Every professor has heard it before: “My dog ate my homework,” “I left my book at home,” or even “It blew away in the wind!” It seems, however, that in recent times these excuses are no longer valid. With the new push for technology in the classroom, students are not given the easy opportunities to justify their absence of homework. Instead, the pleas have shifted to “My computer crashed,” or “Our Wi-Fi went out at home.” It is simply stunning how the fast changes in technology over the years have significantly altered educational environments. One of the many outcomes of this technological shift has been the introduction of online learning, which allows students to take courses from anywhere at anytime without sacrificing educational value. These courses are flexible and convenient for the student, allowing them to work on their own accord. In theory, this style seems to be an idealistic implementation in the future of tech-based learning, yet researchers are starting to raise questions about its true merit. Without the social interaction acquired in a traditional classroom environment, the questions revolve around social, collaborative, and community values. How has the increase in technology impacted the value of face to face learning? How can we balance the way technology is incorporated in education? With the changing technology culture surrounding education, administrators should implement systems of blended learning environments to balance the needs of growing technological advances and the necessity of face to face interaction.
With the consistent growth of online education, it is undeniable that there are positive outcomes of this style of education. One of online schoolings greatest benefits allow students the flexible schedules they desire. Researchers explain, “Advances in modern communication technology have provided us with several tools to minimize problems related to such geographical distances so that distance learners these days have several means, both synchronous and asynchronous, to interact with their instructors and classmates” (Brush & So, 2008). Courses can be stretched and spanned for longer or shorter semesters, and they allow their students to do their work when they can during the day. The online style also provides a convenient arrangement, where students can work on their courses from any location at any time. Along with a sense of convenience, online learning is paperless and easily accessible. Students are not required to carry binders full of papers with them wherever they go. This ease of access only requires a device with Wi-Fi, providing students with the ability to do their homework from computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. All assignments, projects, lessons, and materials are easily acquired without the need for physical copies (Allen & Seaman, 2011). Another benefit from online education is that students are able to immerse themselves in an environment of technology. They are given the opportunity to consistently use tech-based resources to complete their assignments (Brush, So, 2008). This allows them to familiarize themselves with the skills and components the future workforce will need– essentially, creating a better feeling and direction to become “tech-savvy.” It is important in today’s world to keep up with changing times, especially the changes regarding technology development.
While online education possesses many beneficial qualities, it does lack merit in certain areas regarding social and collaborative development. One of these downfalls stems from the lack of face to face interactions. In an online environment, there is no in-class instructor, no in-class activities, and thus, no daily physical interaction with others. All communication is done through emails, chats, discussion posts, and comments sections (Brush & So, 2008). This environment can be especially difficult to the learner, as feedback and communication moves at a much slower pace (Ali, Leeds, 2009). Due to this lack in interaction, students tend to feel an absence of community and collaboration. In a scholarly journal from Regent University, it was stated, “Research evidence suggests that low sense of community is related to two student characteristics associated with attrition: student burnout and feelings of isolation. Tinto argued that insufficient interactions of higher education students with peers and faculty and differences with the prevailing value patterns of other students, are also likely to result in dropouts” (Jordan & Rovai, 2004). Without an interactive environment where students can engage with their peers on a physical social level, there is a sense of isolation and solitude. Group projects become much more challenging and scarce. With this in mind, researchers have begun to question the impact on social development. Studies have pointed to solely online learning to impede social growth. With these skills hindered, many online students will be behind traditional style learning students when exposed to the outside world.
Traditional classrooms, on the other hand, provide the students with a collaborative and social based environment, where students are consistently interacting with peers and educators on a regular basis. This provides them with the opportunity to grow socially and learn how to work in a team. With the future of the workforce moving towards STEM fields, it is becoming more and more necessary to improve teamwork skills and cooperation while in school. Traditional environments provide a better foundation for group projects and collaborative assignments. In terms of focus and self-motivation, researchers from Rasmussen College found that, “when it comes to discipline and motivation, traditional education does have an advantage in the eyes of many. The structured schedule of attending class a handful of times per week and having routine face-to-face interactions with instructors can help keep students on task” (Erstad, 2017). Along with the social interactions, face to face learning gives educators a stronger ability to give their students instant and clear feedback. Questions can be answered immediately, and often spark conversation to reiterate and solidify understanding.
