The Fundamental Differences between Online Learning and Traditional Learning

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Information and communication technology enables students to learn and interact with their teachers online. Many students prefer online learning because of its flexibility, ease of access, low cost, and speed, among other advantages. Teachers have a different experience when teaching online. Live online lessons share some similarities with traditional classroom lessons. Teachers present the subject matter to a group of students and get feedback from the students. However, online learning is different from traditional learning in various ways. The fundamental differences are outlined below.

1. Visual Feedback

Most teachers rely on visual feedback to determine if their students understood the subject matter. They can get live feedback by observing their students’ reactions as they introduce and explain new concepts. Teachers can also tell if students are focused on the lesson or distracted. A teacher can easily shift from one teaching method to another based on the visual feedback he or she gets from the students. Students give verbal and written feedback online, but not visual feedback. Teachers rely on the questions that students ask and voting tools to rate the students’ understanding of the subject matter.

2. Back Channels

In most traditional classrooms, teachers ask questions throughout the lesson to keep their students engaged. Online learning enables teachers to use back channels, which are sometimes more effective than classroom discussions. For instance, the University of Arizona uses back channels to engage students in its online master of public health, also known as an MPH degree, with great results. Back channels have proved effective in keeping students engaged in a subject matter all week. In fact, teachers follow discussions among students online and include their participation in such discussions in the final grade. Social platforms such as Twitter and live chats are widely used in online learning. For instance, students in a particular program can chat throughout the day or week using a specific Twitter hashtag for each subject.

3. Anonymity

Some students prefer to remain anonymous when learning online. Anonymity is beneficial to weak and disabled students who may feel intimidated in a traditional classroom. Such students have the confidence to engage their teachers and others students on the subject matter without fear or intimidation. However, anonymity is a challenge to teachers because they cannot determine the learning needs and capabilities of students accurately. They can only offer additional tuition when students ask for help or fail their tests.

4. Managing Learners

It is easy for teachers to place students in various groups in a classroom to encourage teamwork. Teachers can also manage the movements and activities that students engage in during the lesson, which is impossible when teaching online. It is possible to group students based on their study times but not with their capabilities. Some students record the lessons while they engage in other activities online. In addition, teachers cannot rely on the test results to rate the learning capabilities because they are unsure if the students completed the tests or gave them to other capable students. Hence, teachers cannot evaluate their teaching methods accurately. The differences between online and traditional learning arise because of lack of physical interactions between teachers and students. Teachers can easily adjust their teaching methods and determine their students’ needs in a traditional classroom. Online learning is the best option for the students who want to continue working while pursuing their education. Both teachers and students can use technology to make online lessons engaging, interesting, and effective.

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