The recent events of the global pandemic have affected all spheres of living of every country across the entire world. One of the severely affected spheres was the system of education. Students of all levels of education, from elementary schools to universities, were no longer able to visit the buildings of their institutions. All kinds of the usual classes people attended were canceled. The absolute closure of schools would create unrest among the people and cause immense problems to the entire society. To keep their credibility, authorities had to invent new ways to educate the pupils who attended their institutions. The only way to do so was the one that included no physical contact between the people. Schools and universities simultaneously began transferring all parts of their educational responsibilities online. People who had no previous experience dealing with modern technologies to such extents had to acquire online education skills quickly. Both the students and teachers had trouble getting the hang of the new technologies, and this fact planted the seeds of doubt into their heads on whether online education has a place to be at all.
The Case for Online Education
People have been benefitting from online education long before the outbreak of COVID-19. A 2005 analysis by National Public Radio shows how a small rural town with less than 100 people living there found a way to provide their local area with extra finances while offering opportunities to acquire education to students from all across the US. In 2005, almost 1000 children enrolled in the Branson school district thanks to the Branson School OnLine, the district’s internet-based program for all grades (“Analysis” 1). Teachers were also among those who gained from such means of educating their students. The system presented job offers for teachers even outside of the district. For instance, in this program, the interviewers take teacher Elizabeth Davis as a case study. At that moment, she lived far north of Branson yet could communicate with her 24 students, who studied at the school there. Unlike in the case of physical classes during which she had to manage 150 students, she received the opportunity to know her kids more.
Economic Aspect of Online Education
In the meanwhile, the local area was also gaining benefit from this situation. The district was gaining the new energy and funds. According to Colorado’s school choice, for every enrolled student, Branson received the funding of $5,600 from the student’s home district. And although a large sum went to providing the students with all needs, it also helped the economy of Branson. Online education supporters claim that the most significant plus of this concept is its flexibility for those who participate. The economic aspect of online studies was likewise particularly beneficial for rural, disabled, and other marginalized students (“Online” 1). In the same way, higher education also becomes more accessible to the masses of potential students, as even prestigious institutions are developing free access to some of their courses.
Positive Aspects of Online Schools for Students
As a part of the 2009 study by Karen Nitkin, chief administrative officer for the Florida Virtual High School, explains how some students enrolled because of their schedules. The overstuffed list of activities forced them to take classes outside of regular school hours. Traditional “brick-and-mortar” did not allow their students to take specific courses they needed to graduate when they needed, and therefore they chose online education as a means to make up for it. And, as there is no one standing over you during the online studies, students have been noticed to hone their ability to work independently, which could develop at a slower pace while studying offline. Moreover, as studies show, the ability to gain education online frees the students from paying extra money for the content and materials, as they are less expensive to access through the World Wide Web.
The Case against Online Education
However, it is crucial to mention that the concept of online education can also negatively affect students’ studies. The same essay by Nitkin opens with the opinion that although online education can benefit both sides of the process, it can not fully replace traditional classrooms, and therefore should be used moderately. He notes face-to-face interactions as critical to learning, and consequently, it is not recommended that any student receive all of their education online. For example, holding hands-on lab works can be challenging, as teachers have to develop ways to show their students the practical aspect of a subject through virtual space.
Weaker Performance of Online Students
The author continues by underlining that the students are not actually “connected” regardless of being virtually connected (Nitkin 2). He states that even the supporters of online education are concerned because of the growth of full-time virtual institutions. A study on online education also shows that the primary purpose of education, which is gaining knowledge, is questionable. As of May 2020, two months after the lockdown started, 71% of parents of school students said that their children could learn more offline during the same period (“Online” 3). And the studies confirm that their concerns are not baseless. The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) shows the results of the 2017-2018 school years. During this academic year, K12 pupils who studied online full-time and blended performed statistically worse than the national average in the US. Sometimes, the difference between the outcomes was more than 30 percent (“Online” 2). The difficulty of adapting the traditional teaching methods, available at the brick-and-mortar schools, to virtual studies’ realities is one of the possible reasons for such results.
The New Kinds of Limitations
It is worth mentioning that most online schools and universities, being the for-profit kind of organizations, have their effectiveness doubted by the authorities. Because of the financial policies of such schools, despite the accessibility the online schools provide to their students, they still limit those willing to enroll. The administrations often require you to have a list of needed devices to participate in their courses. As the document states, the internet availability, speed, and cost of the necessary technology contribute to the difficulties of access for the students (“Online” 1). These reasons can limit access to online learning platforms and programs, especially for low-income parts of society.
The changes to the sphere of education brought by the modern problems required the establishment to take immediate measures and implement the ideas that the organizations themselves did not thoroughly study yet. Despite the fact that online education has been around for quite a while now, it remains a debatable concept. It, therefore, needs time to be adjusted to the modern realities of schooling. So far, it can bring both positive and negative consequences to the institutions and, most importantly, pupils. The examples from the presented studies show that online education can allow people to benefit from the opportunities it offers, as those can be absent in traditional physical schools. However, for both the students and teachers to do so, the system of virtual schooling should be moderated and treated the same way as the traditional.
Analysis: How online education makes a difference in some rural communities. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints. Web.
Nitkin, Karen. Online Classes Should Be Used Moderately. Has Technology Increased Learning? Greenhaven Press, 2009. Web.
Online Education. Gale Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2021. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints. Web.