Now, I may be a tad biased because my group was arguing that “Online learning is not detrimental to the social and academic development of children.” For this blog post, I will be able to share a bit from both sides.
Online learning provides unique opportunities for those with any type of disability both visible and invisible. Accessibility is often one of the most challenging barriers for students to be able to attend school in person, and this is heightened even more with a disability. It helps accommodate those that require physical adaptations, flexible schedules, assistive technology, and one-one support. Students that may be struggling with their mental health can take advantage of online learning to best support their differing needs during different chapters of their lives. Students who have difficulty attending school in person on a regular basis can experience much greater success and build a sense of community in an online space. The freedom to participate in online school just about anywhere around the world with an internet connection is bringing education to places we never dreamed possible.
Students who have physical, chronic, or mobility issues benefit from the convenience of taking courses online due to accessibility issues in many facilities such as physical space, access to support, or equipment that is compatible. Those with visual impairments may find it easier to log on to a computer to report to class than to make the trip to school. People with hearing impairments often use a number of technological accommodations, many of which fit nicely with the online learning platform. In addition, one of the primary benefits of online education for students with learning disabilities is the ability to work at their own pace and review materials and video lectures as needed. For students with certain types of disabilities, like dyslexia and visual processing disorder, the ability to manipulate digital texts by changing the font style or size can help them process and retain written information.
Online learning also benefits students tremendously for those struggling with their mental health. Students, particularly those with severe anxiety, depression, or mood disorders may feel more comfortable working in the comfort of their own homes rather than in a large classroom setting. Online learning can ease the pressures of bullying and harassment and can help support students during challenging periods of their adolescents. Others can appreciate the freedom to tend to school work whenever they feel up to it and around therapy or other appointments.
As well, many families experience transient lifestyles depending on employment, family dynamics, participation in sports or the arts, and travel preferences. Some students miss a lot of school if they are consistently travelling or moving from place to place frequently. Students in these situations can take advantage of online learning and have a consistent school experience and sense of community where ever they are. Parents that travel frequently for work can spend more time with their children. Student-athletes and performers benefit from the flexibility of online learning to fit their training schedules. Separated families that have parents living far away from each other can spend longer periods of time visiting.
Online learning also allows for a customizable experience that is flexible and promotes the development of online tech skills. Both my students and I as a teacher improved tremendously over the past two years regarding online skills for the classroom and assessment. I am much more comfortable navigating online classroom spaces both from my experience teaching and being a student in my master’s courses. I wouldn’t even be completing my master’s right now if it weren’t for an online option since I live out of town from Regina. I also save so much money by not having to travel to the University of Regina, pay for parking and most likely spending money on food and snacks as well because I wouldn’t be able to go home for supper in between.
Some do not benefit from online learning and that is okay. They do not feel like they are taking advantage of the full learning experience without being in a traditional classroom setting. Some don’t have reliable internet access. Some just prefer to be in-person versus meeting through Zoom. As Chris mentioned in our presentation, learning options should be treated like a buffet, the more choices the better. Online learning is not replacing in-person learning, but it certainly is a great alternative for some.