Since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the closure of universities and academic institutions has greatly affected the entire education system. The shift from traditional classrooms to virtual classes is one of the few global efforts to avoid the spread of COVID-19 from affecting student populations and local communities. As nearly 180 countries closed their education institutions, almost 1.5 billion students worldwide were forced out of the physical classrooms.
Online learning is a part of the educational landscape over the last few years as a result of the merging of the education sector and technology. Its main purpose is to provide students with the opportunity to learn new skills and academic knowledge through distance learning.
One example is online RPL business courses, which award recognized certifications to improve the employability of its students. RPL refers to recognition of prior learning that aims to help people obtain knowledge and expertise according to natural standards and qualifications.
Despite a major global crisis, online learning has played a significant role during the COVID-19 pandemic to facilitate learning. In this article, we’re going to discuss the implications of online learning in higher education, its challenges, and ways to improve online learning delivery.
The benefits of online learning
The emergence of virtual classrooms has made education more accessible and flexible, resulting in a more inclusive higher education system. This is particularly helpful for working students and adult students who require flexible schedules and diverse choices in academic modules. Likewise, online learning has provided bigger opportunities to those who belong in marginalized groups and those living in far-flung communities with limited access to higher education.
Online classes have also proven their role in addressing the educational needs of people with disabilities, people of color, and those from low socioeconomic status. Virtual classrooms also appealed to the emerging generation of students or the so-called ‘digital natives’. These include the millennials and Gen Z known to be technologically proficient and are capable of absorbing large chunks of virtually provided data.
Since technology is now deeply embedded in almost every part of our lives, young students are setting high expectations for the education system. This led educators to look for flexible solutions to maximize digital tools and active learning techniques.
Active learning is an example of an online learning tool that deviates from the traditional unidirectional lectures and applies a more interactive form of learning. Some examples are conceptual mapping, case-based instruction, cooperative learning, peer teaching, and project-based learning. These approaches focus on student’s personal reflection and complete understanding than simply knowledge retention. Although some of its activities are not available in virtual classes, technology made it easier for teachers to oversee the activities and maintain highly organized instruction.
Challenges of online learning
Online learning also comes with a few stumbling blocks, whether it’s fully virtual or as a segment of traditional learning methods. During the first months of the pandemic, many feared the transition of traditional classrooms to virtual classes. The academic population along with parents believe that going online may hinder further learning, which led to low enrollment rates in colleges and universities.
Another issue is the low completion rate than face-to-face teaching and addressing the needs of less-engaged students. Technical difficulties such as low-speed Internet connection are also an expected barrier to online learning. Aside from teaching, instructors have to put up with these technical issues, which hinders the process of teaching itself. This can cause frustrations among teachers and students, resulting in low engagement rates.
Ways to improve online learning delivery
Online learning is keeping up with the tech trends, making it possible to address learning challenges, such as technical issues, poor integration, and lack of skills.
Set realistic expectations. It is never easy for students to adopt a distant form of teaching. This should encourage teachers to set realistic expectations for students without firsthand experience in handling their personal learning experience.
Digital course design. Transferring offline teaching to a virtual format is not enough to keep students engaged. Instructors need to create course tools specifically designed for digital devices. For instance, interactive videos increase learning immersion by making online lectures interesting.
Support face-to-face contact. Poor retention rates is always been an issue among instructors. Teachers can address this by adapting videoconferencing tools (e.g., Zoom or Skype) to promote motivation among students while personal interactions are still restricted.
Without a doubt, online learning is the future of the education system. While the digital divide has become a challenge to make online learning accessible, it is important to recognize other methods to improve the delivery of online learning. But for it to be successful, educators need to shift their mindset toward a learning-centered paradigm to help students gain a competitive edge in the education landscape.