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Three Reasons Online Learning Is More Beneficial Than In-Person

Access to quality education for all requires offering viable options for learners.


How can online learning be better than in-person learning? originally appeared on Quora, the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Colleges and universities have a unique opportunity to completely rethink and transform the learning experience based on learnings accelerated by the pandemic and investments that they made in technology. While online learning will never fully replace in-person learning, it offers many benefits and there is value to be gained for all by recognizing which learning environment is best for different situations.

Access & Flexibility

More than 80% of college degree seekers in the United States are “non-traditional” students. These individuals commute to classes, attend school at night, part time, or online, are earning their degrees later in life, or have full time jobs and families. These circumstances make dorm life and spending all hours on campus impossible. And they have a very different set of needs when it comes to higher education.

Access to quality education for all requires offering viable options for learners who have responsibilities outside of school, can’t afford to commute to or live near campus, or work full-time. There is no doubt that a more digital-friendly environment will benefit non-traditional students in the long term.

In addition, learning and teaching in large traditional classes is not a great experience for students or professors. For example, teaching a large class presents significant challenges in terms of finding an ideal instructional pace. For some, the lecture might be too quick, for others too slow -- and in a large lecture hall, it is hard to see who is connecting with the content and who is feeling lost. An esteemed professor, who cared deeply about connecting with his students, once commented to me that any student beyond the second row was essentially a blur to him -- and he had many, many rows in his lecture hall!

In a digital classroom, there is no back row in which a student can get lost. There are many different ways for a student to seek help: spoken or in writing, named or anonymously, directly from the instructor or from peers. Additionally, the digital classroom’s platform can surface learners who might be struggling (or excelling!) without them needing to seek out help or direction, allowing each student a front row experience.

Data for Better Learning Outcomes

Another advantage of online learning are the data points that lead to insights for instructors. Data-driven teaching tools provide instructors with instant feedback on student comprehension, identify students that are struggling with a concept or who are disengaged, and can help them hone strategies to boost mastery in the short and long term.

We’ve always known that data can have a dramatic impact on student outcomes, but up until now, it’s extremely difficult to collect and analyze in an in-person setting. Online learning technology and tools are changing that in a really exciting way.

Human Connection & Collaboration

The pandemic confirmed that deep human connections are essential to drive impactful learning outcomes. Digital learning tools and technology are playing a unique role enhancing student-to-student and student-to-instructor connections and collaboration.

For example, online learning platforms, like Engageli, are capable of boosting collaboration and engagement. The table group function allows students in groups of up to 10 to collaborate in real time without disrupting the entire class. Instructors can also rearrange the table groups based on data like student interests, skill level, participation, and more, and they can pop into any table group at any time to answer student questions or provide assistance with assignments.

Q&A and chat functions also enable students to ask questions and receive clarification in the moment; and student-instructor feedback loops. These features are just to name a few.

Integrating learning science-informed tools into any system can provide a hybrid or fully-online experience that enables the best components of a traditional classroom while providing the flexibility of time and/or space that is needed by so many learners (and professors!) today. With online learning, we have the opportunity to bring students and instructors closer together, and create meaningful experiences in all types of classrooms, even the ones that span across geography and schedules.

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