During the coronavirus pandemic, academic institutions all over the world have had to move to online learning platforms, either to complement face-to-face education or to replace it entirely. Whether or not schools have stayed open, both primary and secondary pupils have had to adjust to a higher degree of virtual education than ever before to support social distancing and help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Schools with robust and reliable IT systems and existing online platforms have fared well with this change, but those not familiar with online education have struggled to adapt. Like with all institutional changes, there are pros and cons to online learning, and each school has taken its own unique approach.
So, if and when the world shifts back to normal, will online and hybrid learning be a thing of the past, or could it become a vital part of our children’s’ future?
The pros and cons of online learning platforms
There’s no doubt that taking education online has been a challenge for schools all over the UK. Many lack the IT infrastructure to meet the needs of their pupils and emulate a classroom environment, and not all students can connect with online learning materials as easily as others.
For example, those with learning disabilities or additional needs may find concentration difficult in a virtual context. Children from less advantaged backgrounds may not have adequate Wi-Fi or internet devices at home, and pupils may live with difficult family circumstances that aren’t conducive to learning. One of the benefits of a physical education environment is that pupils are given equal opportunities to learn inside the classroom.
Online learning platforms are also reliant on technology working as it should. An app crashing or an online portal being inaccessible could create barriers to learning that wouldn’t necessarily exist inside a regular classroom.
One of the benefits, however, of online learning platforms is that they’re accessible 24/7. This means that older children who are more independent can work to their own study schedules, at their own pace. This may also remove the competitive nature of classroom work and give secondary pupils the autonomy to manage their education. What’s more, there is continuous access to learning materials and class discussions that can be used at any time.
For primary school children, online education gives families the chance to get involved in their kids’ schoolwork while juggling their own professional and personal schedules.
Is online education the future for primary and secondary education?
It is important to note the distinction between primary and secondary education. Older children will have spent more time using technology and familiarising themselves with virtual platforms, and they may be more likely to concentrate and focus on screen-based activities.
Younger children can be engaged with online games and entertaining education materials for a limited time, but they may not respond as well as secondary pupils to classes on Zoom or Google Hangout. Therefore, when it comes to online education, a unique and holistic approach must be taken to fit the needs of the class and year group.
The bottom line is that online learning is giving more vulnerable pupils (such as those who are shielding) or students having to take time off with coronavirus the option to continue their education from home. This is certainly crucial during COVID, but could it become a normalised part of the curriculum once the pandemic has passed?
According to Dr Rajani Gupte, Vice-Chancellor of Symbiosis International (Deemed University), the future of education involves a blend of online and face-to-face learning. He confirms that “a fine amalgam of traditional physical classroom teaching and online interaction in the form of blended learning is the best way forward.”
What do you think? How well have your children adapted to online learning? Let us know in the comments below.