Is Virtual learning adequate or harmful for students in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic? Is learning online and at home beneficial for students or not easy for their educational process? Is it reliable and trustworthy or risky and deceptional? Will students fully focus or will they get too bored and easily get distracted? Questions such as these and many more come across the minds of educators and parents around the world. Educators fear they won’t be heard or understood while they teach and parents worry they will be doing most of the work through monitoring, teaching and discipling the students themselves? Therefore, through this article, I will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of virtual learning and add my personal input in the end.
But first, what is Virtual Learning? Virtual Learning (online or distance learning), according to Merriam Dictionary, is a method of study where teachers and students do not meet in a classroom but use the Internet, e-mail, mail, etc., to have classes. This kind of learning has been previously implemented in many educational institutes around the world but is now mandatory in many countries due to this year’s 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Although it has been accepted by many people around the world, it is still strongly rejected by others.
The advantages of online learning begin with the fact that the student is learning within his comfort zone. He’s at home, in his room, in his comfortable clothes and eating his favourite meals. In addition, he doesn’t have to worry about the commute to and from school. He has time to balance his day and schedule and enjoy his indoor activities at home with his family. Another advantage is that the student is not distracted by his classmates’ behaviours. His concern is connecting online, listening to the teacher/instructor and asking any questions necessary about the lesson. There is no side-small talks with the student next to him or skipping classes because all his friends’ were doing so. He connects, he interacts, he focuses, he learns and he does the work. The sense of self-responsibility is very high through online learning and this may help improve his confidence as a student. In addition, another advantage of online learning is the students are introduced to new educational apps that support them completely in their academic learning process. They enhance and facilitate a lot of the inquiries they may have during their studies and introduce them to new learning methods and styles such as games, videos and online quizzes. The applications are endless and easy-to-reach.
On the other hand, the disadvantages of online/virtual learning begins from the horrifying possibility of poor or no internet connection available for the students during their online classes at home. As we know, internet can be very expensive in some countries and free wi-fi is hard to find during lockdowns and pandemic restrictions like no cafes or restaurants. Also, another disadvantage, which is a major possibility, could be the student connecting online but stepping away from the device to sleep, eat, or go out. This shall cause a major distraction or a lack in participation. Moreover, the no social interaction and the absence of physical interaction, as some educational specialists argue, can have quite a negative effect on the students mental health. They believe a student needs to be in class physically in order for them to learn and benefit from the academic year. Last but not least, the possibility of cheating. Students can find their answers from online resources, books or classmates easily and roughly within seconds.
In my opinion and especially after trying virtual learning myself, I highly recommend it. It is a blessing how through many applications today we are able to teach effectively and easily. Open the microphone, teach the lesson, answer their questions and happily let the homework and quizzes be corrected by themselves. Through online teaching, students have become happily competitive and very interactive, thank God. In addition, they try hard to be online during the whole class no matter where they are or what they are doing. It’s all about encouraging them, asking about them and helping them understand how their presence online is very important. I’m not denying that I do face a few obstacles sometimes such as no wi-fi connection or my voice is unclear and is cracking due to the bad quality connection, but it’s all worth it. Virtual learning has brought me closer to my students and even closer to myself as a teacher.