Online learning has become important of a typical post-secondary or university experience; in fact, about 29 per cent of all Canadian post-secondary students registered for courses online. Its prevalence in institutions of higher learning is rapidly increasing. They offer a “cost-effective alternative to the traditional classroom”. The rate of enrolment in online courses is drastically increasing than that of total higher education. A substantial number of valid comparisons between online courses and traditional courses find that students who opt for online learning perform just as well or even better than students who opt for conventional learning. Also, studies show that the satisfaction of students does not differ significantly across both online and traditional forms of learning which provides further support to add to the argument that online learning can serve as an equally effective environment for learning. It has increasingly become an alternative to traditional learning due to the pervasiveness of technology in our society.
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Some students still prefer face to face or a traditional form of learning over online, but it continues to appeal to a majority of students because of its flexibility. A study was conducted, and over 96 per cent of the respondents stated that the main reasons why they opted for online programs were because of its accessibility and flexibility while some opted for it because of the time saving, cost saving options it offers and its appeal to convenience. With a lot of schools now employing online learning to aid the learning experiences of students and offer flexibility and convenience for both professors and students. Also, the increase in the number of students who opt for the option of learning online, the federal government is considering a proposal to shift some elements of teaching and learning to online spaces.
There are a significant number of advantages to online learning, one of them is that students typically experience intense participation in an online learning environment which can lead to improved learning, this is because students feel like it provides them with an opportunity to speak their mind about issues without feeling intimidated or shy. Another advantage to online learning is that taking an online course can prove favourable to both the students and teachers as it allows for flexibility such as allowing students the privilege of submitting assignments as late as midnight, allowing students to get help or discuss topics or issues with other students at odd hours which is not typical or cannot be accomplished in a traditional learning environment. Also, it has helped some students save on transportation costs as they didn’t need to be physically present in school to get help on assignments, discuss topic or issues with colleagues or submit assignments. Furthermore, it allows for professors who travel for meetings or conduct research often to do their work and also cater to the needs of students without having to be physically present. In addition to flexibility, it allows students who work or students who cannot leave the confines of their homes for reasons beyond their control such as a severe illness, injury or accident to engage in discussions and also have access to class materials without having to get to campus. Also, online learning can in certain situations lead to “better academic outcomes by creating an instructional experience that is difficult or impossible to create in the classroom or through alternative media”. The promotion of knowledge through the development of an online learning community also has the ability to “benefit individual students in terms of improvements in self-efficacy, and as a result, potentially the wider community through increased civic engagement and broader digital literacy and competence”. Moving some parts or aspects of learning online can help more people in rural areas access to knowledge and has proved effective in lowering the cost of learning in for people in rural areas. Online learning also lets students have the advantage of learning at their own pace and time, which leads to a more satisfying learning experience.
Despite its advantages, online learning has some disadvantages to it, one of them is that some students who might be experts in the gaming or social networking environment may not necessarily be equipped with the academic skills needed to help survive or do well in an online learning environment. Another disadvantage of learning in an online environment is that student can be limited by their home computers or they may also experience issues with configuring their computer to work well with their online learning environment. Also, some “kinds of online learning are low quality and that online learning in general de-personalised education”. Online learning can also foster academic dishonesty in cases of online classes where students tend to cheat more in tests than in traditional classroom because it is easier to cheat. Online courses have a higher dropout rate than that of conventional courses because some students might experience some technical issues such as inadequate access to broadband internet and also students who lack the necessary technological skills and confidence to assist them in thriving in such environment are also more likely to drop out. The movement of learning to an online platform has encouraged the over-reliance in technology, which has caused people to become “deskilled in almost every other area”. There are now cases where lectures or materials are posted online to replicate a classroom. However, these instances distance the “educator from the educated. Nuance is lost. Teaching is not just the dissemination of information. It is the discussion, the argument, the consternation that can only be achieved face to face”. It is more difficult for instructors to build relationships with students because of the inability to talk face to face in an online learning environment. Also, some instructors complain that they have “little to no control over the scope and sequences of the syllabus, texts are chosen, assessments created, and pacing of the material”.
In conclusion, in spite of the proposal disadvantages, I would like to recommend that the federal government implement its policy on shifting some aspects or parts of teaching and learning to online platforms or spaces. My reasons for this are because of the advantages of opting for online learning outweigh its disadvantages. Most of the proposed disadvantages such as broadband problems are issues that I believe would be tendered to as time goes on and should not be a reason as to why the government would decide not to implement the policy. The world is changing every day and technology, and the internet is becoming a big part of our daily lives and its only right the government starts putting policies in place to assist and encourage more schools to adopt online learning. Although some schools already incorporate some aspects of learning and teaching online, the implementation of this policy would make this phenomenon more widespread and would eventually lead to us experiencing online learning at all levels of education.