Online classrooms only bolster in-person learning

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Online learning often gets a bad rap.

A recent opinion in The Silhouette suggested that in-person courses allow students to get more out of their learning. When students weigh the benefits of a digital classroom with those of a real one, it might seem like online courses don’t facilitate the same learning environment or face-to-face time with professors and peers. 

But stacking online and in-person learning against each other is a false dichotomy. Online learning doesn’t detract from the traditional classroom: it makes university education accessible to a broader, more diverse student population.

Increasing the ways in which students can access education is never a bad thing—it’s actively advantageous. By reducing some of the obstacles facing them, it allows a greater number of students to engage in higher education.

Rural students, mature students, and working students all stand to benefit from online classes. Whether it’s studying for a course remotely or taking advantage of flexible hours, the option of taking one or more classes online makes postsecondary education more inclusive. 

Furthermore, online learning has the potential to reduce some of the costs associated with university education. Not every hopeful student has the privilege of living near a postsecondary school. For students who can’t afford to move into residence or rent pricey student housing, accessing courses online makes obtaining an undergraduate degree more feasible.

For many, time is also a limited resource. Long commutes to school, balancing a full-time job, or juggling family commitments are all deterrents preventing many potential students from pursuing a degree.

Digital courses even serve to benefit on-campus students. Taking a course or two online can free up time during the week to engage in co-curricular activities or part-time jobs that may otherwise conflict with scheduled classes.

Between the traditional lecture setting and digital classrooms, taking courses online doesn’t have to mean some students are at a disadvantage because they’re not sitting in a physical classroom with a professor engaging them in person. There are many ways to create dialogue between students and TAs, encourage peer discussions, and ask professors questions outside of living near campus. Creative solutions—digital office hours, live-streaming discussions, and discussion forums—keep students engaged in their classes, even if they’re not physically present.

There’s value in both online and traditional in-person education. The two methods of learning aren’t competing. They complement one another to create a more accessible education system for an increasingly diverse range of students.

Online learning isn’t for everyone, but the option must remain available to the students who need it.

—Journal Editorial Board

 

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