The internet technology has evolved immensely since the beginning of the 21st century, and with it have come opportunities for easy and equal access to quality education. Digital forms of education have transformed the education system from the traditional classroom a whole new dimension of online learning. This has made education more accessible than ever before. While rearing goats on Nyandarua hills, Kamau is able to access learning materials and tutorial videos from his smartphone.
So, what is online education?
Online education can be defined simply as a method of learning that is supported by electronic devices and uses the internet for student/teacher interaction and the distribution of learning materials.
This form of education is also known as online learning, digital education, web-based learning, computer-based training, online training, and e-learning (electronic learning). Thus, online education comes in different styles, but its defining feature is the use of electronic devices and internet technology to access learning. It offers boundless opportunities for teaching and learning outside of the traditional classroom.
Through online education, students are able to interact with teachers and other students anywhere, anytime, even outside school environment. Materials can be disseminated through the internet in the form of texts, audio, animations, and videos.
Online learning tools also offer an opportunity for students to access virtual training and live chats with their teachers, leading to reduced barriers of learning in terms of distance, resources, and facilities. With only one phone and internet connection, the student can access class notes and revision materials for all subject areas.
Benefits of Online Learning
Online learning and education offers the following benefits to students:
- Flexibility – students can learn and work at the same time; learning and interacting at their own pace, place, and time.
- Convenience and Cost – with online learning, there is no commuting, fuel or parking fees required. You access learning conveniently from work or home.
- Students control their own education – online education enables students to take responsibility of their own education as they choose their time and place of learning
- Assignments made easy – online learning tools enables students to access information, do research, and complete their assignments conveniently.
- Sharing ideas – learners who are shy to give their opinions in class can easily communicate through online chats and discussion forums where they are not seen face-to-face.
- Easy access to learning materials – students can access study notes, research papers, and revision materials easily from their phone or computer.
- Social benefits – students do not have to leave their family and friends to access education. Classes can be attended right from home.
Costs and Challenges of Online Learning
Online education has a few noteworthy setbacks:
- Lack of face-to-face interactions – there is limited opportunity for human interactions, which reduces the chances for social learning
- No one-on-one guidance – sometimes learning requires individualized coaching from a teacher in a physical environment, which is not possible in online education.
- Expensive and inadequate technologies – some learners may not have access to electricity, smartphones, and computers.
- No one to enforce rules – online education requires magnificent discipline from learners since no one is there to push them.
- Lack of practical application of knowledge – in a school environment, students may engage in activities that help them to apply concepts to real life situations. Online learning does not offer such opportunities.