The coronavirus pandemic has changed every aspect of society. In nowhere is this evident as the interruption of the educational systems globally. Schools were among the first institutions to close. According to UNESCO, the closure affected over 1.2 billion children in over 186 countries. In many places, attempts to reopen the schools led to further upsurges in infection rates. As a result, further closure was necessary. This situation has finally brought online learning to the fore. Many stakeholders are finally grasping the potential of online education. It has become the main viable alternative to classrooms. Even as these opportunities are present, there are still significant barriers of online education. It is only by addressing them that we can enjoy the full benefits of online learning.
What is Online Education?
Online education is any form of electronic learning that requires the internet as a medium for teacher and student interaction. The internet also offers access to learning materials. Online learning is also known as e-learning, internet/web-based learning, or online training.
It offers numerous teaching and learning ways to be conducted remotely as long as there are electricity and internet access. It provides flexibility not available in a traditional classroom, and lessons can be offered in audio, video, text and animations, and live chats. Even with these opportunities, there are still challenges and barriers of online education, with access to the internet and electricity chief among these.
Why is Online Education More Relevant in the Pandemic Times?
Online education has been on the rise, primarily through online courses emphasizing one skill. It was also available at the higher institutions of learning. The pandemic, though, has prompted an increase in the use of online education platforms. Their prominent relevancy is their ability to provide an avenue for education to continue. The people who have benefitted most are those who had exams and graduating students.
The pandemic has provided an opportunity for online education to show its benefits and advantages in a way that it could not have had. During this pandemic, online learning has become a necessity, not a luxury. The pandemic has provided a chance for online education to be adopted on a large scale and across different age groups. Both teachers and students have had to adapt and deal with the various limitations and barriers of online education. It has given rise to different ingenious ways to adjust the multiple platforms to the demands of learning.
How Will Online Learning be Delivered?
A central portal delivers online learning at every institution. Every student accesses the platform through a personal PC, tablet, or mobile. There are numerous resources on the platform, allowing the course to be delivered to you in the same way as it would be to a traditional learning setup.
Resources used in online learning include; eBooks, videos, and recorded lectures. There are also live sessions for Q&A, interviews, journals, quizzes, and discussion forums. Live sessions, discussion forums, and chat platforms provide face-to-face interaction. The absence of face-to-face interaction is one of the barriers of online education, especially on a large scale. The variety of resources offer plenty of room for customizing the learning to your needs and schedule.
How is Online Learning Assessed?
Online learning follows similar assessment methods as traditional education. All assessment methods are fair and professional while allowing you to gain the most from your learning experience. The usual individual assignments come with the topic, deadline, specific word count. There are discussion activities where students research a topic and share their views with others. Finally, there are journal activities and final exams.
In doing the exams, specific barriers of online education emerge. These include supervision and monitoring. There are tools such as virtual proctors that help, and the exams are also open-book and take-home essay assignments.
How do Online Institutions Prevent Cheating?
Without close-up supervision and monitoring, there is the fear that students can easily cheat their way of passing exams. Fortunately, this is not true. The exams and assignments require students to submit their answers through advanced and comprehensive plagiarism detection tools before accepting the assignment answers. Your instructors check the submissions further. They can spot and penalize any attempt to cheat or produce work that is not yours.
In the current pandemic, schools lack integrated software rely on third-party platforms like Turn-it-in to prevent cheating. As online learning mainstreams, technologies develop to meet barriers of online education. These digital processes and evaluation formats maintain the standards of ethics and quality.
Recognition of Online Qualifications
Online qualifications rely on the recognition of the institutions offering the courses. Since accredited institutions provide most of the online education, recognition is often not an issue. For higher learning, most universities and institutions of learning have their programs. In other cases, online institutions partner with campus-based universities and colleges to offer different courses in a symbiotic relationship. The various accreditation rules depend on the course and program, the online institution’s country, and its title. Students should verify the accreditation and recognition qualification an institution offers.
