By: Kimberley Falk

The parents of school-aged children often don’t get to see the real changes that are already happening with the evolution of technology in the classroom. Even when physically present, students spend about half of their time on devices. During free time, children are also pulling out devices brought from home instead of taking up social activities with their friends. Many school systems are setting up boundaries and standards for screen time in the classroom, but the impact of technology and online learning on our country’s children isn’t a fully negative one.

It’s important for educators to continue to keep up with what’s new in online learning. As new technology makes it even easier and new techniques improve online learning even further, the right education on how to embrace this new method of learning will be an asset for educators.

The pros of individualized online learning

There are multiple advantages of online learning to student success. Online learning brings a more personal approach to education, and with so many resources being made available, at home learning can be done much more effectively and in line with curriculums. According to ThinkImact, students retain an average of up to 60% more information when teaching is facilitated online and not just in the traditional classroom. eLearning also requires 40-60% less time.

Instead of using the same learning tools as everyone else, online students can use what works for their own abilities and won’t fall between the cracks of busy classrooms. Sometimes active classrooms overlook how students learn best, which can impact a student's success. As online learning platforms continue to develop, they will become an extension of the classroom for those who need or choose it.

The disadvantages of learning outside the classroom

One major caveat of a society embracing online education is the need for the right at-home tools to facilitate a proper learning environment. Two-thirds of the world’s school-aged children don’t have internet access at home (9 million children in the U.S. alone). Meanwhile, 41% of American households earning under $30,000 a year don’t have a laptop or desktop computer. The result is that online learning may only be an advantage to families that can afford it.

Social interaction is also important for kids in building confidence, social intelligence, creativity, and more. They need to be able to learn and grow while interacting with other children to develop their social skills to succeed as adults. Online learning can minimize or prevent social interaction from occurring naturally as it would in the classroom. Engagement itself is another potential disadvantage. Engaged students are much more likely to persevere through the potential challenges of remote learning, hand in their work on time, and are active participants during video calls.

Often, structure and in-person support from educators in the physical classroom is exactly what students need to facilitate their success. Online learning, therefore, requires some form of structure, such as detailed policies on assignments, to ensure students don’t fall behind.

What we’re seeing in online learning environments

Though there are many pros and cons to online learning, students and teachers are constantly adapting to this ever-changing online landscape. We see that many current virtual learning tools are designed to support learner engagement and promote active learning. For example, there may be quizzes or games to encourage learners to take part in an activity. Some tools even include virtual “labs” that provide real-world scenarios for learners to explore.

This type of environment is typically a community-based space where users can meet, share ideas, and discuss topics related to the course content. Students can comment on each other’s work or ask questions about the subject matter.

Online learning environments should offer both independent and group video chat capabilities (with proper encryption and security so that users feel safe and comfortable when participating). It’s important to provide personalized feedback and guidance so that learners can become more confident and independent in their coursework.