America's education system is struggling. Everyone knows this, but there haven't been many alternatives to a traditional public school that really work. Charter Schools on average produce about the same overall test scores and average GPAs as public schools. But there's one alternative that has the potential to completely change the education playing field: online learning. The possibilities for online learning are practically endless and by embracing this new way of learning, we can begin moving towards a better education system. Still need convincing? Well, here are the 10 reasons online learning is more effective than traditional classrooms.
Online learning has way more variety than regular classrooms
While most people believe online learning is simply sitting behind a computer screen and watching a video, there are several different types of online learning platforms. There's MOOCs– Massive Open Online Courses– that can teach business, technology, and language courses absolutely free. There are online tutors that can work directly with a student one-on-one, and there are classrooms that blend a traditional curriculum with online components to create the optimal learning experience. Compare that to the traditional classroom: the curriculum is so rigid all a teacher can really do is slightly alter the ways in which the material is taught to help out any struggling students. Traditional classrooms aren't kind to students that learn differently.
There are governmental studies showing online learning is more effective
A study done by the US Department of Education revealed students taking online classes tended to perform better than their traditional classroom counterparts. The study was conducted over a span of 12 years and 99 studies. This conclusion is significant because it suggests online learning isn't just a last-ditch effort to find some alternative to traditional classrooms, there is actual evidence that students enrolled in online classes do better. That's huge! Of course, we can't just get rid of regular classrooms completely. The studies suggest an integration of online learning into the classroom to make these classes more effective rather than making a complete switch.
Online learning is more accessible to impaired learners
With the advances in voice chat, instant messaging, and other non-verbal methods of online communication, online learning allows blind or deaf students to have the same opportunities as their able-bodied counterparts. No longer does a visual or hearing impaired student have to go to a deaf and blind school; they can have a personal tutor teach them from the comfort of their homes with tools and supplies tailored to the exact needs of the student. You would never be able to achieve that level of personalization in a school no matter how accommodating they are to the impaired student. Schools have so many moving parts it's hard to completely change a classroom or learning environment. That's not to say classrooms or schools aren't accepting of impaired students, but online learning is much more versatile and able to adapt to the needs of the individual student.
Students can create their own pace
Have you ever had a class that you felt went too quickly or too slowly? Yeah, pretty much everyone has. Online learning allows students to create their own pace. This way more students can understand the lesson, but not feel bored by how slow the lesson's going or overwhelmed by the fast speed. Students with ADHD or short attention spans can start and stop their instruction as they please and pick it back up again once they have to energy to complete a lesson. Overachievers can go ahead and get their lessons out of the way and get on with the rest of their day. Really, the flexibility of online learning is the key to helping more people learn the material with minimal frustration.
Online learning costs less
While this is more of a college or work-related benefit rather than a benefit surrounding public schools, it's still important to mention. You can take classes at a school far away, but not have to pay for housing, transportation, or any other expenses incurred by traveling to study a subject. When you calculate that over the course of a year or four, you're saving a significant amount of dough. Encouraging the use of online classes could really help college students manage their debt. Especially since there's such a crisis of students drowning in their student loan debt.
Online learning teaches accountability
If you take an online class, you're largely self-guided. While a lot of people would mark this as a reason not to use online learning, is it really all that bad to encourage people to a bit more self-motivated? Being able to stick to deadlines and follow through on commitments are super important life skills and teaching them early could really help the younger generations develop some positive work habits early on in life. It would definitely set them up for a lifetime of success. If not that, at the very least it would teach kids what a deadline is and why they can't turn something in after it's passed.
There are more course options available to students
You know how students from other countries come to certain schools for certain programs? Well, online learning would help bridge that gap. If students had the choice to take a particular course online were it not offered at their college, it would allow them to study a subject they're really interested in rather than one that's only similar to their real passion. Think about all those obscure math or science majors students may skip out on because they can't afford to attend the college that offers that program. Online learning can also help lower-income students receive the same opportunities as their wealthier counterparts. And really, anything that helps impoverished people get some leg up, is great in my book. Someone's gotta stick up for the little guys and it seems like online learning is doing just that.
Online learning can help bridge knowledge gaps
Going off of previous points, online learning allows students who need a little extra help to receive it without having to hire a tutor or spend extra time after school working with their teacher. When a lesson plan is designed specifically for one student, it's obviously going to focus on his or her's strengths and weaknesses. Unlike a normal classroom where you have students at various knowledge levels and backgrounds all receiving the same lecture, online tutors or classes allow a student to spend extra time on whatever they're weak on and skip anything they already know. Really, it's more efficient to teach a curriculum designed for the student rather than try to make the student fit into the curriculum.
Students are more likely to engage in class discussions
Like I said earlier, online learning isn't just watching a video for ten minutes then taking a test, students can also have classroom discussions. And in most cases, more people are likely to join in if they're just typing into a chatbox. Shy students especially are more likely to come out of their shell and contribute to a discussion if they don't have to talk to anyone face-to-face. Think about what happens when you speak in class: everyone looks over at you, you stutter, you forget what you were going to say and suddenly you're embarrassed. With online learning, you don't have any of those challenges, or at least they aren't as terrifying. If you forget what you were going to say, all you have to do is delete the line of text you were writing. You don't have to worry about stuttering because all people are going to see is a line of text, not the thought process it took to produce it. Pretty much any potential misstep that could cause anxiety is gone, making it easier for shy students to actively participate in group discussions.
And finally, the biggest reason online learning is more effective than traditional classrooms:
Students are accustomed to screens
In the technology age, pretty much everyone is on some kind of screen multiple times a day. By tailoring class environments to the changes in how people spend most of their time, learning environments can more closely mirror the ways in which students are going to be exposed to technology in the workplace. While quite a few schools already have laptops students can use, they aren't utilized enough to mimic workplace conditions. Creating learning environments that use the same programs and language they would find in their career of interest could lower the learning curve when students finally get into that profession.
While I don't think we should get rid of physical classrooms completely, there is a case for at least tweaking our current learning environments to make them more tech-focused. Students now are more comfortable with technology than they've ever been. Wouldn't it be smart to utilize that at least a little bit to create learning environments more conducive to their success? Online classes allow students to learn at their own pace while teaching them how to become more responsible. The detachment of a screen allows shy students to speak their minds without fear of ridicule and students have more variety in the classes they can choose. When you really think about it, there's really no reason why we haven't at least made a few strides in integrating more online learning into classrooms. It's not all that expensive and the benefits are enormous!