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Can elearning replace the classroom?


The rise of technology

A recent article said that automation is due to threaten 800m jobs worldwide. Robots and AI are on the move, at a very fast pace. With such a huge disruption on the horizon, what does this mean for traditional learning?

According to the article, technology is set to impact teaching and learning hugely for both students and teachers. Technology as we can see, is already so clever, so it is expected that teachers may no longer be needed. However, research for learning content will be required.

Teachers may have a larger focus on research for learning content, rather than teaching themselves. But, will the classroom remain? Here, I take a look at the differences between elearning and classroom learning - can elearning replace the classroom?

Elearning vs Classroom learning

1. Convenience

Elearning is seen as more convenient as it can be done when and where the learner wants. Whilst in your own comfort zone, you should be able to complete courses at your own speed - with a final deadline in mind. Working at your own speed requires a lot of self-motivation, so course content needs to be engaging.

However, some elearning is part of learning and development in the workplace, so may need completing during work hours.

Classroom learning on the other hand, is set to a regular schedule. Learners are expected to attend classes at the same time as other learners. You are also expected to stay up to speed with one another. This could lead to higher motivation or a lack in engagement.

2. Teaching style

With classroom learning, teaching is usually based around the teacher’s preference. For example, they may think reading is the best way to learn. And so, most of the time the content will be taught through reading. Granted, some teachers understand that one approach doesn’t suit all so include a variety of teaching methods where possible.

With technology on the rise, many of classrooms now have interactive whiteboards, and the use of tablets etc. This has made it easier for teachers to incorporate other approaches to teaching but can be time consuming to prepare.

Elearning on the other hand, can incorporate various approaches in one session to suit all learners. Audio, images, videos and text not only make learning content more engaging but suit all learners.

Learning objectives and the content are considered first. Then content developers can add in different elements of multimedia. This ensures individuals are able to achieve the same objectives, whilst boosting engagement and knowledge retention.

3. Personalisation

Personalisation can work hand in hand with teaching style. In a classroom based setting, it may be difficult to personalise content. It all depends on class size and how well the teacher understands individual learner needs. If teachers are able to understand learning levels prior to teaching, they can prepare different materials - however this could be time consuming.

Elearning can be personalised using pre and post learning quizzes. Results provided can either direct learners to the right course suited to their level, or to further learning once the course is completed. A more convenient way to personalise content to the learner, whilst aiming to achieve the same objectives.

4. Interaction

Elearning can provide immersive interactions through gamification, problem solving, role-play, storytelling, case studies, speakers and branching scenarios. Interactivity can provide realistic first-person experiences, to enable the understanding and practice of desired behaviours.

In a classroom, learners experience social interaction. They can be grouped with others to enhance learning, to learn from or to teach others. Learners also have the chance to interact with the teacher.

With elarning, it may be harder to communicate to your learning manager, and so it may take longer to resolve any questions. However, some courses hold video tutorials, or have support forums.

Classrooms allow learners to instantly communicate with teachers, which could also spark debate and topics within the group for further learning.

5. Analysis

As discussed earlier, classroom settings allow for on the spot communication with the teacher. When it comes to analysing progress, teachers may be able to review work quicker but maybe not in depth. An in depth analysis, would be more time consuming and therefore inefficient in providing feedback to learners in a timely manner.

Elearning can provide in depth behavioural insights, on the spot. These insights can be fed back to both the learning manager and learner for future course development, and to highlight knowledge gaps.

6. Content

Content can in some ways work with teaching style. The content in a classroom setting, would be based on teachers’ preferences - what they think you need to know. However, content would differ with resources. You may need to buy books, take notes and so on.

Teaching style and content can go hand in hand, it can be based on teachers preferences.

Classroom learning may also be more time consuming to keep up to date, with consistent content and delivery. Elearning content can easily be updated, and kept online for access anytime.

Whilst elearning is online, it reduces the amount of books and notes needed. Learners have the opportunity to use various search engines, and programmes to research and record knowledge.

Will elearning replace the classroom?

As we can see, both elearning and classroom learning have their benefits. However, it is hard to see a clear vision of whether or not the classroom will be replaced.

Classroom settings may work better for students of a younger age, before they join the workforce. However, for those coming into work or already in the workforce, elearning seems the more feasible option.

As technology is getting increasingly better every day, we may see changes to learning environments. Whether that be through the use of technology such as VR, introducing segments of elearning or to replacing teachers with robots.

At this point in time, it’s difficult to pinpoint the future of classrooms. Learning should focus on what needs to be taught, then how it can be taught best. If that means blending both together, solely elearning or the classroom, then that should be the solution.   

What are your thoughts on this? Will elearning replace the classroom?

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