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Can Online Learning Replace Face-to-Face Learning?


We live in the era of innovations in everything. Banks compete with cryptocurrencies, and fuel motors are replaced with electrics ones. More and more industries use AI to improve the results. Each sphere is changing. COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine forced the whole world to revolutionize the education sphere. And for many specializations and educational programs, it could be successful.

Universities and colleges started to hold online classes, and many students were pleased since they didn’t have to go to the lesson physically. Moreover, this allowed making more rooms on schedule.

Both students and professors started to use online notes, academic transcription services, online presentations, and other similar services to make online learning more interactive.

Yet, the question is about quality. Did students get the same results? Or results become worse? Or improved?

Finally, can online learning replace face-to-face learning?

Advantages of Online Learning

As it was already mentioned, students liked this kind of learning since they could have more free time. Yet, we don’t want to make this fact fundamental. There are a lot of positive things that online learning can bring to our lives:

  • Students can devote their time only to those lessons that are really important for their future career;
  • Getting acquainted with online tools. It is very important to know how the Internet works and how to use web applications, like transcription services, notes, management tools, and so on. Online learning is one of the best ways to involve students in different tools from the 1st form;
  • More opportunities. Students can share their experience with foreigners being at home. Thus, the learning curve will be smaller;
  • It is cheaper. Online learning means that you don’t have to spend money on school (or college) fees. Just pay for a certain course and get the information you need;
  • More interest for professors. Tutors won’t have to work with students who are not interested in their discipline. In other words, a professor has just to start a course and invite those who want to build a career in a certain field of study.

The basic pros of online education are an opportunity to learn only those disciplines that are necessary. Thus, we may suggest that such an approach will provide us with more narrowly-focused specialists.

Moreover, online learning is a very cheap variant compared to face-to-face learning. Since there is no need to go to school or university, there is no need to create a building and spend millions of dollars on its maintenance.

Finally, online education is faster. A person can devote all of her time to a certain discipline and become a specialist within 2 months. Thus, there won’t be any problems with hiring an expert for any kind of company.

Disadvantages of Online Learning Comparing to Face-to-Face

However, this approach is not ideal. There are a lot of disadvantages to online learning as well.

Firstly, we should talk about some difficult specializations. You can get a transcription job online. However, you can’t become a good engineer, nurse, doctor, architect just with a 3-month online course. Moreover, even a 5-year online course is not enough. There are a lot of careers where practical experience is compulsory. Otherwise, the “specialist” will know nothing about his work.

Secondly, face-to-face learning is very interactive. Students always share their ideas and approaches in studying. Moreover, they communicate offline in schools and colleges, so they socialize. This is very important for everyday life since there is no kind of work that can be completed individually to the fullest.

Thirdly, such kinds of disciplines like Chemistry or Physics are all about practice rather than about theory. In other words, if you have seen an experiment and written down its process and results, you can understand some rules. At the same time, if you know the rules, but didn’t try to implement them, you don’t understand how Physics works.

Fourthly, in online learning, students set the pace individually. Thus, if the course should be 3 months, the student is not obliged to finish it in 3 months. He can do it faster or slower, depending on his own preferences. This is good for students, but not for society. Professor, as an experienced person, understands the learning curve better. So he can set the pace more accurately.

Fifthly, online learning harms live discussions. In face-to-face learning, a student has an audience of 20 people minimum. Everyone can ask at least one question, so there will be a live discussion. It helps to understand the topic or the whole discipline better. Moreover, it helps the student to feel confident about live performances.

Face-to-face learning is better to engage big groups in certain subjects or disciplines. Online education doesn’t provide such an opportunity since every student learns material individually. And if the student doesn’t understand something, he has to wait for the next class. In this case, he may lose interest.

What is Better?

At the present time, we can’t suggest that online learning is the best one. At the same time, we understand that face-to-face learning is not ideal as well. These two approaches should be combined. For example, a student might learn theory online at home. Yet, after several classes of theory, there should be a face-to-face learning period.

At the same time, the world should define disciplines that can’t be learned online. In this case, such programs as engineers or doctors can’t be taught online. You can’t understand how to do surgery just with audio to text transcription of the operation process. You have to be an assistant at the procedure to understand all the details.

Thus, online learning can’t replace face-to-face learning. However, face-to-face learning can’t be ideal in the modern world. We have to implement innovations in the educational process and improve the learning curve in every discipline.