Online Learning Beyond the Pandemic

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When the virus first broke out, social distancing was strictly enforced. This meant that any form of face-to-face interaction was highly discouraged. Going online looked like a no-brainer thing to do, especially since technology already plays a huge part in livelihood, education, leisure, and more.

Businesses and other organizations have begun the transition to the online environment even before the pandemic. The advantages of migrating to the digital realm were clear. Communication is more convenient, and information dissemination is easier. Running a business seems to be smoother, thanks to online tools and software. As years have passed, everyone has witnessed the gap between efficiency and accuracy slowly coming to a close.

Similarly, formal education has made its way to the online world too. Even before COVID, many online colleges and learning platforms had the online education concept in mind. With many young professionals looking to further their careers through education in the middle of their already busy schedules, it was a modern-day need for many. Fortunately, technology has no geographical limitations and is accessible to anyone as long as they have the necessary tools.

But since the collective change from face-to-face classes to online learning has been spurred by the pandemic’s trajectory of a “new normal,” it’s rewriting the course of online learning. With that said, how will online learning look like in the future?

The Future of Online Learning

Flexible learning has become more popular as technology has advanced, as indicated by an estimate that the online education market will reach $350 billion by 2025.

Although the abrupt move to online learning in 2020 was difficult due to a lack of resources and infrastructure, this is expected to improve as more resources and efforts are directed into enhancing the bandwidth of web conferencing services, with some now giving it for free. There has also been a major push to provide students with the resources to participate in class activities. The online learning sector is expected to continue to develop after the epidemic rather than dying out.

As many learning institutions are experimenting with their setup (full-time online schools, blended learning, etc.), they also explore technologies to use. These include course management systems, word processing documents, streaming platforms, and more. However, others are trying to take it further by utilizing more advanced assistive technologies, virtual learning environments, or AR applications in education. Through similar methods, many found that their online learning experience is enhanced.

Is Online Learning Effective?

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If a person has access to the tools necessary, then yes, online learning can be effective. It’s hard to compare traditional learning and online learning when you’ve experienced both. This debate has been a famous one, especially since the pandemic started. Although the discourse is relevant and important in deciding which works best for an individual, it all boils down to what a person prefers.

It’s not about which one is more effective but a more effective learning experience for an individual. The real question should be if online education is as effective as traditional, face-to-face learning. Additionally, some degrees such as those in the medical field, fine arts, and more may be more effective in a face-to-face setting. The nature of the degree should be taken into consideration.

The Challenges of Online Learning

Even with all these advancements, it is not without its limits. Not everyone has the privilege to enjoy these due to lack of tools and no access to reliable internet. This limitation is a reality faced by multiple places in the world. Data gathered by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showed that although 95% of students in Switzerland, Norway, and Austria have access to a computer for schoolwork, only 34% in Indonesia do.

Seeing a gap between the privileged and otherwise is not a totally new thing, but it’s something definitely worth addressing, especially in the context of education. However, there are government interventions and initiatives to address this, but the pandemic itself was enough to reveal the digital divide among students.

Aside from access to the necessary tools, it’d be helpful for students if they also had the ability to self-regulate their learning. If academic institutions plan to integrate online learning into their long-term strategy, they should extend their efforts to creating a “learning environment” conducive enough to make students effective learners.

Everyone deserves the type of education that suits their needs and their preferences. Whether it’s online or traditional face-to-face learning, education should be accessible, effective, and well-regulated for the benefit of everyone.

People’s lifestyles should evolve in tandem with technological advancements. After all, technology’s purpose is to help make life more convenient and effective, and education is a great subject.

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