Online learning is the use of internet-based and online-enabled technologies to facilitate learning without the need for learners and instructors to meet face-to-face in a traditional or physical setting. Nonetheless, advances in digital communication have made instruction using online tools not only possible but more accessible, thus allowing institutions to demonstrate the benefits or advantages of online learning. However, it is not without disadvantages and limitations.
The Advantages of Online Learning: Benefits and Specific Applications
Expands Geographic Access to Education
One of the advantages of online learning is that it allows learner-instructor interaction to take place without the limitations of a physical space. Remember that in this platform, instruction takes place online or through the use of digital communication tools. Note that this is similar to the advantages of remote work or work-from-home arrangements.
The specific benefits of the aforementioned include enabling institutions to reach more clientele regardless of distance or location. For learners, it gives them more options while allowing them to pursue their studies without the need to consider location and transportation, as well as the additional costs associated with a physical or brick-and-mortar environment.
Benefits of Online Learning During Crises
The COVID-19 pandemic has exemplified another benefit of online learning. Remember that the global healthcare crisis resulted in lockdowns and shutdowns that disrupted business activities, local transportations, and other activities and movements. A number of educational institutions were quick to utilize online tools and services to facilitate instruction.
Calamities and crises such as an epidemic or pandemic can interrupt an academic year, which can have long-term implications on the progress of individual students and the future availability of competent professionals in the workforce. The use of technologies is a feasible course of action to ensure the continued delivery of educational services.
Inexpensive Alternative to Face-to-Face Instruction
Maintaining instruction facilities is expensive. From the perspective of institutions, the costs associated with a face-to-face setup include building and maintaining facilities, purchasing instruction equipment, paying auxiliary personnel, ensuring security within the vicinity, and paying bills from the use of electricity and water utilities.
From the perspective of learners, costs associated with their pursuits include transportation, opportunity cost from time spent commuting to a facility, accommodation expenses, and food and other daily living expenses. All of these costs are virtually nonexistent in an online-mediated instruction setting.
Availability of Different Technological Tools
Designing and implementing capabilities needed to facilitate learner-instructor interaction online has become both cost-effective and resource-efficient due to the availability of internet-based and online-enabled tools and services. These include mainstream video conferencing platforms such as Zoom Video Communications, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams.
Other institutions deploy online learning capabilities through the use of education-centric proprietary platforms and learning management systems. Most of these platforms and systems have built-in features and functionalities for administrating, documenting, tracking, reporting, automating, and delivering education materials, resources, and requirements.
Catering to Different Learning and Instruction Styles
Remember that there is a wide selection of tools available for institutions and learners to use to facilitate online-based instructions. These tools can be used strategically to cater to the different styles or preferences of learners, as well as different modes of instruction. Flexibility and efficiency are the other notable advantages of online learning.
Video conferencing platforms allow real-time and virtual face-to-face instructions and interactions. The use of modules or course materials suits individuals who prefer independent learning due to time constraints. Real-time online-based classes can also be used alongside asynchronous instructions or hybrid class or instruction settings.
Online Learning and Next-Generation Technologies
Advances in digital communication and related technologies can benefit online learning further. For example, the expansion of existing 5G network communication infrastructures and the development of 6G and other wireless network technologies would enable more efficient wireless access to internet-based and online-enabled instruction tools.
The metaverse is another notable example. One of the applications of this futuristic platform is in the design and implementation of true-to-life virtual classrooms characterized by a more immersive environment wherein communication between learners and instructors, as well as among learners are more interactive.
The Disadvantages of Online Learning: Limitations and Notable Issues
Requires An Average Level of Technology Literacy
Instructors need to have an average to above-average level of technology literacy to effectively use digital communication technologies, including online-enabled and internet-based tools. For some institutions, part of deploying their online learning capabilities is the need to train their faculty members and equip them with competencies needed to facilitate learning online.
Training instructors can have an additional cost. Furthermore, some instructors might not have the necessary resources or tools and as such, an institution needs to provide these to them. In addition, learners and, in some cases, their parents also need to have an adequate level of technology literacy and accesses to needed resources and tools.
Inaccessibility of Online Learning Technologies
Another issue with online learning is that it is still inaccessible for some individuals and communities. Remember that learners need to have the resources and tools needed for them to participate in online-enabled or internet-based classes or courses. Examples include personal computers, productivity applications, and internet connectivity.
Impoverished families and individuals might have a hard time affording computers or machines that can efficiently run the required online learning applications. It is also important to note that there are still areas in the world that are underserved by internet service providers, thereby making online or distance learning inaccessible.
Issues Related to Technological Consistency
Online learning depends on internet connection, as well as on electricity. However, apart from the fact that some areas do not have access to the internet, there are also areas in which internet service is unreliable. Some of these locations of outdated communication infrastructures while others have intermittent access to electricity.
A slow internet connection can interrupt the progress of learners. Intermittent internet connectivity remains an issue in small towns and far-flung provinces. Take note that areas prone to calamities are highly susceptible to internet and power outages, thus defeating the purpose of online learning as a solution to addressing crises.
Not Suitable for Some Learning Styles and Preferences
While it is true that it can cater to different learning styles, online learning is also not suitable for some some individuals, especially in consideration of the personalities of other learners. Some online-enabled courses are only available through a single type of online-enabled instruction delivery or classes: either asynchronous or synchronous.
Individuals who prefer real-time interactions might not fare better in an asynchronous online class setting. It is also important to note that learners can feel a sense of isolation due to the nature of the overall online learning experience. These individuals strive in social interactions and relationships that can only take place in a real environment.
Advantages and Disadvantages: Summary of the Pros and Cons of Online Learning
The advantages of online learning center on the advantages of digital communication. More specifically, the benefits of facilitating instruction using internet-based and online-enabled tools revolve around the flexibility and convenience that come from using digital communication technologies and other related innovations.
However, it is far from perfect. As discussed above, issues such as the need to equip learners and instructors with a certain level of technological literacy, accessibility of technological tools, inconsistency in internet and power utility services, and suitability of non-traditional modes of instruction collectively represent the drawback or disadvantage of online learning.