VIRTUAL LEARNING IN THE TIME OF COVID-19

The novel coronavirus has brought about some unprecedented crisis that the world has never experienced before. The pandemic effects are felt in every aspect of our day-to-day lives in ways we have never imagined. As the cases continue to rise, public places, educational institutions, and workplaces remain closed, the impact of the virus can be felt on millions of people across the world.

Not just for adults, but life is not the same anymore, even for children. Educational institutions around the world have been hit hard. To combat this virus’s spread, schools and colleges are left with no choice but to switch to an online learning environment. However, the idea of virtual learning might sound quite promising, but there are several advantages and disadvantages associated with this new method of learning.

Virtual learning is a new kind of learning that is enhanced through the use of the latest technology available to us today. The teaching activities are carried out online, where the instructors and the students are separated physically. As more and more schools and universities are adopting this kind of learning, there are some pros and cons.

Advantages of virtual learning:

Self-paced – One benefit of online education is it can be done at a self-paced rate. Students are presented with an opportunity to learn at a slow pace, not based on a set time or date. If a student is having difficulty grasping a particular topic, he/she can sit with the teacher and learn at a pace that suits them.

Comfortability and convenience – Another key benefit of virtual learning is convenience and comfortability. A student can access his/her class from the comfort of their home and at any time of the day. With the widespread availability of the internet, most students from high-income families can log in to their online sessions with the instructor from anywhere in the world.

Cost-benefit – In the present-day scenario, sending your child to a highly reputed school or college will cost a lot of money, but virtual learning provides an opportunity to save money. Not having to go to the campus can help you save up on transportation costs and hold a great amount of time. Most of the time, Virtual learning utilizes virtual materials: hence students will also save a lot of money invested every year on purchasing course materials.

Retain more information – Many people may not be aware of the fact that when students are taught virtually, they retain more information vs. if they are taught in a traditional classroom. Some research suggests that, on average, students contain more information online than in a classroom. They learn better online because children can learn at their own pace, re-reading concepts, or accelerating through lessons as they choose. Another benefit of virtual learning is students who aren’t that confident or are often shy to speak in front of their classmates; have better opportunities to participate more actively in class discussions.

Improves digital skills – Research shows that virtual learning is an effective way for students and teachers to strengthen their digital skills. Along with learning the course material, students and teachers are presented with an opportunity to discover and become familiar with specific digital platforms.

Help set some rules – One of the lesser-known benefits of using digital platforms as a learning medium is it teaches students and instructors some basic internet netiquette.

Some examples of internet netiquette are staying on topic, using appropriate language, recognize and respect diversity, read all comments before submitting, justify your opinion, and check for grammatical errors.

Disadvantages of virtual learning:

Social isolation – One of the biggest cons of virtual learning is students and teachers may start experiencing social isolation signs due to a lack of proper human interaction.

Social isolation and lack of interactions can cause long-term problems such as stress, heightened anxiety, and depression. To avoid these issues, teachers should carefully monitor their students for signs of social isolation; and come up with ways to increase interactions between students.

● More emphasis on theoretical learning rather than on practical skills – Coming to virtual learning, another challenge is that most teachers focus mainly on developing theoretical learning rather than enhancing practical skills. Without face-to-face interactions and physical workshops, it is challenging to teach valuable lessons. One way to focus on practical teaching is through practice-based online platforms.

Limited accessibility – The idea of online learning may sound promising, but in reality, it results in several challenges to both students and teachers. African Americans, Latin Americans, and Native American students cannot cope well with this new learning system as they do not have proper access to computers or internet connections. Finding a solution to this particular problem is not that easy. However, some initiatives, such as Digital India, are improving the computer literacy rates among the low-income population.

Online testing leads to a rise in cheating – One of the significant issues with virtual learning is that often it is easy for students to cheat on their assignments and tests, as they have the comfort of taking tests in their environment and using their personal computers. This issue is becoming a significant problem for teachers and school authorities.

Making a cheat detection during online classes is more complicated compared to traditional testing procedures. One way to avoid this issue, schools must implement strict anti-cheating procedures.

● Online student feedback may be limited – Students benefit from personalized feedback, as it makes learning easy to understand, and also, students are motivated to study well. Still, with online learning, sometimes it isn’t easy to get personalized feedback. It’s that easy to resolve this problem, but it can be done to a certain extent. Suitable ways to overcome this issue is through video chats with professors.

Picture courtesy: Pixabay.com

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