With the outbreak of COVID-19, many schools and colleges closed their doors and changed the way of educating students to distance learning. It was done according to the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) to protect both students and teachers from the coronavirus that showed its high contagiousness (Mukhtar et al. 27). This unprecedented global challenge created a new context that prioritizes distance learning activities as a safe way to continue educational processes. However, students and their parents face problems with accessing and completing tasks, while teachers report that it is not effective. Although distance learning provides safety, flexibility, and the customization of the learning experience, it should not replace traditional education that ensures relationships between a teacher and student and effective communication.
Distance Learning vs Traditional Education
The changes in the system and process of education might be here to stay even after the end of the pandemic. It requires considering the arguments that point to the effectiveness of distance learning. The main argument in favor of distance learning is that it is an undoubtedly safer way of providing education in terms of the coronavirus. Even though the evidence shows limited research on the impact of the virus on children, they remain a vulnerable population that can also act as carriers contaminating others. The flexibility of online learning implies that students can access the tasks and discussions at any time from any location. However, what is the response of parents to the fact that their children study at home? Some of them state that they manage their learning, while others face difficulties with buying one or more computers and staying at home instead of going to work (Tseng and Walsh 13). The seemingly useful flexibility sets both challenges and benefits, which makes this topic more complicated.
The customization of student learning is another benefit of distance learning, which means that students are expected to develop their skills in self-regulation and self-learning. This argument is based on the assumption that if a student is given enough time for self-directed learning, they become more independent and self-sustained to study the material and complete the tasks (Mukhtar et al. 30). In addition, asynchronous learning creates the opportunity to watch a video or discussion recording several times to revise knowledge or summarize the key points. Indeed, it is useful to look through the materials to refresh one’s memory, but the problems with the Internet connection, online platform failures, and deadlines missed because of these issues seem to outweigh the advantages of student experience customization in distance learning. More to the point, traditional education also offers an individual approach, paying attention to a child’s needs and preferences that are used to design assignments and evaluate students. It is not true for every school, but there is the possibility of individual learning in school settings.
Teacher and content preparation is another issue that is mentioned in the literature. Namely, some teachers state that their work tends to be less intensive as it is not necessary to focus on discipline in the class and resolve emerging conflicts (Traxler 37). They also note that when parents are involved in the process of education, it is easier to teach children. There are a lot of mobile applications, online platforms for live video, and self-directed learning content that should help students. Nevertheless, the opposing point clarifies that many teachers turned out to be unprepared for online learning as they lack relevant skills and pedagogical methodologies. The adjustment of the instructional design and student engagement can be noted as two more challenges of distance learning. In addition, students are more likely to be distracted in home settings, which makes their education even less effective. Even though it is only several months that students learn online, it seems that they will become lazier in the future if continuing such a format of education.
The above discussion shows that distance learning cannot replace traditional education at schools. Distance learning lacks many important factors that are present in schools, such as relationships between a teacher and students, eye-to-eye contact, teamwork with active cooperation, and so on ((Mukhtar et al. 28). The limited interaction between the class members and the teacher reduces the interest in the subjects being studied, which can cause poor academic performance on a larger scale (Tseng and Walsh 16). The traditional classroom environment improves interaction and motivates students to constantly acquire new knowledge and practice their skills. It also promotes student socialization, personality emergence, and the sense of direction in both professional and personal areas.
To conclude, this paper provides a comparison between distance learning and traditional education format. It is stated that even though online learning is expected to have many benefits of flexibility and learning experience customization, it fails to ensure the connection between educators and students. The advances of technology allowed the creation of various platforms and tools for distance learning, but students are likely to be inactive and distracted when taught in home settings. Therefore, distance learning can be considered safe and useful during COVID-19, but it cannot replace traditional education at schools.
Mukhtar, Khadijah, et al. “Advantages, Limitations and Recommendations for Online Learning During COVID-19 Pandemic Era.” Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences, vol. 36, no. COVID19-S4, pp. 27-31.
Traxler, John. “Distance Learning — Predictions and Possibilities.” Education Sciences, vol. 8, no. 1, 2018, pp. 35-48.
Tseng, Hung Wei, and Eamonn Joseph Walsh Jr. “Blended vs. Traditional Course Delivery: Comparing Students’ Motivation, Learning Outcomes, and Preferences.” Quarterly Review of Distance Education, vol. 17, no.1, 2016, pp. 1-21.