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Why is Online Learning Detrimental in the Long Run for Students

by Kashish Mehta about a year ago in student
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Reasons it is Only Worth Considering as an Alternative

Why is Online Learning Detrimental in the Long Run for Students
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

“Some things cannot be taught; they must be experienced. You never learn the most valuable lessons in life until you go through your own journey.” — Roy T. Bennett

No other year has been as influential as 2020 in forcing our hand into using consumer tech products. One of the industries that have seen a monumental change because of technology is the Education Industry. Almost every school and university today has adopted the Online Learning Platform as the natural alternative to the traditional classroom approach.

While this has made learning accessible to students and helped in the continuity of their education, there is a trade-off that may have a detrimental impact on the students in the long run.

Since most of us are still getting accustomed to this new reality and trying to accept it, we haven’t had the time to really analyze the downside of Online Learning for students.

Over a more extended period, Online Learning can be counter-productive to a student’s overall development for the following reasons:

Fractures the Growth of Soft Skills

We are so focused on ensuring the academic development of students is not restricted or hindered, that we quite often forget about the development of their personalities. One of the lesser discussed but crucial aspects of the traditional learning approach are the development of a student’s soft skills.

Whether it’s the ability to communicate, developing your social intelligence, or emotional intelligence, all these attributes are harnessed in an engaging and real learning environment.

Talking to each other via a Laptop or smartphone fractures the ability of a student to pick up on contextual cues, pauses, change in body language, and voice tonality. Identifying these characteristics in a person is part of the non-academic learning you gain when you are in the presence of other people.

Lacks Synergy and Building of Relationships

When you participate in a group project, apart from achieving your goal, few other things happen passively which we don’t pay too much attention to.

Working with people face to face increases our productivity levels as we can participate in brainstorming activities and increase synergy. This process helps us understand how to work in a team and take responsibility for our work which is something the online platform limits us from doing.

Working on a project online pushes you into a silo which gives more importance to the individual aspect of the work rather than the overall team goal.

One of the moments we look forward to in team building activities is the socializing and little get-togethers that help us build new relationships. These relationships are usually the first steps toward organic networking.

Going out for a drink, discussing common interests and sharing of ideas are some of the best takeaways from group activities. Avoiding these events becomes very easy when you are working online and thus impedes relationship building. Online Learning can, therefore, limit your essential networking skills in the long run.

Experiences Are Less Personalised

When you are in a class of fifty students, and you are applauded for something you have done, you feel a great deal of satisfaction and happiness as your contribution at that moment is recognized.

This is one of the few times where, despite being physically present amongst a group of people, the acknowledgment you receive from them is one of personal relevance. You feel good because the environment around you throws that positive energy at you.

These little pats on our backs in the presence of other people also helps us build on our confidence and ability to speak with and amongst people. Something very critical to develop to face the world outside our education bubble.

Now, let us say you make a really compelling point in a discussion and are given virtual claps by people on Microsoft Teams or Slack. Compare this with being in a classroom and real people acknowledging your work. The latter makes the entire experience so much more tangible and fulfilling in a manner that technology just cannot replace.

Online Instructors Focus on Theory more than Practice

One of the quotes that best describes this point is

Actions speak louder than words.

Sadly, the online platforms restrict instructors to only audio lessons. The downside of studying from home and teaching from home is that the discussions are driven towards the notion of theory rather than practice. This makes the discussion more rigid, unnatural and books bound while limiting the experience to only talking about it and thus lacking a tangible experience to show for it.

One example that comes to my mind was when I was studying for my Masters in Finance. My friends from the Marketing specialization were taken on the streets of Singapore and given the name of one luxury brand per group and asked to find out about the company and their marketing strategies by going into their stores and interacting with their employees.

This taught the students how to interact with employees on an entirely different aspect because 99% of the time when we walk into a store it is only to know about the product, not how or why it is marketed.

Here is the fun takeaway from this experience. The minute one group found out that their brand of perfumes was used by the Queen of England, everybody else was intrigued to know about the company and their story. This increased a great deal of engagement and showed how learning can be a holistic experience in so many different ways.

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Online Learning is an excellent alternative for society today. It gives us the flexibility to educate ourselves at our convenience and during times such as the Pandemic.

However, the operative word in the above sentence is ‘alternative’. We should use it as a secondary source and platform to learn from. I recently came across a post on LinkedIn where a student who got accepted at Harvard, chose to defer his admission by two years as he was told the current batch is going to have one semester online.

Think about it. Whatever medium you choose to learn via an institution like Harvard, you still land up with the top job offers. Yet, people are opting to delay their admissions because they understand the trade-off of choosing Online Learning as a primary medium.

Our ability to network, polish our skills, personalize our experiences and face the world head-on is the most critical learning outside the academic part of the process. There is no substitute for that in the current learning experience because whatever you do and learn, you will always be in front of your laptop and computer screens boxed out from reality.

See you next time…

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Kashish Mehta

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