In a recent article in the Spectator, https://www.spectator.com.au/2022/11/a-tertiary-tragedy/ Ryan Anderson stated that “the corruption of higher education has been further evident in the sector’s recent emphasis on ‘online-learning’ – an oxymoron if there ever was one.” Anderson also argues that education experts have stated that online learning is inferior as it deprives “young people of face-to-face interaction and the wider on-campus experience. Unsurprisingly, tethering people to a screen not only causes a raft of mental health problems but physical ones too.”
Ideas, such as these, are unfortunately, outdated and here are just some of the reasons why –
We often hear the term “traditional” education when referring to education in a classroom, to bricks and mortar education. The idea being that online, e-learning and correspondence education is the new kid on the block.
Nothing could be further from the truth, the very first recorded correspondence course was by Caleb Philipps in 1728 teaching shorthand. Pitman, regarded as the father of shorthand, started correspondence classes in the 1840s. That sounds pretty traditional to us.
Children and Education
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents reported that they and their children were struggling with home schooling. We heard stories of increased aggression, lack of socialisation time, struggling with screen time. Parents who did not have the skills or patient to educate their children. This is very true.
BUT this ignores the experience of parents and children who have chosen to home educate their children.
One of our tutors shares her experience –
“My daughter is 16 and currently going through an assessment for autism. From the age of seven, she struggled at school. She was quiet and shy and struggled to communicate with others. We moved her from one school to another. She was bullied, physically and mentally, until finally she tried to take her own life at the age of eleven! At that point, we finally decided to home educate.
We went from a daughter who was petrified, a quiet, silent, pale mouse to a child who blossomed being able to study at home.”
However, online and e-learning is actually a positive experience for many children. Some families and children choose to home educate their children for many reasons. For example -
- Children who are struggling with depression, social anxiety, conditions such as autism can benefit form home schooling. Not all children obviously, but many. Parents can focus on supporting the child and helping them to improve their mental health without the stress and worrying of bullying, social anxiety etc.
- Home schooling can help children to get out of negative situations, such as bullying, social anxiety, school refusal etc.
- Home schooling can also encourage independence and autonomy. The child is encouraged to learn and study. They are not just studying to pass exams at home, although that is still important, but there is also time for the child to study around a topic, rather than focussing heavily on a curriculum.
- Being taught at home can encourage a love of learning, not just a need to turn up and sit in a classroom and listen.
- The child who is home school is also surrounded by people who care for their wellbeing and have made a choice to support them educationally, mentally and socially.
Online education does not work for all children, but this ignores the aspects of online learning and home schooling and their benefits to children.
Online education also has substantial benefits to adults.
Adults and Online Education
Many adults are no longer able to attend traditional TAFE/college/university based learning.
Why is this the case?
In Australia, funding for universities has been cut by 10% this year and TAFE funding by 24%.
These reductions in funding can lead to a weakening of the education system in many countries.
In this modern world, where lifelong learning is encouraged, where people need to continue to improve and update their knowledge, cuts to education can have a serious detrimental effect in the short term and long term.
Online learning offers them the opportunities to learn that are no longer available or very limited in the traditional education sector.
Funding cuts also mean less choice. The traditional colleges are not able to offer the same range of courses that are actually available in online courses. A traditional provider will offer a course to a set number of students in a classroom. Not enough students, the course is cancelled. With online learning, this is not such an issue. A course is developed, students might enrol at any time to start their course, so the figures are less important than they may be to a traditional education provider. This is not to say that online course providers do not want to earn money, of course not, it just means that they do not need X students to start a course on a certain date to decide if a course is running or not.
There is a wider range of courses available online than in the traditional, physical-based education providers.
Time and Money
- Not all students have the time and money to attend a TAFE/college/university. If a student is working and wants to study to improve their job and career prospects, they may not be able to attend a TAFE or college once a week at a certain time. They may work shifts, they may have childcare commitments or other commitments. It may just not be possible for them. So being able to study online when they want to offers them opportunities that they would not have with physical, classroom based learning.
- There is also a cost involved of travelling to and from classroom based learning. Online courses, as do classroom courses, cost money. But with classroom courses, we also have additional potential travel costs.
- Not all students are able to travel to classroom based courses either. They may live in a remote location, have poor public transport systems, have mobility issues that make travel difficult, not own a car etc.
- Studying online also means that there is no time spent travelling!
Online learning can save students time and money.
Not everyone wants the classroom experience. Socialising is important. Humans are social creatures, but some adults may not be interested in that aspect of learning and want to focus solely on the learning, without distraction.
Developing social skills in education is important, but to focus solely on this as an issue for online learning is short sighted.
Online learning is also about education, developing new skills, new ideas, new thoughts, studying, improve job prospects etc.
Something that many adults may not be able to do without online learning.
Online Learning Offers Improved Learning Without Distract
There is still, sometimes, the assumption that online courses are of poor quality. Some are, of course, but not all.
Online learning is not always high quality. We also admit that.
- COVID-19 bought many traditional providers into the online educational market. They were not necessarily ready and what they produce was not necessarily great learning.
- The pandemic and changes in technology have also brought many new providers onto the education market. It seems that anyone can set up an online course.
However, the idea that online learning is still the Cinderella of education could not be further from the truth. The massive growth in the online education market alone demonstrates the need for online education. Added to this, there are many distance and online learning providers who have been around for decades and produce high quality courses, such as the Open University and us – ACS Distance Education.
We have been around for 43 years, offering distance learning and online learning online. We have focused on offering high quality courses to people who do not want to attend classroom based learning, but still want to learn.
Online learning is not for everyone – we admit that, but online learning is a lifeline for many children and adults!
If you would like to find out more about our courses, have a look at www.acs.edu.au or contact us for more information.