Can All Courses Be Effectively Taught/Learned Online?
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How All Courses Can Be Effectively Taught/Learned Online

Education has been stressed upon, in many quarters, as a means to an end. Education is also said to make the difference with regards to career development—just take a look at the impact of education, below, based on government statistics.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the pay gap between those with a four-year degree and those with a high-school degree is at a record high. Four-year college degree holders earn a median weekly salary of $1,137, while employees with a high-school degree earn an average of $678. This can result in a discrepancy of more than $1 million over the course of a lifetime.

So, who would not want that $1 million difference? Which is one of the primary reasons why many folks, including those already in the workforce, opt to pursue further education so that they could be ahead of the curve among their peers.

But, as earlier mentioned, many of these folks that are interested in furthering their education are busy and may not have the time to attend the traditional in-person classroom. And so, many colleges, realizing this, are now beginning to transition many of their courses to online learning for the convenience of these individuals, and, of course, as a source of added revenue to the schools.

eLearning, obviously, does have the primary advantage of the convenience, comfort, flexibility, in addition to the many other positives such as lower cost; and the encouragement of self-discipline.

But regardless of the advantages, does it imply that all courses can be taught effectively via the online medium of teaching? Some folks, depending on who you ask, may say 'yes' and others, 'no'. But before we proceed any further, in the analysis of the effectiveness of online classes, let's define what eLearning is and also briefly list more of the advantages?

eLearning is a revolutionized method of learning that changed how knowledge is being impacted. It is a method of learning traditional classroom courses via online platforms like the popular Blackboard. The era of eLearning, which was spurred on by the advent of personal computers and the internet, has brought with it many advantages in addition to those previously listed.

Online learning affords students, from many disciplines, the convenience, via the more flexibility of time allotted to them, to learn and also do their test and assignments online.

eLearning is also advantageous in areas where geographic locations and political influence limit access to in-person classroom education.

And it also brings with it the benefit of getting access to one's desired course without having to fly or drive two states over, which could be expensive.

Now that we are all on the same page, having defined what eLearning is, and listed a few of the advantages associated with online learning, especially with regards to the convenience that it provides, let's ask the question again: can eLearning be effectively deployed to teach all courses?

To answer the question, this article will group all courses under to categories of:

  1. Theoretical courses and
  2. Theoretical courses complemented with laboratory work like in the sciences, for example, in the geology, chemistry and physics courses.

1. Theoretical Courses

Online courses, from the experience of many online instructors and students, work great with regards to courses that involve, for example, textbooks, notes or tools that could easily be accessed anywhere and installed on personal computers to enable students to carry out assignments. For example, Excel, Geographic Information System (GIS) and Photoshop software to mention these few. Students can easily download them from the school's library page to their personal computers as part of a requirement for course work.

2. Theoretical And Laboratory Courses

But this cannot be said for courses that need a hands-on laboratory aspect to it, or more hands-on experience. For example, in courses where students would need to examine rocks and minerals like in geology to be able to identify a said rock, or perhaps, carry out a chemical reaction like in chemistry.

One, at this point, can already hear some folks recommending that instructors should create videos of said experiments, or that students should be referred to watch great videos on platforms like Youtube and Vimeo to see how an experiment is being performed and the outcome(s) from such experiments.

Yes, it is true that while the contents in the videos are similar to what is done in the laboratory, the interaction is different and may alter the learning experience for the student. This is because most students are deprived of the "do-it-yourself experience", which would give them a deeper and clearer understanding of the laboratory work.

So, as argued above, online learning does have some shortcomings in teaching certain courses, but given that the numerous benefits exceed the disadvantages for all parties involved, which includes institutions and the students, one could infer that the continued rise in the use of the online learning method would not be stymied by this disadvantage. But rather, the sector of online learning would continue to evolve until some of its shortcomings are alleviated or no more. And in this regards, some ideas have indeed been put forward towards solving this issue.

It has been suggested that some schools should complement online teaching with an in-person laboratory work, where students would come in, for laboratory work, at an appointed time. This solution might sound great, but keep in mind that not all students, taking the eLearning course, live within the vicinity of the university or even in the same country as the university, and which also does defeat the purpose for online learning/long distance learning.

Another suggestion from some folks would be mailing laboratory kits to students. But this idea may not work, as there are laboratory kits, like chemicals, that schools cannot mail to students.

And the third suggestion is for schools to partner up to set up laboratory locations across the globe for students to visit. It sounds like a good option, but how feasible is it given the parameters that define online learning?

So, at this point, until a solution is found, the effective use of online learning will continue to favor theoretical courses.

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