The coronavirus crisis has changed nearly everything about our daily lives in 2020. Airports are abandoned, coffee shops are now carry-outs, and movie theaters might as well be museums.
Any place where there is a potential gathering of people is given cultural side-eye as society attempts to stem the spread of the virus.
Schools are not exempt from the coronavirus concern. With a new school year mere weeks away, the debate over distance learning vs. in-class education is being had on the local, state, and federal levels.
Regardless of political talking points or entrenched ideologies, virtual education is a new reality that will be more prominent in the year (or years) to come than ever before.
Some schools will offer a choice of in-class instruction or distance learning, some districts will offer an online/in-class hybrid where students will come to class two or three days a week, and other schools will be online only.
Whether you’ve been pushed into the waters of online learning or you’re enthusiastically diving in, there are some noticeable opportunities to learning in a virtual environment to consider. Let’s look at three such opportunities . . .
One of the greatest challenges for an in-classroom instructor is teaching to a unit as opposed to an individual. A class is made up of individual students, all of whom learn at different paces. In an in-classroom environment, an instructor has 45, 60, or 90 minutes to make the material understood by every student, whether they are quick learners or more deliberate learners. This is difficult to do, and students can easily fall through the proverbial cracks.
Distance learning offers the opportunity to provide more self-directed learning where students can learn at their own pace. Live lectures can be recorded and rewatched later and instructional products can be implemented that allow students to set their own learning goals.
In a classroom environment, a problem on the whiteboard might be erased quickly as the instructor moves on to the next concept. But in an online environment, if needed, students can pause and study that question more thoroughly before the next question is presented.
Furthermore, if you are a student who processes information quickly, your rate of progress is not set by the pace of the class. Because distance learning is a student, a laptop, and an instructor, self-paced learning is a benefit to virtual students and instructors.
Maximized Learning Time
There are many benefits to in-classroom learning, but one of the unavoidable weaknesses is wasted time during the course of a school day. Time between classes, trips to the locker, getting a class to quiet down, even a lunch period—these are all minutes lost to actual learning.
In distance learning, these distractors are removed. Students simply login for their lecture, virtual assignment, or group study session and begin immediately. Many students are discovering they can do the same amount of work, and learn the same amount of information, in 3–4 hours as opposed to an entire day at school.
Of course, this will vary depending on the student and the pace at which they learn, but there is no doubt that distance learning eliminates many of the events that occupy time during a typical day of in-classroom instruction.
Building Self-Discipline and a Sense of Responsibility
Lastly, an added benefit to distance learning is one of a personal nature. It is imperative that students who are learning from their bedrooms, living rooms, or kitchen tables take on a more personal level of responsibility for their education.
With no teacher standing in front of them, a student must develop self-discipline in order to complete assignments and absorb lectures. This may be an adjustment at first, but the benefits will follow them into their college experiences and professional endeavors.
As students learn to be more invested in their personal education, study habits develop, goal setting increases, and time management skills are developed. These are skills that will do more than benefit students in an educational setting, it will benefit them in life as well.
If you are a student, school, district, or educator taking advantage of online learning, check out UWorld and see how our online learning tools can prepare you or your students for the SAT or ACT exam. Our challenging questions that mimic the exam and detailed explanations that help you learn the “why” behind the “what” will have you prepared for success on exam day. Dream schools require a dream score. We help make that dream a reality.