Since the rise of the covid-19 outbreak, thousands of schools around the world have been forced to close their doors and resort to a remote teaching and learning structure. This has meant a dramatic shift in the way education is shared and distributed, as well as changing the relationship between teachers and their students, potentially forever.

Now, students are being challenged to engage in more independent, proactive learning methods, perhaps with also much less structure than their used to. Not only this – many parents have had to step into the role of their child’s secondary or primary educator, either overseeing their child’s academic work and keeping their motivation in check, or becoming a home schooling expert completely in a matter of days.

Can online learning make a difference?

All of this change is raising endless questions for the future of education as we know it: can online learning and remote teaching be a legitimate schooling technique? Does the lack of a physical classroom setting help or harm children’s learning? And what exactly are the best ways to teach lessons remotely, anyway?

Many experts remain at loggerheads on these questions. Just last week, the National Education Union released new guidance that urged teachers against live streaming lessons due to security and safeguarding issues. This was shortly after they had already raised concerns about the effectiveness of home schooling the UK’s students via online means.

However, many experts, teachers and teaching organisations are recognising the many benefits of online learning, as well as even some similarities that, given the right protocol, make it not so different from traditional classroom learning after all.

1. It helps education remain accessible

Let’s face it – without the online learning possibilities available to us today, many children’s education as we know it would have been stalled completely. Who knows – perhaps parents would have been under even more pressure to take charge of their child’s home ‘curriculum’, adding to the stress they are no doubt already feeling.

Luckily, thanks to online and remote learning methods, teachers are able to continue engaging with their students and maintain at least some semblance of structure for the remainder of the school year.

Online learning also gives students autonomy over where and when they learn. Now, students and their families can be in charge of their own schedule, working around any live-streamed lessons or tasks set by their teacher, and perhaps making more time for extracurricular activities or family time.

2. It provides potentially a wider variety of courses

Traditional models of learning create a greater burden on educational institutions in terms of their implementation. They require a lesson provider (teacher), physical learning materials, and a physical location for the teaching to take place.

Alternatively, online education opens up a door to all kinds of learning possibilities, which may previously have not been available. Teachers are able to create and design useful resources and share these with their students or other teachers. Online learning platforms opens children up to ‘tutors’ from all over the world and explore new skills they may not be able to within their classroom walls.

3. It teaches self-sufficiency

Due to the nature of home learning, students are no doubt having their concentration levels and attention span put to the test during this time. Whilst being in a strictly educational setting may make concentrating on the task at hand easy, the case may not be the same at home.

As such, with the right daily structure put in place and the right guidance from external figures like parents and teachers, home learning is a great opportunity for students to practice self discipline and autonomy during this period of their education.

Additionally, many teachers are focusing on setting more open-ended and project-based assignments that encourage students’ self management and self sufficiency skills.

4. It can help schools to save money

During this period of online learning at home, students likely won’t have to invest in physical textbooks or learning materials.

Similarly for schools, many institutions will be saving on costs due to reduced staffing and only a few students (the children of key workers) being in at a time.

5. Parents can be more involved in their child’s education

Studies have shown that students do better in school when their parents are involved in their education

According to a report authored by Anne Henderson and Nancy Berla, “Major findings indicate that the family makes critical contributions to student achievement from the earliest childhood years through high school, and efforts to improve children’s outcomes are much more effective when the family is actively involved.” Indeed, many teachers in Chinese schools have also reported the enhanced benefits for learning outcomes when schools maintain a close connection with parents.

In most online learning environments, parents have become their children’s learning coaches, working with their students to ensure assignments and coursework are completed on time. As a result, parents provide direct support and encouragement for their children, becoming partners in their education.