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Online or in Class: The Pros and Cons of online and traditional education
As technology is advancing and more options are available for receiving a higher education, many prospective students may wonder about the differences between traditional education and online education. As the instability of COVID-19 blurs the lines between these two options, it may be worth understanding what makes them stand out individually as well as what works against them.
The decision for most to attend traditionally educated universities is supported by what they know and expect from their previous secondary school or real-life experiences with face-to-face interaction. This enables easier and more authentic connections between students, as well as between students and their teachers.
Universities also offer social engagements for students to partake in, such as clubs, group events, shows, etc. which can help expand their social circles and discover networking opportunities for future endeavours.
Traditional education also allows students to partake in practice and refinement of their interpersonal skills through group work, such as how to participate in mature discussion or conflict, and engage in empathy.
This type of education also provides rigid schedules, with coursework deadlines and classes that must be attended and require students to construct their daily lives around their studies. For some, this may provide a sense of routine and comfort. This is followed by standardised learning and expectations – traditional universities are equipped with standardized classrooms, materials, and teaching methods that students are familiar with.
Another benefit would be the availability of real-time feedback and support. Many students benefit from the real-time reactions and feedback they receive, on their academic and individual experiences. If students are struggling, they can reach out to their faculty advisor or university counsellor.
Traditional institutions also have significant shortcomings. When students have other commitments such as family or a job, finding a balance with classes, coursework and assessment preparation can provide scheduling conflicts and struggles.
Traditional education means traditional teaching models, where the teacher follows a syllabus and is restricted to how much time can be allowed for discussion. It also prioritizes that learning is done in certain ways that may not accurately reflect all students’ understanding. Thus, traditional education can leave those with certain physical disabilities, chronic illnesses, or learning disabilities unable to keep up with these standards.
Certain programs and classes can be filled with many students, so individual attention is a struggle for many lecturers to accomplish. Social events and being involved in organizations may distract oneself from their original intentions of attending university.
Paying tuition fees falls heavily under cause for consideration about attending traditional universities, and most students must resort to taking bank loans.
With online learning, you can study anywhere and anytime if you have an internet connection, including in the comfort of your own home, instead of relocating hours or miles away. You are also in charge of organising your routine.
With online learning, you can learn at your own pace, and take as long as you need to complete it. With modern technological advances, resources are now more affordable and available online.
The culture of online education involves teachers facilitating the class, encouraging discussion and creative thinking. This includes materials which require students’ interaction and participation, such as online quizzes, surveys, and exercises. Presentations and online classes are saved and shared amongst students through the university portal to view as many times as they wish.
Furthermore, online education is significantly more affordable than on-campus tuition. Some universities even allow payment schemes, or help you acquire grants. There is also a larger variety of courses to choose from.
With online education, there are less traditional forms of communication available to students, as well as group events and social occasions, so this type of education might feel isolating. Creating relationships with tutors and peers will require more effort.
The demands of an online education can be more intense due to the lack of guidance and rigid scheduling. Students must rely on their own self-determination and willpower to get coursework done and understand their own materials.
Online support is different from that expected in traditional institutions. In traditional universities, students may meet advisors to discuss their paths and next steps. In online educations, students need to be more proactive about the information they need.
Lastly, students cannot rely on course structures being arranged completely; they must make their own, which can be difficult.
Both types of education have their benefits, as well as their shortcomings; however, they can provide enriching experiences and new opportunities. In Malta we have our very own University of Malta, with a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees to choose from, as well as international accredited institutions, such as long distance offers with University of London Worldwide, and the local St. Thomas Institute, Middlesex University and American University of Malta.