Pencil and paper versus laser and screen. Online and offline teaching both present benefits and challenges to learning environments. With the trend towards online learning increasing, the looming question for the education industry is are traditional methods of teaching losing relevancy? Why get up, get dressed, and waste gas to drive to a physical classroom, when you can wake up and put your classroom on your kitchen table? The choice would seem easy for student and teacher; however, it is not quite that simple.
Transitioning from the classroom to an online platform was a new experience for me, met with interesting challenges. Everyone assumes it is easier to teach online. After all, it is convenient, saves time and saves money. To conclude that it is easy, would not necessarily do the platform justice though. In academia, online classes are nothing novel. You can start learning from any age with the convenience and flexibility of the virtual environment. According to Forbes, e-learning is an expansive market that is estimated to be worth $325 billion by 2025. With the pace of technological advancements, there is no end to the possibilities and wonder at the impact those developments will have on education.
The progression of e-learning provides students and educators with terrific advantageous, but also undesirable drawbacks. In this essence, the answer to my initial question posed above would be, no. Leading to the conclusion that neither online nor offline is better than the other due to the balance of pros and cons. For teacher and student, it boils down to preference and capabilities.
The following focus on the teacher's perspective is applicable to students. To start, advantages in online teaching rest in time, location, opportunity and accessibility. A classroom can be set up and managed from any location at any time. This offers classroom convenience and shortens the distance between the learner and teacher. Learning is now more accessible with teachers being able to teach their subject matter across district, national and international lines. The student could be in China, while the teacher is the U.K.
In the online environment, there is a dependency on the discretion of the teacher, guidelines of the institution, the course of study and curriculum. There are better opportunities to address student needs through multiple channels of communication with stronger assessments be it in or outside of the online platform. In this manner, teachers can customize lesson plans and connect more with their students. Tracking progress, recording information, and pacing are all simplified yet effective and efficient. While stripped of the traditional classroom equipment, teachers are challenged to be more creative and innovative in order to deliver lessons and capture students' attention.
On the downside, all the wonderful mentioned advantages can be wiped away with network failure—no network, no classroom. Still, this is something that we are not unaccustomed to; think of when we go to higher grounds in hopes of a better signal on our phones. Teachers must work around the lost connections, stalled video feeds, and distorted microphone sounds. To add to the challenges or frustrations are delayed communications and loss of in-person contact that is granted in the social climate of a physical classroom. This is especially relevant for young learners who benefit from those social interactions, and comfort and guidance of the teacher. To top it off, if you are not technically inclined, the learning curve is quite high.
When contemplating what path to venture as a teacher, new or experienced, there are various aspects to consider. Just as you would when teaching offline, you must select subject, age range, and school. Teaching methodology, classroom management skills, and intrapersonal skills are still significant factors. Now, teachers, must choose their platform—online or offline. As always, it's important to be mindful of the teaching environment. Online learning is just one of the many ways the education industry is continually improving and increasing teaching quality that is essential to inspiring new learners.