Distance education has always been an option, especially for those that need to combine studies with work, live far from schools, or for many other reasons. In the past, distance education had its problems, such as a lack of contact with the professor, bad material and even the absence of a clear guide to follow the materials all hindered students´ success, until the internet arrived and solved all of these problems.
Currently online education offers exactly the same benefits to students as traditional education. We have videos of master classes, contact with professors through email, chats or video chats, and even forums to communicate with other students. However, many are asking if the final performance of online classes is the same that traditional classes can achieve.
According to a study by MIT the MOOC -Massive Open Online Course- is as effective as a traditional course regardless of the level of studies. They are even able to ensure that the amount of acquired knowledge is higher in online courses. It´s likely that some of these advantages comes from students´ ability to pause and replay, either part or the whole class, so it becomes more adaptable to study at the best time of day, the availability of good material, etc.
Another study, in this case from California State University, said that while the general lines of learning is similar, the performance of students in online classes may vary according to subject but in any case, online classes are effective to improve learning, especially in the most timid and unparticipative students.
All studies come to the same conclusion, which is that now we must analyze students´ behavior in online classes and conduct surveys to improve the format of classes according to the materials.
In any case, online studies have their critics, and there are even studies that directly dispute that we can read well on screens, and conclude that reading comprehension on screens is inferior to printed texts.
However, for many it´s clear that online classes are the future of education. The possibility to study a university degree online with the same effectiveness as with physical presence may disrupt universities. Education costs decrease for the user, which undeniably will popularize it as they become conscious that many universities have begun to publish their classes online on different platforms, such as edX, where we can find classes from some of the big American universities like Harvard or MIT.
In the future we will need to understand the strong and weak points of online education, especially for universities, for whom it will be critical to maintain their status within the education sector and attract students.
What do you think? Regardless of the romanticism of the smell of paper and the style of having a powerful library in the house… do you read books on an ebook or tablet with the same intensity as a paper book? And studying online or with a MOOC, would you learn the concepts and pass exams with the same ease as sitting in a chair for hours in a classroom?