Across the planet, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a seismic shift in how we learn. From school lessons to exercise and corporate training sessions to tertiary education, digital education — on many different levels — is currently thriving in the virtual space.
Granted, challenges still exist, and debates continue on how the closure of schools and learning loss will impact students in less developed countries. But there’s no denying that COVID-19 has reshaped education and shown the advantages of e-learning.
In conjunction with World Distance Learning Day, here are five online learning benefits.
Location is not an issue
One of the first things students and teachers worried about when the lockdowns were first sanctioned was: How are we going to get to class?! Well, after some initial teething problems, the answer presented itself loud and clear — we don’t have to! The world’s formalised education systems, born during the industrial revolution, had always been rigid and mandated processes like face-to-face lessons and learning in physical classrooms. In this pandemic, the world came to appreciate that, with the internet, a classroom can be anywhere and everywhere!
While school kids and existing learners were the first to benefit from the adoption of EdTech solutions, the almost overnight pivot to digital learning suddenly opened the eyes of many working adults to the possibilities of continued education. True, many programmes — like qLearn’s entrepreneur-centred courses — had already existed prior to COVID-19. However, it took a worldwide crisis for many people to recognise the potential and flexibility presented by online education. Want to study agile management or how to develop a leadership style? Virtual classrooms, which take into account the challenges faced by professionals juggling work and family, allow for that. Why, you could almost call it an … agile … way to learn!
While it is true that accessibility and flexibility are key selling points of online education, there is one great foe to contend with — procrastination. The lack of strict class schedules in the virtual education space has helped both learners and instructors. Nevertheless, even the most advanced technological solutions have, unsurprisingly, been ineffective in treating that oh-so-human condition called procrastination. That being said, one of the main ideas behind online education is the concept of student-centred learning, which shifts the focus from teachers to students. What this aims to do is make learners more independent, responsible and disciplined about their own educational growth.
Students are all different, and disparities are often more starkly seen in the physical classroom. E-learning levels the playing field and reduces the one-size-fits-all problems of traditional education. There’s less anxiety involved in students asking questions and presenting in a virtual environment than in an actual classroom. The inclusiveness of online education has also proved important to students with impairments and different learning needs, who struggle in physical class settings.
Yes, you’ve got to switch on your laptop and other electronic devices. However, research shows that the carbon footprint left by these is negligible compared to all the energy consumed by students and teachers commuting to and conducting classes in physical locations. For example, one European study found that a single university student attending onsite classes contributes to nearly 81kg of carbon dioxide emission in comparison to just 2kg for an online student.