations. Cheating is another problem that has been around LONG before Google and Facebook. Technology has a much better chance of solving this issue however, than people alone.
Overall, the advantages of online learning far outweigh the disadvantages. That is why after almost 20 years in a brick and mortar setting, I decided to become an online principal. I have seen both sides of it, and I decided to embrace the future.