Online vs Offline Class
The origin of online learning can be traced back to 1989 when the University of Phoenix launched a completely online collegiate institution offering both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Online learning has since gained more popularity with traditional institutions offering both offline and online classes. Online universities, courses, and boot camps have also started to emerge with offerings that range from short certificate courses to degrees equivalent to a traditional college degree.
The Covid-19 pandemic brought online classes to the mainstream as countries all over the world experienced lockdowns. This created a dynamic shift in the education industry, making online learning the norm. Schools and other learning institutions had to adapt quickly, investing in technologies and infrastructure to enable their instructors to teach effectively without being in the same physical location as their students.
Online vs Offline Class
While the majority have adapted to the new online learning approach, some did struggle and preferred traditional offline classes. There are still disputes in the education community arguing about which of the two education mediums is better. Both online and offline have their pros and cons and there hasn’t been a clear consensus on which is the better approach going forward.
The main benefits of online classes are their flexibility and ease of access. Teachers and students can attend classes from the comfort of their own homes, allowing them to be more accommodating to their schedules. You can access online classes from anywhere with a reliable internet connection. In addition, the digital nature of these classes allows classes to be recorded easily. These recordings can then be used for future reference or given to students who missed the live session.
Online classes also come with several drawbacks that might tilt the scale in favor of offline classes for some people. Online classes rely on technology and the internet. This introduces the possibility of technical issues either with the instructors’ device or internet connection or the students’. This might make online learning difficult especially in areas with slow or inconsistent internet connections. Attention and engagement are other factors that could hinder learning effectively. Most online classes aren’t able to replace the interactivity of traditional classes. Communication between the instructor and students and students with each other is arguably more difficult compared to when being in the same physical space.
Offline classes, on the other hand, voids most of the drawbacks of online classes. Technical issues are less of a concern as the class doesn’t depend solely on technology and students, especially younger students tend to be more attentive and engaged when learning in a classroom setting. There are minimal distractions around them and instructors get real-time feedback on how the class is going.
Similarly, the drawbacks of an offline setting are the opposite of the benefits of learning online. Although being in the same space has its benefits, being confined to a physical location makes it a less flexible option compared to having the class online. Both instructors and students can no longer attend classes from anywhere with an internet connection.
Improving the experience of online classes
The ability to teach and learn effectively in an online setting relies heavily on the approach and tools used - whether an online class can completely replicate an offline class or only mimic a limited subset of it.
A teacher in the classroom could interact with their students in various ways to keep the class fun and engaging for the students. However, interactions such as voting, quizzes, and real-time collaborations can be more difficult to perform in an online setting.
Let’s look at a few ways to improve the experience of online classes and the tools to help add these to the class.
Polls simplify the process of collecting feedback and data from students in real-time. This enables instructors to quickly ask a question and instantly receive responses from students. Polling creates a more active learning environment by helping students engage with the materials. For example, a teacher can adjust their pace by creating a poll asking the students if they need more time with the current material or if they are ready to move on.
Polls open up a 2-way communication between the instructors and students which is proven to be invaluable for both parties.
Instructors often use quizzes to gauge the students’ knowledge and understanding of the subject. This helps the instructors learn how well the students are performing and allows them to adjust the learning material as needed. Quizzes also help students by putting what they’ve learned into practice - an effective way to retain the information they’ve learned.
Live classes involve two-way communications between the instructors and students - the most common form being question and answers. In an offline class, instructors could pause and ask the students their questions. Likewise, the students could raise their hands to ask or answer a question.
Online learning has made interactions between students and instructors more scarce. In addition, interacting with each other virtually isn’t the same as being in the same physical space. This is why having a dedicated Q&A session during the class and utilizing tools like the one listed below is important to maintain effective communication between all the participants in the classroom.
Whiteboards are heavily used in traditional classrooms to share information, present information, and engage in collaborative activities. Having a virtual collaborative whiteboard in an online setting is invaluable to create a more active learning environment. A collaborative whiteboard would allow the participants to perform tasks that typically require a whiteboard in an online setting.
Tools: Jamboard, Figjam
With the world transitioning back to normal, online learning remains one of the most popular ways to learn. Although online and offline classes have their own pros and cons, we are now more equipped to do both effectively. Furthermore, streaming and ed-tech platforms have significantly improved the online learning ecosystem, releasing features to narrow the gap between the online and offline learning experience.
The ability to create an engaging and equally effective online learning experience is very important to ensure the students and instructors are getting the most out of each class. The article covers a few ways instructors can spice up their class utilizing different tools. Teaching itself is already a huge undertaking. Teaching while having to manage these different tools can quickly become an overwhelming task.
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