Blend of traditional and digital learning: The future is now, and it is surprising. While we do not have any flying cars, mass-scale renewable energy, or a cure for cancer, we have the Internet. Humanity has failed to live up to most sci-fi predictions, except in the field of communication and data processing.
The only available futuristic revolution is in the domain of information technology. Computers have become accessible and cheap, with the Internet growing into a planetary network that houses all previous human knowledge.
You would think that given such access to all of our collective knowledge, students would be the ones that primarily benefit from this innovation. After all, it is effortless to look up research sources for papers or even hire reddit essay writers.
A forced pairing
Surprisingly, technology has yet to find a place in the learning process. Sure, certain peripheral aspects such as research have been facilitated, but we have yet to see full integration. In fact, learning has remained one of the few low-tech fields in any society.
Science has implemented computers in everything from pocket calculators to personal vehicles and washing machines. Yet, most classrooms are electronic-free.
The situation has changed since January 2020 due to the global pandemic. Suddenly, countless millions were unable to leave their homes. Both teachers and students had to adapt. Digital learning and communication remained the only viable solution.
Platforms such as Skype, Zoom, and the MS Office toolkit saw astounding overnight growth. Suddenly, the choice of whether to integrate digital learning was taken out of our hands. We had to adopt an e-learning model.
Even the most charitable interpretation would say that online learning produced mixed results. A realist might even call it a failure. In almost every metric, digital classes failed to generate the same results as traditional classroom learning.
The pattern applied to all types of students, from primary school to college. Engagement rates were abysmally low, and the entire experience was perceived as being artificial and impersonal.
This sheds light on why the education system was so slow to adopt digital integration. It seems that humans are wired to learn in person from other humans. Learning implies much more than the mere transference of information.
Sure, the internet has most of our collective knowledge as a species, but that isn’t enough. The mentorship of a teacher is not optional; it is essential.
Evidence suggests that a more personal approach produces better results. Ideally, one-on-one instruction is optimal. Homeschooled children often outperform their public school-educated counterparts.
Still, that is the optimal case, and not all families can afford for a parent to stay home and teach their children. Also, homeschooling is off the table in terms of higher education.
Classroom education is the next best thing. The teacher’s attention will be divided amongst a few dozen students, but it is better than the students participating in what is essentially a glorified online tutorial.
So, are there any benefits to digital education, or is it a downgrade in every regard?
Benefits of digital education
When educating millions of children, the curriculum has to aim for the middle, if not lower. By aiming for the center, you assure the greatest benefit for the most significant number of students. But what about those on the extremes? What about students who are struggling or the ones who are highly gifted?
Digital education is excellent for students who are falling behind. These pupils don’t have to depend on the teacher’s repetition or their notes. On their own time, they can seek more detailed explanations, watch online tutorials, or even consults videos or audiobooks.
With e-learning, you can learn in the middle of the night, on weekends, or during any other moment.
The same advantages apply to gifted students whose engagement levels drop while waiting for the class to catch up. They can work ahead and play around with more complicated concepts.
The ability to learn whenever and however you want is extremely powerful. It allows you to match the education to your own learning pace and even work a full-time job while aiming for an online degree.
A hybrid approaches
At the time of writing, the pandemic seems to be nearing its end. Normal life promises to make a comeback, yet no one should forget the lessons learned during the Covid outbreak.
We now know why Academia has stayed the same for thousands of years. It seems that in-person instruction is not negotiable, while everything else is just a side tool. There will be those students who are astute and can learn in any circumstance.
Yet, as mentioned, you cannot plan the education system around the astute.
It seems that conveying information and teaching are two very different phenomena, though most of us think they are synonymous.
If the simple transfer of info were the only requirement, we wouldn’t need teachers at all. Every person would be an autodidact by using the Internet. That is not the case.
But the modern world also doesn’t allow us to stagnate. The standard model of teachers and students in classrooms can have its issues. For example, in some countries, high-level college education costs as much as buying a new house.
More and more students cannot rely on their parents to pay for their tuition. Thus, they need to work. Online classes make it easier to catch up.
Teachers can record lectures or provide a PDF of their lessons. These digital formats are a very cheap medium of distribution, and students won’t have to pay for the barely-readable handwritten notes of some of their classmates.
Also, people who are more visually or audio-learning oriented can take advantage of multimedia didactic material.
Overall, the future will be represented by a blend of traditional education and online learning.
The guidance of a teacher is essential for learning. The entire world was recently forced into a massive shift in education.
No country on Earth managed to make online classes match the effectiveness of classroom learning. Brick and mortar schools are here to stay.
However, we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. The fact that millions of children were able to attend classes from their bedrooms is a technological miracle.
Digital learning promises to compensate for the faults of traditional education. Those on the edges of the learning performance spectrum or those hailing from disadvantaged environments will benefit the most.
A hybrid approach seems to represent the future of Academia.
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