With all-digital instruction becoming increasingly popular in virtually every discipline, teachers and students alike may be wondering how this learning environment compares to traditional in-person class time. Determining which learning environment is right for you means asking yourself what kind of learner you are and why education is important to you.
Advantages of Digital Learning
The convenience of flexible scheduling. Most digital classes are both asynchronous and self-paced. In other words, learners have the option of participating in class activities — from viewing lectures to submitting homework — at any time. Evening, weekend and intensive courses that can be completed within a short period of time all offer opportunities for learners to fit traditional in-person instruction into their hectic schedules.
Unlimited access to information. Online courses are also location-independent. As long as students can connect to the internet, they can access course materials. Digital learning environments allow instructors to more easily share presentations and hand-outs. Further, this information is always available to the student. In a traditional classroom environment, students have to keep up and record their own notes. Not every student comprehends or retains information in this way.
Disadvantages of Digital Learning
If you are the kind of teacher who excels in a traditional classroom environment, there are students who thrive in that environment. In-person instruction will always be relevant to those learners.
Limited Social Interaction. Some students are social learners. Face-to-face conversation with their peers and instructors helps them to explore ideas and achieve a personal understanding of key concepts. Traditional learning environments are still better able to support the kinds of interactions —the asking and answering of questions, group discussion and debate, brainstorming, etc. — social learners need.
One size does not fit all. Students in digital learning environments can customize their schedules. But some instructors teaching online struggle to personalize their teaching in order to make sure every student succeeds. Most experts agree that students in digital learning environments must take more personal responsibility for their own learning.
Hands-off learning. Sometimes, the only way to learn how to do something is to do it. Training, for example, is not an abstract process. Training is a matter of getting hands-on and mastering the assigned task. Activities can also help students develop their problem-solving skills. Traditional classrooms support kinesthetic, tactile and experiential learning in ways virtual classrooms cannot.
Best of Both Worlds
Working digital and hands-on learning into the same environment can help learners experience both fields of thought. For example, assigning a task that requires a chapter in the digital portion to be completed before moving on to the second part of the course where the review or hands-on activities are practiced in the classroom. Encompassing both fields of teaching can help students learn in a multitude of ways.