The Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Learning

Online learning or e-learning is becoming increasingly popular. It allows students to study at their own pace. However, some troubling data exists, such as rates of abandonment.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Learning

Last update: 26 May, 2021

Online learning or e-learning is studying with the use of information and communication technologies. Like other forms of learning, it aims to transmit knowledge. It has three main advantages over traditional learning:

  • People who live in geographically isolated areas are able to study.
  • It satisfies the demand for continually improved and updated knowledge.
  • In most cases, it saves people both money and time.

Nevertheless, despite these advantages, statistics suggest that its rate of abandonment is around 60 percent. Why?

In this article, we’ll talk about the characteristics of online learning, including the educator’s role. We’ll also give some recommendations for its overall improvement.

The characteristics of online learning

Online learning gives each individual learner the chance to learn at their own pace and in accordance with their own personal needs. However, this also means the learner has to learn on their own. Therefore, they need to be self-reliant and self-disciplined.

All learning is done on an individual basis and mediated by digital devices. For this reason, the learner might feel isolated. Furthermore, this fact, combined with the learner’s memories of the original teaching model, can affect their motivation in carrying out their studies.

Fortunately, the current tendency in the field of online learning is to increase the interaction between different members of the educational community. This improved sense of interaction helps to reduce the rates of abandonment.

Online learning allows people to study by combining multiple resources into different information representation formats. For example, videos, audios, texts, etc. It allows the learner access to a wide range of information. This would be a far more complicated process if they were learning in the traditional way.

Other characteristics make online learning more advantageous. For example, the possibility of fast feedback in assessments, easy updating of content, and active and meaningful learning.

A girl and her laptop.

The role of the teacher

In the world of online learning, the teacher must be specifically prepared to meet the students’ needs. Unlike the traditional teaching role, they aren’t just providing information. In fact, they need to act as a designer of mediated learning situations (Cabero, 2006).

Individual tutoring is a fundamental tool in online learning. Online teachers need to consider certain questions such as, How can I promote collaboration between my students? How do I organize the virtual platform? How do I organize the assessment criteria (work preparation, attendance, participation in forums, etc.)?

A woman doing online learning.

Methods to improve online learning

Julio Cabero (2006) suggested some measures to ensure good online learning practices:

  • Provide clear guides for learners to interact with their teachers.
  • Facilitate cooperation among students via well-designed discussions.
  • Schedule projects to be carried out during the course.
  • Provide quick feedback to learners about their progress.
  • Transmit personalized feedback to learners. This includes praise or constructive criticism.
  • Set deadlines.
  • Increase learner motivation by allowing the students to choose the topics of their projects.

Sometimes, educators make mistakes when designing online learning projects. For example, they design the content as if it were to be taught traditionally.

However, just as the teacher has to adapt to the digital environment, the content must be adjusted as well. In fact, educators need to use various modes of representation of information without losing any course content. Another mistake they make sometimes is giving technology a more important role in learning than the teaching processes themselves.

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  • Cabero Almenara, J. (2006). Bases pedagógicas del e-learning. Didáctica, Innovación y Multimedia, (6), 000-0.