How Effective Is Online Education?

With learning around the world heading online, rather than in person, things have changed throughout 2020. But, is there scientific evidence to prove this could be a thing of the future? We looked into online education to find out.

Over the last several months we have been publishing articles on the diverse and numerous online courses that are accessible to most of us at no cost.

Many of the online courses put up by some of the best universities are free and there are others where a fee has to be paid but the courses, despite the price one has to pay are feasible for a fair percentage of the population.

This led us to examine what research studies say about the effectiveness of such courses.

There are, evidently, the negative if not adverse aspects to online learning that lead many of us to balk at the prospect of learning online. Indeed, there are some who will just refuse to proceed even if the eventual result were to be favourable in relation to their career.

However, all in all, there are compelling arguments in favour of online learning, the positives far outweigh all else.


Things To Consider

E-learning lacks a personal touch
E-learning lacks a personal touch

So let us first get the negatives out of the way which do carry some merit. The significant ones are, online learning lacks that personal touch compared with one’s active participation in the class, some people feel isolated since human contact is missing and there are not enough opportunities to exchange notes and views with other students.

As for the last point, many universities have been making serious endeavors to see that their distant learning students form a network in order to come together over the internet.

On the positive side, we all learn at our own pace, the method is certainly cost effective; often extremely so and there are just no constraints on account of where you live, except for those living in countries against which there are sanctions.

Online courses have been so well-developed that you may feel at ease getting your degrees and certifications in all areas, even medicine. For instance, you can complete an entire BLS training course (Basic Life Support) and get certified online, thus gaining valuable skills and enriching your qualifications.

One more positive, a little curious, is that “the distance learning courses examined on average involved nearly 90% (87%) less energy consumption and produced 85% fewer CO2 emissions per student per 10 CAT points than the conventional campus based university courses”.


Learning Lessons

This was derived from research produced by The Open University in the UK.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has also come up with a conclusive study that shows online classes enable you to learn at least as effectively as traditional classroom courses.

Furthermore their findings indicate effective learning is not dependent on how much knowledge you already possess when you begin a course.

The same paper from MIT also goes on to quote one of their professors: “The amount learned is somewhat greater than in the traditional lecture-based course”.

Another study titled, Do Online Students Perform Better Than Face-to-Face Students found that in some cases, on campus economics students, performed better than online students.

At the same time given the overall effect the same study goes on to say: “If, all else being equal, students who attend online courses tend to perform better compared to face-to-face students, this is an argument for substituting face-to-face teaching for online teaching techniques for campus students as well”.

One could argue the point why campus students should be taught online but that’s another story altogether.

Other studies have found that the efficacy of long distance learning via online courses is as high as 92% and the method is at the very least as effective if not better than the previously established methods.


Succeeding Online

The number of success stories, especially of those who were otherwise deprived of higher education and who went on to become teachers, lawyers, nurses, physicists, pharmacists and what not, are more than plentiful. Some of these can be seen on this website of the University of Iowa.

Another website talks about how a farmer went on to earn an advanced degree. His story is especially heartening due to the fact that his family lived below the defined poverty line in that country.

Online education is an option for people who cannot otherwise attend the school
Online education is an option for people who cannot otherwise attend the school

The same website talks about a mother of six at the age of 28 who went on to do her college education, thanks to online learning. Yet another person found her possibilities limited and went on to progress further after completing her online degree.

These are not just stray stories. There are a vast number of them actually. Different constraints keep people at home or circumstances get them to go out there and earn a living at an early age. Whatever the reason for their not being able to study the traditional way, online courses have opened up great avenues.

Agreed, there are always going to be some disciplines where on campus education is the only way. However, for the most part it is online education that deserves a serious consideration.

There are pros and cons to all that we do and there are always going to be critics who are in favour of the more established methods of teaching and learning.

At the same time, the positives of online education are impossible to just disregard given the fact that education via this means reaches a limitless number of individuals and throws up possibilities that are endless while also being effective.

Photos: Shutterstock

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