Determining the effectiveness of a learning model requires a rigorous assessment of key factors that can affect the quality of learning. There are student-level factors which ought to be considered when assessing the efficiency of a learning platform. Some of these factors are ease of use of online learning tools, knowledge of how to use them, access to technological resources such as the internet and efficient devices. Arguably, online education is effective only to the extent that student-level factors are sufficiently addressed to prevent lack of motivation and low levels of student engagement which are key indicators for success.
Critical learning spaces provide students with an opportunity to increase their capacity to analyze, imagine, synthesize, show creativity, intentionality and self-awareness. The creation of online courses has been described as a method of fostering acquisition of such capacities in students. When provided with flexible schedules, expanding enrollment opportunities as well as having access to more courses, has boosted the adoption of online learning platforms across learning institutions (Sun and Cheng). In support, Estelami notes that since learning occurs via the internet, students are able to earn college credits without having to make a physical visit to an institution. Such convenience has allowed students who are limited by geographical distances to access college and university education freely and with ease. Therefore, the very nature of online platforms appears to consider students’ diverse learning needs.
Additionally, to assess for the effectiveness of online education, a look at its structure and the role it plays in influencing the students’ academic outcomes is warranted. Some students have raised concerns over the lack of physical interaction with classmates and instructors and that online courses make them feel intimidated (Van Rensburg). Such an observation demonstrates that for some students, physical interaction is a key factor that determines the quality of experience with any type of learning. Kintu et al. states that the design features of online learning are important variables that affect the students’ experiences. They talk about blended learning, an approach that entails integrating different learning modalities. For Kintu et al., students who are exposed to both face-to-face interaction and online learning are better placed to achieve higher grades at school. Appreciation of students’ preferences has the potential of identifying inherent drawbacks in online learning and how they can be managed.
While the various factors that impose physical constraints and demands in infrastructure in traditional face-to-face interaction become less relevant, the adoption of online learning platforms should not be oblivious of the deficits of distance education. Estelami explains that although students can access podcasts, lecture materials among other resources, the desire for physical interaction with teachers and classmates cannot be understated. The nature and structure of online platforms implies that students bear the bulk of the burden of learning. In traditional face-to-face interactions, students can easily share such pressure through group discussions with fellow classmates. However, distance education does not provide such an allowance. Sun and Cheng note that teachers can use visual instruction to educate students. However, the quality of such instruction alongside the ease of use of online platforms affects students’ perceptions toward such a mode of learning.
The question of whether online learning is effective or not does not have a conclusive answer. Notably, the benefits of the said mode of learning cannot be ignored. Students can access educational opportunities regardless of geographic distance, or other infrastructural demands. However, diverse students’ needs such as preference for face-to-face interaction alongside the ease of use of online resources tend to affect the quality of learning for students.
Estelami, Hooman. “An Exploratory Study Of The Effects Of Online Course Efficiency Perceptions On Student Evaluation Of Teaching (SET) Measures.” American Journal of Business Education (AJBE), vol. 9, no. 2, 2016, pp. 67-82.
Janse van Rensburg, Elsie S. “Effective online teaching and learning practices for undergraduate health sciences students: An integrative review.” International Journal of Africa Nursing Sciences, vol. 9, 2018, pp. 73-80.
Kintu, Mugenyi J., et al. “Blended learning effectiveness: the relationship between student characteristics, design features and outcomes.” International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, vol. 14, no. 1, 2017.
Sun, Anna, and Xiufang Chen. “Online Education and Its Effective Practice: A Research Review.” Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, vol. 15, 2016, pp. 157-190.