Education is regarded as an important aspect of society since it is through education that people are socialized and turned into productive members of the society. Policy makers and educators are therefore constantly looking for ways to make education systems more effective since quality education results in increased national productivity. Education institutes have through the years experimented with innovative methods of learning in a bid to get the best results from students.
In the recent years, advances in information technology have made it possible for online learning to take place. This paper will argue that online learning is a superior form of education since it helps students and learning institutes to overcome limitations imposed by the traditional learning environment. The paper will also look at some arguments raised against online learning and offer counterarguments to the same.
Arguments in Support of Online Learning
A significant merit of online learning is that it enables education institutes to overcome the restriction of limited resources. Over the years, the student population in many countries has increased at a higher rate than the physical educational resources. Many institutes have therefore had to cope with overcrowded classrooms while others have been forced to schedule classes at odd hours so as to deal with the high number of students.
This resource strain has led to a decrease in the quality of education offered to the students. Online education gives schools an opportunity to expand their capacity since it is not constrained by things such as classroom space (Haythornthwaite 4). In addition to this, online education enables the school to make optimal use of their teaching staff. One teacher can offer lessons to hundreds of students at the same time using the online environment.
Another major advantage of online learning is that it enables student to overcome the barriers of time and distance. Under the traditional system a person has to attend educational institutes physically. This system makes it impossible for people who want to study but have time limitations for example because of their work schedules. In addition to this, students who live far away from the educational institute and lack the means to move nearer so as to be able to attend school were locked out of the traditional system.
Online learning helps to overcome these barriers by enabling the student to learn in a more dynamic environment (Bennett, Marsh and Killen 321). Students can choose to have the virtual classes at the time which is most convenient to them. Students who live far form the educational institute can also enroll and take lessons from their current locations.
Online learning has significantly reduced the cost of acquiring education for many people. As it currently stands, education is significantly expensive and people are required to part with significant amounts of money so as to finance it. This is especially the case with higher education where in addition to the tuition fee paid to the school, there are other costs such as: accommodation costs, foregone income as one has to give up fulltime employment, and travelling expenses.
Bourne asserts that online learning is cheaper since the school will not incur huge costs as would be the case if it had to build the physical resources for the students (23). Students are not required to incur additional costs to the tuition fee as would be the case with the traditional system of learning.
Arguments against Online Learning
Opponents of online learning claim that it results in poor quality of education since the students lack the level of supervision and support from teachers that traditional learners enjoy. This is not an idle claim since as Bramble and Panda reveal, some educational institutes which offer online learning are keen to reduce on costs and therefore offer little support to students (135).
This translates to poor quality education being attained by the students through online learning. While this is true for some schools, most educational institutes are working on improving the quality of education they offer so as to attract more students. Students are being afforded greater chances to interact with their teachers which will lead in an increased quality of learning.
Another argument raised against online learning is that it denies the students community involvement as is the case with traditional learning. This assertion is based on the premise that schools serve a greater role than mere distribution of educational information; they are a socialization tool for the society.
Bourne reports that many students report feeling isolated as a result of online learning (74). While it is true that online learning might lead to isolation since there is limited interaction among the students, this can be overcome through interactive communication. Synchronous chat rooms and phone calls can ensure that the isolation resulting from online learning is dispelled.
This paper has argued that online learning is the best form of education. The paper had demonstrated that online learning assists schools to overcome resource limitation and it offers dynamism and flexibility for the student. It also reduces the cost of education therefore making it affordable to more people.
The paper has taken care to point to some disadvantages attributed to online learning such as isolation and a perceived reduction in education quality. It has been shown that this demerits can be addressed thereby ensuring that online learning remains beneficial.
Bennett Shirley, Marsh Debra and Killen Clare. Handbook of online education. NY: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2007. Print.
Bourne, John. Elements of quality online education: into the mainstream. Texas: Sloan-C, 2004. Print.
Bramble, William and Panda Kumar. Economics of distance and online learning: theory, practice, and research. Boston: Taylor & Francis, 2008. Print.
Haythornthwaite, Caroline. Learning, culture, and community in online education: research and practice. NY: Peter Lang, 2004. Print.