Online Learning and In-Person Learning Are Both Valuable: Here’s Why


Is online education as effective as traditional in-person education? originally appeared on Quora: the place to acquire and share knowledge, allowing people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Brian Galvin, Director of Studies at Varsity Tutors, the Quora:

I love the question, but in a way it’s kind of like asking “is a hammer as effective as a screwdriver?” Either way, you’re looking at two tools with very similar goals – tying things together, teaching people important skills and concepts – and each tool has use cases where it’s the absolute right tool, to others where it will do the job, and still others where you should really use the other one.

So, personally, I like to think of the two educational forums not as competing tools, but as two tools in the same toolbox that can complement each other in many cases and can be the main tool or the only one in many cases. others. And it’s a bit esoteric so let’s be specific.

Where in person is the right tool

We’ve all seen in 2020-21 that having elementary school students sitting in line for a full day of lessons with traditional class sizes was a difficult experience for just about everyone involved. But it’s like the old adage: when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail – for at least a few months the whole education system was optional online, so students were hammered with it. And we’ve seen some of the things that are so essential in in-person learning, especially for young learners. For the vast majority of elementary and middle school students, having an in-person physical component as their primary learning method is very important, whether it’s traditional school or homeschooling. As they learn to be students, they need a physical presence to help them organize material, keep tabs on behaviors, give quick informal feedback, pay attention (and use) language. bodily.

In-person learning is also the perfect way to create an immersive everyday experience. In person, it is much easier to ensure learners get the location and activity changes that come from recess, lunchtime, group work, and other monotony-breaking activities. in a unique location and format. There is social stimulation and collaborative downtime, readily available supplies, and these come with the ability for a teacher to modify the plan when it is clear that children need a change or a break. When you can deliver a book to a student or escort a class to a new location, you can ensure they have that empowering and immersive experience.

And I could go on: there are a huge number of use cases where in-person education is the perfect tool. Much learning requires only a physical component, whether it be hands-on opportunities or direct observation of the teacher or simply the kind of informal socialization that develops in a physical environment.

Where online education is the right tool

But there are also many use cases where online education is the perfect or preferred tool. Notably :

  • Access to topics and experts. A physical school can only have a limited number of classrooms that can each accommodate a limited number of students. Add to that budget issues and the availability of teachers who can physically be present and schools are simply limited in the number of electives and extracurricular courses they can offer. If, say, only 10 students took advantage of a class offer, that probably doesn’t justify using a classroom and a paid teacher to deliver it. And while a room full of students would be interested, a specialist teacher may not be able to justify the travel and preparation time to come to that physical location for short, frequent class periods. Online, however, this teacher can host back-to-back sessions with students from all over the world, and even if only a few students from one school are going to benefit, educators can group together a handful of students from multiple schools to justify the expense. Physical schools must choose a small subset of foreign languages, computer programming languages, AP courses, etc. – by opting for online courses, however, they can make huge catalogs available.
  • Evolutionary and personalized learning. We see this clearly in our learning differences courses: learners with special needs often find themselves separated from their peer groups or taught in groups with diverse needs. And this is quite a necessary factor in grouping students primarily by geography. But online, students can be grouped by learning needs: it’s much easier to group 20 students of the same age working on the same challenges and reading at the same level; we hear all the time from students who have finally found a group of children. just like them, in addition they are paired with a teacher who has both the expertise and the possibility of teaching a group with the same needs at the same level. And the same goes for varying learning needs, ability levels, and interests. By removing geographic constraints from the equation, learners can find specialist teachers and optimal groups to receive the instruction that really suits them for the subjects and needs for which it is most important to do so.
  • The advantage of anonymity. We all know that the more you participate, the more you learn. But participation has stigmas: some students fear asking a stupid question or offering incorrect answers, while others fear looking like a teacher’s pet or trying hard (I remember very although a precalculus teacher/college coach pulled me aside to say “you ‘I got Every test – I had no idea you were smart’ and felt like I had accomplished duality perfect to be a good student without the stigma of peers knowing about it). And there’s a similar worry about signing up for an extracurricular activity that you know you’d like, but aren’t sure your friends would approve of. Online education takes that away: when students are grouped with like-minded learners they won’t see every day in the hallway or cafeteria, they can feel much freer to ask and answer questions. questions, try new topics, come up with ideas and be more active. participants in their own learning.
  • Complementary and extracurricular learning. A good teacher friend once mentioned that what school districts do is like having the Olympics, every day: they send buses to every corner of the city; supply several massive buildings with light, heat and a cafeteria to serve hundreds of people; recruit hundreds of subject matter experts to host a day of interactive “events” and coordinate last-minute replacements; etc In-person learning is a massive logistical undertaking, and if we are to go beyond its reach, someone has to put those logistics in place: providing a building, transportation, and supplies in addition to providing education engaging and meaningful. Online learning brings that “extra” education where the logistics are already in place: students can learn from home without the need for an extra trip, or schools can “import” the expertise without having to hold taking into account the hiring of additional teachers/tutors on site. Increasingly, we see a need for additional learning to address learning loss, to give learners access to specialist and personalized support, or to give them access to a range of subjects and experiences. In-person learning requires Olympian logistical efforts to make the standard school day happen; online learning gives complementary learning the freedom to circumvent these needs.

That question originally appeared on Quora – the place to acquire and share knowledge, allowing people to learn from others and better understand the world.


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