Can e-learning replace classroom learning?

Even before the pandemic, e-learning was gaining ground all over the world. Online learning emerged in the 1980s when different international institutes and universities started offering online courses for distance learning. Although, for several decades, students around the world took advantage of these opportunities through the Internet, compared to traditional learning, the diffusion and popularity of online learning was limited. However, that all changed with the pandemic. Global lockdown and social distancing have prompted the initiation of e-learning. But how effective is online learning compared to classroom learning? Can it be a perfect substitute for classroom learning? Let’s find out.

The best way to go about this is to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each of the platforms. Accordingly, this article will encompass several aspects.

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Advantages and disadvantages of online learning

Before the pandemic, online learning was not very familiar and popular in Bangladesh. The situation caused by the pandemic has created a paradigm shift in the education system. Students at every level have seen their in-person classes moved to different online learning platforms. It took a lot of deliberation for each institute to jump on the bandwagon.

Speaking of the benefits, online learning has helped students of different skill levels stay engaged in their studies. Bangladesh was one of the countries with the longest vacations in educational institutions due to the pandemic. In this regard, e-learning has helped students to stay in the course cycle rather than completely detaching from it.

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Online learning has a lot of advantages like –

– It provided a means of education even in the most unfavorable social state.

– The learning material does not need to be time-limited. Online learning materials are accessible from anywhere and anytime through the Internet.

– It is possible to revise the concept and content as the lectures and resources are stored on the net.

– Access to a larger pool of resources allows better motivation and a better self-learning process.

– It paved the way for access to non-degree foreign courses through international e-learning platforms like Udemy and Coursera.

– It reduces the logistical cost of operating a physical classroom.

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Still, it’s not all fun, games, and flexibility when it comes to online learning, as there are some significant downsides as well. Let’s look at them from a local perspective –

– The capacity for face-to-face interaction is very less when it comes to e-learning.

– It is difficult for a teacher or instructor to personally interact with students in an online platform classroom.

– A large part of the population lives in a marginal economic state. As a result, internet and device access becomes another issue for low and lower middle income households.

– There is always the question of two-way communication in e-learning. The problems can be attributed to time constraints or to network issues plaguing everywhere.

– However, the most difficult aspect is directly related to the student. The ease of access to online learning tends to take students outside of the strict schedule of physical classrooms. Therefore, online learning also requires considerable personal motivation on the part of the student.

– During an online course, students can easily get distracted and get involved in other activities like playing games through additional internet tabs or listening to songs etc.

– Lack of social and peer interaction makes students non-social in the long run

– Unlike traditional classrooms, e-learning confines students to a designated room or space. They cannot take advantage of opportunities to play, chat, roam, etc. which slowly affects their physical health.

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Advantages and disadvantages of traditional classroom learning

The traditional classroom has been the vehicle for imparting education since the concept’s inception. However, a closer look at the entire system reveals some key advantages as well as some shortcomings.

To talk about the benefits, here are some key points –

– The most convincing argument for classroom learning is the active learning process. There is direct peer-to-peer interaction as well as teacher-student interaction in classroom learning. This not only makes the process efficient, but also engaging.

– In graduate studies, not all courses or majors can be taught online. Majors like hospitality, nursing, and the performing arts require physical classes for hands-on experience and assessment.

– Nowadays, it is possible to find reference documents on the Internet. However, for specialized academic needs, a suitable library remains the option of choice. And in the context of Bangladesh, a proper university library is only accessible at the same time as physical classes.

– The rigorous schedule helps to induce discipline in the students. Physical classes have a specific routine for classes that insinuates expediency and orderly behavior among the students.

– The need for extracurricular activities is immense to develop fundamental values ​​as well as to manifest new ones in a student. To this end, physical classes play an important role in facilitating the process.

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Just like its good aspects, classroom learning also has some drawbacks like –

– One of the most important negative aspects of classroom learning is travel time and cost. It just adds to the extra costs and wasted time for students traveling remotely.

– Traditional classrooms may not be inclusive places for students with social difficulties.

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E-Learning vs. Classroom Learning: Which Is Better?

It is important to consider the stage of the learner to better understand the impact of online and classroom learning. Each age group of learners has a different mental state and hence their perception of education also differs.

For a learning child, learning in the classroom is the best option. This is the stage in their life when they learn the discipline and become familiar with education as a whole. This age group cannot be subjected to an exclusive e-learning because it will not have the desired impact on them.

For a teenager, online learning may be an alternative to classroom learning, not a complete replacement. This is an age group where a student adapts to a changing perception both mentally and physically. As a result, learning in the classroom helps keep attention and discipline in check.

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Finally, for mature graduation level learners, one of the two works well. It completely depends on their major. The mindset and dedication required can be expected given their age range. There are a good number of universities that offer distance degrees to students online through e-learning. Ultimately, it is about preference as well as the major constraints associated with it.

Final words

Whether online learning or traditional classroom learning is better, seems to be an endless debate. It is hardly possible to completely ignore one of the two. Rather than being seen as an alternative to each other, these two modes of learning should be seen as complements to each other. In this way, the education system will be able to make better use of resources and ensure an effective program for students.

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Norma A. Roth