Virtual learning has seen a massive increase since the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people may not have considered virtual learning an option prior to 2020, as it was not on everyone’s radar. Today, nearly all students are aware of virtual learning, and most of them have partaken in some form of virtual learning by now. However, even before the pandemic, virtual learning had been growing substantially.
The majority of students were forced into a distance learning format to go to school when COVID-19 shut the world down. Now that we have returned to a semblance of normalcy, many students have gone back to school in person. Nonetheless, pandemic aside, there are many valid reasons that some students choose to pursue their education virtually. Like all forms of education, there are pros and cons to consider. So, what are the pros and cons of virtual learning?
The pros of virtual learning include flexibility, efficiency, affordability, comfort, and workplace preparation. The cons of virtual learning include more distractions, isolation, technology limitations, the need for self-discipline, and too much screen time. If you are trying to decide whether virtual learning is suitable for you or your child, read on to learn about its advantages and disadvantages.
What is Virtual Learning?
Virtual learning, sometimes referred to as distance learning or distance education, is when students can utilize the internet to attend classes without having to physically be on campus. Virtual learning can be either synchronous or asynchronous. Synchronous virtual learning is when students have to attend classes online at certain times. There are no set class times in asynchronous learning, and students can set their own schedules.
Opinions on virtual learning are very divided; some embrace it while others view it as an inadequate form of education. Despite people’s opinions, the demand for virtual learning continues to increase, and educational institutions worldwide are looking to online learning platforms to continue their process of educating students.
There are some undeniable pros to virtual learning, including:
One of the most obvious advantages of virtual learning is the flexibility that it offers both students and educators. Having the option to attend classes from home makes it easier for people with demanding schedules, such as full-time workers or parents of young children. The ability to take courses anywhere and at any time gives students a lot of control over their schedule and their learning environment. Students can set their own hours and complete schoolwork when it is most convenient for them.
Virtual learning is more efficient in many ways. Because virtual learning can be done from home, there is no need to sit in rush hour traffic or spend an hour looking for a parking spot on campus. The efficiency allows for learning to just be about learning. When class is over, students can go back to focusing on other things. The efficiency of virtual learning makes it easier for students to get a job, spend time with their families, or pursue a hobby.
Virtual learning is far more affordable than in-person learning. The online platform eliminates the cost of transportation, meals, and housing. The classes themselves also tend to be less expensive than in-person courses. The reduced price makes getting an education a possibility for students who may not have been able to afford in-person learning.
The ability to take classes from the comfort of one’s own home (or any other location of choice) is a very appealing aspect of virtual learning. Although some people enjoy getting dressed up and having somewhere to be, others prefer not having to put extensive effort into their appearance and getting to go to class in their sweats. This level of comfort also allows students to learn without the fear and anxiety of others judging them. The certain distractions that may be present in the school environment (i.e., comparison, bullying, pressures of dating) are eliminated with virtual learning.
It is undeniable that the world is becoming more and more centered around technology. More people are working in remote or hybrid jobs than ever before. Because the future is headed in that direction, the experience that students gain from working on virtual platforms and utilizing online tools is quite valuable. That experience is one of the most significant advantages of virtual learning.
Virtual learning is not a suitable option for everyone due to some of its distinct downfalls, including:
Learning from home can come with a lot more distractions. Some students may have loud family members or tight living quarters that make it quite difficult for them to find a quiet, effective place to work. Another form of distraction that comes with virtual learning is that it is so much easier for students to go on social media or other sites without getting caught. Avoiding these distractions takes an incredible amount of discipline, and not everyone can do this. Even the best students find themselves checking their phones during virtual classes from time to time and can miss out on important lessons.
While going to class in pajamas and avoiding the social pressures of traditional school sounds incredibly appealing, virtual learning can also lead to students feeling very isolated. A lot of the learning that goes on at school comes from students learning from each other. As humans, we are used to and crave interaction with one another. There are minimal interactions in virtual learning, which can be highly detrimental. We already live in an isolated world, and virtual learning can worsen this problem, especially for younger students.
Limitations of technology
Virtual learning requires all students to have access to reliable computers and an internet connection, marginalizing students in rural areas or with low socioeconomic status. Even the students with access to adequate technology are affected by technology limitations, as even the most sophisticated technology fails sometimes. Breakdowns are common and can occur at any point in the system. It is a matter of if it, not when, technology will fail, and students miss out on learning when this happens. Virtual learning also requires students and educators to have proficient computer literacy, which not everybody has.
Requires a lot of self-discipline
Excelling at virtual learning requires remarkable self-discipline, motivation, and time-management skills. It can be more challenging to stay on track with virtual learning, and procrastination is more tempting. Even graduate students struggle with this aspect of virtual learning. Expecting this level of discipline from younger students is completely unrealistic, and thus virtual learning is largely unsuitable for children. Many adolescents and adults need hands-on learning and extra assistance as well, and they miss out on this with virtual education.
Damaging effects of too much screen time
Virtual learning often requires spending hours a day in front of a screen. Staring at a screen all day can cause headaches, eye strain, dry eye, and fatigue. Many students have a tough time focusing on a screen for long periods of time. When the learning platform makes it is too difficult for students to focus, they miss out on understanding what they need to be learning. Further, too much time sitting at a desk can cause bad posture and obesity.
Final Thoughts – Pros and Cons of Virtual Learning
The effectiveness of virtual learning continues to be a polarizing subject. Nonetheless, virtual learning is growing exponentially. Virtual learning can be an excellent option for self-disciplined, highly motivated, and mature students, allowing them to save money and spend time on other things. But for others, online school is a subpar option that does not provide them with the same quality of learning and socialization as in-person education. With the freedom that comes from attending school from anywhere and at any time also comes significant responsibility. Only you can decide if virtual learning is suitable for you or your child, but carefully consider the pros and cons before making your final decision.