In education, a source of ongoing debate is about online courses versus classroom learning. Can students succeed the same, if not more, without being in the traditional learning environment? Both sides of this debate have pros and cons. But it is hard to rule out the traditional classroom environment as the number one choice from both the student and teacher perspective. For many learners and educators, the benefits of being in a classroom outweigh the potential savings and convenience that comes from taking courses online.
The Student Perspective
Even students, who consider themselves highly motivated learners, have trouble finding motivation in online courses. The loss of someone to impress or disappoint causes a great number of students to lack direction in their learning. There are a number of students who use the word “alone” to describe their feelings when taking online courses. Even in large classrooms, students always have a face to put to the teacher they are learning from.
When teachers are unavailable after class, or when the student has free time, it is easy for students to network with each other to ask questions or form study groups.
Not only is motivation stronger in classrooms, but distractions are easier to ignore. Many teachers and professors ban the use of items like cell phones and laptops for this exact reason. The possibility of a teacher catching you checking social media or texting friends is often enough to keep students from even beginning to tune out the lecture.
Online, students lose the face-to-face time that keeps motivation going strong.
The Teacher Perspective
When teachers are asked to discussed the pros of classroom learning over online courses, something that is almost always mentioned is that teachers learn from their students just as much as students learn from the teacher. In the classroom, learning is a dialogue, a conversation that leads both the student and teacher into learning about the subject and in the teacher’s case, how to teach the subject. The way that most online courses are designed, they are considered to be monologues, and not dialogues that teachers have grown from. Teachers learn from their students how to gear the course, and how to help the students learn. When a class is drifting off topic or losing focus, a teacher is able to sense that and over time teachers know how to deal with distractions presented.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” way of teaching, and without face to face interactions with students, teachers lose the ability to adjust and learn.
That being said, online courses may be the best option for some students. But many educators see the benefits of classroom learning outweighing the benefits of online courses. Education at every level is an investment both in money and in time. The money potentially saved in online courses does not outweigh the benefits of the education, certifications, Licenses, and degrees earned in a campus setting. Only in a classroom can you ask questions and network with teachers and other students. Classrooms allow teachers to gear the course toward the specific class, and allow students to easily generate the motivation they need to succeed.
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