Support for Online Learning
One of the areas that determine the quality of experience students have at a facility is the available support. Most students fear whether face-to-face support is available in online institutions. Student support groups provide pastoral and personal care. In-house and freelance instructors offer academic support through resources like video calls and individual sessions. These options bridge gap between on-campus and online student support.
Barriers to Online Learning and the Fact
For all the potential and advantages of online learning presents, there are several barriers of online education. Some affect both the teacher and the students. It is currently upon the educational institutions and students to address these barriers. Support from other stakeholders would also be helpful. Here are the main challenges of online learning.
- Technical difficulties and challenges. The lack of sufficient know-how limits on how well students and instructors can access and use online learning resources. The availability of the internet and capable personal computers are the basic requirements. A user-friendly interface also helps overcome any limitations of teachers and students.
- Lack of motivation is one of the common barriers of online education. Online education lacks an in-person interaction. It also relies on and the student to take most of the initiative. Such a setup can easily leave some disengaged and lack the incentives to participate in learning activities. This barrier can be overcome by gamification of the learning process, especially at lower learning levels. Gamification can include badges, certificates, leader boards, points, and more.
- Time management is a challenge building on the advantage offered by online education’s flexibility. Making a transition from a rigid structure to online learning can be a challenge to many. Hence students need a schedule for study and assignments and someone to hold them accountable.
- Isolation and loneliness can also be barriers to online learning, given the remote nature of learning. However, introducing group discussions, activities, and regular live sessions will combat this challenge.
- Inadequate support, as already mentioned, puts online students at a disadvantage. It can lead to disengagement and a poor learning experience for the students. Access to instructors should be easy, and the resources easily available on the learning platform.
Is the Pandemic a Chance to Rethink Online Education?
The pandemic has forced online education on most people and educational institutions. As a result, most were not ready for the challenges and barriers this mode of learning presented. Yet, it remains the safest way for students to learn and continue with their education.
Many of the students learning through online education are interacting with it for the first time. Their current experience could make it difficult for them to adopt this kind of learning later. The pandemic offers a chance to rethink online education primarily because it is being used at all levels and on a large scale. As schools plan for the future, there are questions on its use in the future. Considering schools are opening in phases, it would not be profitable to lose any progress made thus far.
The pandemic offers a chance for the construction of the necessary infrastructure. The infrastructure will provide access to online learning platforms and reduce its cost. There is also a need to rethink the various formats and find ways to standardize it. Educationists should also find ways to ensure engagement, especially at the lower levels. Further, teachers need to establish how the two forms of learning can complement each other.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Learning During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Online Learning Offers the Following Advantages
- Safety: Currently, online learning is the only way to ensure the students and teachers are safe and not exposed to the risk of contracting the virus.
- It has enabled learning to go on, which has alleviated the adverse effects of missing classes, such as dropping out.
- Online learning makes learning available remotely and affordable, especially at higher institutions saving costs.
- It leads to reduced absenteeism since learning is within the homes of the students.
- It has the potential of making learning easily accessible by anyone anywhere.
Disadvantages of Online Learning
- Access issues arise from the lack of sufficient infrastructure. This lack hinders the availability of the internet by all students and teachers.
- Teachers need training on how to facilitate learning online effectively and comfortably.
- There is a loss of social interaction with other students, which affects the emotional aspects of learning.
- It is hard to maintain focus, especially at the lower grades, because of the training’s detached nature.
- It widens the gap between privileged and underprivileged. The internet is expensive and not widespread; thus, those in lower-income households do not have access.
As the pandemic rages on, online education will continue to be at the forefront of learning alternatives. It will be relevant even as children commence phased school learning resumption. The pandemic has provided a unique opportunity for online education to get mainstream attention. Stakeholders have explored its limitation and advantages. Experts and studies concur on the need to address the barriers of online education, especially at the access levels. They show it can offer more advantages and better results than traditional classroom learning.
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