Online Learning versus Conventional Learning

As a parent of school aged children I have reoccurring conversations with my partner about whether online learning gives our children positive learning outcomes relative to learning from conventional methods. More over, are our children being disadvantaged by the distraction of learning from digital or online technologies?

In research provided by University of Technology Vienna, naïve internet users found reading online difficult due to the disruptive nature of clicking on too many hypertext links. Studies in 1989 and 1990 showed readers navigated aimlessly around text that was peppered with hypertext links and could not remember what they had and had not previously read.

On a more positive note research published in Nature 2003 shows, children who use computers have, improved hand eye co-ordination, improved processing of visual cues, reflex responses and strengthened cognitive skills.

Online learning gives students more time and location flexibility. Students living in regional areas can now gain access to courses online with out the costs of travel, accommodation and purchase of text books. However, blended learning i.e. online learning supported by classroom interaction provides the optimal learning outcome for students. 

Classroom support from teachers and other students offers confidence building,independent study outcomes and useful educational relationships between other students and teachers.

Reading from a PC online is considered tiresome on the eyes and sitting for long periods of time in an upright position is not conducive to a productive reading environment. The latest iPad and Kindle2 Reading Speeds readability study undertaken by Jacob Nielsen's Alertbox, July 2, 2010 show the iPad is the preferred online reading tool with a slightly higher reader rating than the Kindle2 then the printed book and finally the PC came in last.

Additionally, resultsfrom the readability study shows the printed book is still the fastest form of reading.  Users in the study also found
that reading from the printed book was more relaxing than reading from
electronic devices.

In conclusion, online learning is an advantage to students who are in circumstances where cost is an impediment to studying in a conventional school, college or university.  In addition, online learning supports
students that live in regional areas where appropriate courses are not
available and text books can only be found out side the student’s locality.

Students with disabilities will have access to course they could not have in the past and many online training courses already cater to students with disabilities.

As online readability improves online learning will become more user friendly to students of all backgrounds.  Online learning methods
will improve in the near future as Bill Gates founder of Micro Soft states,
Five years from now on the web for free you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world,” Gates said at the Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe, CA today. “It will be better than any single university,”

Author:Paul R Murphy.  16 August 2010