Are Online Classes Effective? Know Their Pros and Cons

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As communities settle into the new normal, some industries are forced to change the way they operate. One of these is education. Without a vaccine for the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), students and teachers are not guaranteed safety in the classrooms. Schools and universities are turning to online classes to continue providing quality education without endangering their students and staff. Given the current situation, online learning may become the norm.

Defining Online Classes

Simply put, an online class is a class done over the Internet. Initially targeting non-formal students (working students, members of the entertainment industry, people who want to pursue post-graduate studies, etc.), online classes relieve participants of the need to be physically present for lectures and other classroom activities. These courses allow them to complete their requirements at their own pace.

Let’s understand the different online learning setups today and how they will benefit both students and teachers.

Online Class Varieties

There are two kinds: synchronous and asynchronous. But some learning programs are a combination.

Synchronous classes require the students and the teacher to be online at the same time. Asynchronous courses don’t expect this but offer channels for communication and feedback. The University of Oregon gives us an overview of some online classes done today. Let’s look at their benefits and disadvantages.

  • Web-based Classes – These use a learning management system (LMS) like Moodle or Blackboard to post the syllabus, assignments, materials, and instructions from the teacher. The use of textbooks or printed modules, such as for primary school level, lessens but may still be necessary for this type. Some course requirements are self-paced, while some—such as projects and exams—have specific deadlines. Students may communicate with the teacher through the LMS.

Pro: It’s completely asynchronous. It is flexible and transparent and offers students guidance and direction. It allows teachers to be creative in putting together the course content and providing feedback.

Con: Students must have the self-discipline to be efficient in this setup because it has no online classroom component. Teacher-student communication is critical in keeping students on track. The system is 100% online, so any problem with the internet connection, power, or LMS can affect, say, an ongoing quiz.

e-learning keyboard tab

  • Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) – This type is often a collaboration between an institution of higher learning (such as a college or university) and an established online education network (such as Coursera). It’s open to the institution’s enrolled students and the public (“open” students). They can participate in course activities and receive useful materials through the site.

Pro: It’s free. Enrolled students get credit and feedback from the MOOC instructors. Students can register to a MOOC as a side learning while pursuing a degree. It’s self-paced.

Con: “Open” students don’t get feedback and credit. Completion is highly dependent on the student’s self-discipline. The system has been criticized for low completion rates.

  • Hybrid or Blended – Face-to-face learning (physical classroom) was a part of this model, but under the current circumstances, the synchronous classes can be done via Google Meet, Zoom, Facebook, or the school’s own LMS. Most course activities have been moved online.

Pro: It lessens the time spent on face-to-face and synchronous discussions. It allows more leeway to complete course activities online. Still, synchronous classes rein in students, keeping them anchored and focused.

Con: Synchronous classes are still in place, which means students still have to adjust their schedules to the teacher’s schedule.

  • Flipped Course – Teachers provide students with recorded lectures or send open resources for them to go through before they attend synchronous classes. The students can listen to the recorded lectures and take exams and assessment activities before the class. During the online sessions, the teacher discusses only parts of the lecture content that the students found confusing or vague and answers further questions.

Pro: It’s 50% asynchronous. A considerable part of the learning process happens before the virtual classroom meeting. Classroom time becomes an active discussion instead of a one-sided affair. AA students have the chance to gain recognition by preparing well for classroom discussion.

Con: Students who didn’t have the chance to open the lecture content may feel out of place in the virtual classroom discussion. Discipline is highly required.

Parents and students may have to accept that online classes will be the norm in the coming months. The sooner you realize what to expect, the better you can deal with it.

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