In recent years, a key trend in education has been to use more digital resources and online methods of delivering content. This trend has significantly impacted how universities, colleges and other training providers operate, and the pandemic has only accelerated this. With classrooms closing due to health risks, institutions have rushed to implement remote learning solutions. Students are now experiencing a new form of online learning, causing us to rethink formal education delivery.
Video call classes
Moving lectures and lessons online has its benefits. Students can attend classes from anywhere, cutting down on travel costs and freeing up time. With more choice when it comes to accommodation, students may choose to live at home and make occasional trips to campus, as opposed to relocating. For institutions, this is a double-edged sword. They may lose out on income from accommodation, but simultaneously open up their courses to a much larger potential market.
Another benefit is the ease of access and availability that comes with online classes. Teachers can record lectures or instructions if they are unable to teach live or, for students to access later for revision or if they missed the class. This type of on-demand delivery has been popularised by MOOC providers like Coursera and course marketplaces like ‘Udemy’ and is making its way into formal education. It’s worth remembering that, although live or recorded video classes are popular, they might not always be the best solution for meeting learning outcomes. Sometimes a blended approach, with a variety of types of content interactions is needed to support different learning styles. If you’re interested in learning more about how to go about digitising content, we’ve written a post on just that, here.
Resources hosted online
Having some form of online repository for educational materials to support online courses is considered essential nowadays. Institutions and trainers need a safe way to store and organise their teaching resources and a means by which to share them with students. Digital resources and online delivery also make submitting, marking and returning assignments much more efficient. It’s also getting easier to schedule and automate these processes – for example, quizzes with right or wrong answers don’t need human involvement to be marked. Most institutions and large organisations will have a Learning Management System as the central platform, but more often than not teachers will additionally use a variety of tools to support students.
As well as improving the accessibility and efficiency of delivering learning content, an online approach can add functionality to the materials themselves. Digital resources can make great use of rich multimedia content like infographics, animations and educational games. With a little creativity, teachers can turn traditional content into more engaging interactive activities within their course. A study from Springer.com regarding online learning found that: “if teachers invest time in designing learning activities that address learners’ cognitive and social needs, better learning outcomes are possible”.
Student performance and wellbeing in online learning
A big draw to higher and further education is the opportunity to be part of a community, to learn and live together with other people. When classes are primarily online, certain types of interaction are missed out on and students can feel isolated. A study by PLoS ONE on students’ experience with online teaching found that: “The students expressed in various ways that online teaching with a lack of social interaction leads to worse learning outcomes and lower levels of motivation and well-being”. Providing the opportunities and tools to facilitate things like group projects, open discussion forums and even social (non-work related) interaction can be critical for the success of students. Encouraging open, ongoing communication even if online, can significantly reduce this sense of isolation.
Many consider a hybrid approach to learning delivery to be the most realistic and effective route forward. Online lessons have their benefits, but bolstering this face-to-face interactivity will mitigate many issues that come from teaching purely online. Meeting in person, even occasionally, can help prevent screen and webinar fatigue (we talk more about Webinar Fatigue here). Ultimately, over-reliance on video can have adverse mental health effects and become repetitive and unengaging. Not to mention the technical barriers such as connectivity which by now we’ve all experienced at some point.
The education industry has gone, and will continue to go, through dramatic changes over the next few years as it adapts to a changing landscape and new technology. In that time we will also have to consider the implications for students and teachers. Online learning has its benefits and introduces a lot of flexibility, but we have to ensure that students don’t miss out on the social and developmental aspects of education. And who knows where this could lead with future mind-boggling changes in how we might interact (cough metaverse cough). Anyway, we hope that this has been informative and, as always, please contact us if you’d like to know how Learnium can help with online learning delivery.
- K. Almendingen, M. Morseth, E. Gjølstad, A. Brevik, C. Tørris (2021, August 31). Student’s experiences with online teaching following COVID-19 lockdown: A mixed methods explorative study Retrieved November 11, 2021 from https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0250378
- Rapanta, C., Botturi, L., Goodyear, P. et al (2020, July 07). Online University Teaching During and After the Covid-19 Crisis: Refocusing Teacher Presence and Learning Activity Retrieved November 11, 2021 from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s42438-020-00155-y#Sec29