Online learning has undoubtedly come to the fore since 2020. While its popularity was steadily increasing before Covid-19, once the pandemic hit, the industry grew, and the world got a chance to view the advantages of online learning.
Code Institute has trained thousands of people in software development through our university credit-rated Full-Stack Software Development programme and our free 5 Day Coding Challenge. Until 2018, we operated both online and in the classroom and by the end of that year, we decided that the best way to teach our programme was to go 100% online. Code Institute made this decision based on feedback from both our in-class and online students.
Online versus classroom learning
To understand the advantages of online learning, it’s important to view it against classroom learning. Classrooms have always been the accepted way to gain an education, and for the masses, it has certainly been successful. However, classrooms are not without their flaws, and it’s in combatting these flaws where we see the true advantages of online learning.
To highlight the advantages of online learning, we’ll look at the following areas:
- Support available to students
- The pace of learning
- Learning Management Systems
- Monitoring student progress
- Geographical barriers of classrooms
- The choice of education
- Interaction with other students
- Maintaining a curriculum
It’s important to note that many classrooms moved online during Covid-19 lockdowns. Most of these classrooms carried on as normal with one major exception: Zoom or a similar online platform. For this article, we classify online classes of this manor as a classroom simply because it is devoid of a Learning Management System. It was simply a classroom held through a video conferencing tool.
Support available to students
One of the significant flaws of classroom learning, and Zoom learning, is students’ access to support. In a classroom, one-on-one time with a tutor is short. If you’re lucky, then you might get a couple of minutes at the end of class – and if you’re brave, you can ask a question in class. Still, even if you don’t fully understand the answer, the teacher will have to move on to benefit the rest of the class.
A properly formed online programme will have ample support available for its students. For example, at Code Institute, we have a team of global tutors available 24-hours a day, five days a week. They even offer support between 9 am and 5 pm (GMT) over the weekends. Similarly, our students receive ample time with mentors, and our Student Care Team is always on hand to help when needed.
The pace of learning
When it comes to the classroom or video-only learning, a student’s risk of falling behind is very high. This is because the entire classroom has to move at the teacher’s pace. Often this pace is fast because it has to be finished at an allotted time within a short period – so everyone has to study at the same rate.
With online courses, there is a lot more flexibility. For example, with our full-stack programme, the course has to be completed within 52 weeks. However, the student can choose when to study. Our students need to do a minimum of circa twelve hours per week to finish within 52 weeks. But, if a learner wants to progress faster, they can. The same can not be said about students in a classroom.
Learning Management Systems
Here’s where the benefits of a proper Learning Management System (LMS) kick in. We at Code Institute believe that we have revolutionised online learning. So much so that we can safely say that it is the best form of education if used correctly.
We’re not shy about it. We have built the best LMS in the world. We have taken MIT and Harvard’s Edx and have adapted all of our systems to ensure that we are teaching in the best possible way. Yes, we use video – of course we do, but it is certainly not solely video-based. Instead, we have created interactive content that keeps our students interested and on track. Our video content is essentially the lectures, but the rest of our LMS holds our interactive challenges, lessons and much more.
Unsurprisingly, with the rush to move online, many other education providers switched to whatever came easiest, teaching their programmes solely based on video and sharing pdfs or Word files. However, these educators put no long term beneficial structure in place to ensure that learners were receiving the best education possible.
Monitoring student progress
In a classroom, how is a student’s progress monitored? Tests are generally the answer here. The methods used are continual assessment, seasonal assessment or annual assessment. Unfortunately, this has proven to be not good enough for many students. These methods are why many people fail exams. They are not intuitive enough and often don’t catch a problem before it is too late.
Online education has the power to do so much more. For example, Code Institute has developed a solution to ensure that our student’s progress is constantly monitored. We have developed proprietary software that tracks where a student is excelling and where they are struggling. When we see that a student is struggling, our support teams receive a notification and extra support kicks in to play. Software like this helps us to assist our students in succeeding in the programme.
Geographical barriers of classrooms
Online learning offers a lot more flexibility. Flexibility like this is essential for adult education. After all, we live in a fast world where work takes up a lot of our time. It can be a struggle to work from 9 to 5 and then be expected to get into the middle of our nearest town or city and take a class for an hour or two surrounded by twenty other people who also want to get home for their dinner.
The choice of education
One of the major advantages of online learning is the choice of education available online. For example, universities only offer a range of programmes, but let’s say you lived in a small city that had one university, but you want to study something that is not available in any of their curricula, your only option is to find a classroom in a different geographical area that offers this programme. This may be in a different county or, in some instances, a different country.
With online learning, the world is your oyster. The range of courses available online is endless, and it has the potential to allow you to study almost anything. Of course, exceptions to this rule exist, especially where you require tools or need to be present to learn something. But even in these instances, educators can put a blended learning path in place where theory can be learned online, and the practical work may require some travel.
Interaction with other students
While a classroom can be seen as being far more social than what’s offered online, there are still major benefits surrounding how students can interact with each other digitally. Online environments can allow a student to open a conversation to a much wider community, and it gives them time to examine the intricacies of a problem they may have. Online forums like Slack allow students to get into the bones of a discussion. They can share files and ideas easily and instantly.
So while a classroom may be a traditional, more sociable setting, an online community can offer more advice, open up a conversation further and allow for positive debates around subjects without being confined to weather, venues, time, or anything else.
Maintaining a Curriculum
One thing that governments around the world are promoting is skills that are relevant to today’s workforce – especially when it comes to technology. Here’s the thing: technology advances very quickly, and therefore courses need to adapt. For the most part, universities and classrooms generally follow a set curriculum that can only be changed after timely reviews and more. Because we teach software development, we want to ensure that we are teaching the most up to date technologies, and our LMS is built in such a way that we can update different modules as the topics advance.
Disruptive technologies and online learning
Education is rapidly evolving. Disruptive technologies are now allowing people to learn more productively online. People are no longer required to tip along at the pace of a traditional teacher in the confines of a classroom. Instead, online learning allows learners to excel at a pace that is better suited to them.
The advantages of online learning are starting to show, and course providers recognise this. The classroom is not dead in adult learning, but online learning is undoubtedly growing. Online learning can also be beneficial to the traditional classroom, which we learned through COVID-19 lockdowns. This is where blended learning comes in.
Blended learning is a relatively new method of learning that mixes both classroom and online education. Often, it can be a suitable method. However, it takes away some of the flexibility mentioned above available to today’s batch of adult learners.
However, when done right, blended learning can suit some people. For example, Code Institute works with various state bodies that offer education through local training boards. We also work with a selection of universities and colleges to provide blended learning. Their method of blended learning allows some of the best things about the classroom experience, mixed with the LMS and support of the online structure.
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