Unfortunately, however, traditional learning is becoming outdated in the world of technology we live in today. This style does not allow for students to use technology to its full potential. Much of the coursework is done using paper and pencils, holding students responsible for managing physical materials for the class. Many face-to-face classrooms also ban electronic devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones, which hinders student’s developing comfort with technology. With this shortage of tech use, students are failing to keep up with technology change, and their skill and ability to use technology to solve problems regresses. Traditional style learning also lacks the convenience and accessibility that online learning provides. Erstad says, “One easy-to-overlook factor when it comes to scheduling is travel time to campus—a long commute can certainly make schedules difficult, especially if you’re planning on working while in school” (2017). There is often a poor ratio of too many students to one instructor, and students are forced to work at the same pace as everyone else, regardless of their personal schedules. They must be physically present at all of their scheduled class meetings to avoid missing out on all important information.
As an outcome of this divide in education styles, educators have begun to implement what is known as “blended learning,” where the classroom joins online and traditional learning in an attempt to capture the best of both environments. Regent University professors Dr. Jordan and Dr. Rovai explain, “blended learning is thus a flexible approach to course design that supports the blending of different times and places for learning, offering some of the conveniences of fully online courses without the complete loss of face-to-face contact” (2004). The blended learning environment provides students with the opportunity to learn and grow in an online manner, but also follow through with face to face interactions in a physical classroom. Students will be given pre assignments to do on their own before class, and then a collaborative setting to reiterate and understand the material with their peers. In this environment, students receive the convenience of technology based education, while maintaining and improving their cooperation and social skills. In another scholarly journal from Elsevier, it mentions, “Online learning environments have been criticized for its lack of human interaction and, for this reason, there has been an increasing movement toward blended learning approaches where students can have opportunities for both online and offline interaction with their instructors and classmates” (Brush & So, 2008). Acting as a middle ground between online learning and traditional learning, blended classrooms have begun to bridge the gap between the two styles. This compromise of education has been successfully implemented thus far, revolutionizing the world of education as we know it.
With the need for balancing technology in education, we can conclusively say that blended learning is the best style to implement in today’s classroom. This style of learning encompasses the best qualities of both online learning and traditional learning, creating an environment where students can use technology to its full potential without losing out on social growth. Students can work at their own pace on their own time in a convenient manner, yet still come to a collaborative classroom to expand their understanding. Blended learning is currently taking off and being implemented in many classrooms, at both high school and college level; however, it is still imperative that we strive to keep a balance of technology in education. The goal for the future is to remove the excuses like “my dog ate my homework,” and hope that dogs don’t evolve their appetites for computers.
Ali, R., Leeds, E. M. (2009). The Impact of Face-to-Face Orientation on Online Retention: A Pilot Study. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 7(4), np.
Allen, I. E., Seaman, J. (2011). Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011. Institute of Educational Sciences. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED529948
Brush, T. A., So, H. J. (2008). Student Perceptions of Collaborative Learning, Social Presence and Satisfaction in a Blended Learning Environment: Relationships and Critical Factors. Elsevier, 51(1). N.p.
Erstad, W. (2017). Online vs. Traditional Learning: What You Need to Know. Rasmussen College. Retrieved from http://www.rasmussen.edu/student-life/blogs/college-life/online-vs-traditional-education-answer-never-expected/
Jordan, H. M., Rovai, A. P. (2004). Blended Learning and Sense of Community: A comparative analysis with traditional and fully online graduate courses. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 5(2). N.p.
Richardson, J., Swan, K. (2003). Examing Social Presence in Online Courses in Relation to Students’ Perceived Learning and Satisfaction. Illinois Digital Environment for Access to Learning and Scholarship, 7(1). N.p.
Anders Erik Palarz is a first-year student pursuing a degree in Biomedical Engineering and Materials Science. Ever since he was a young student in elementary school, he’s been fascinated with the changing classroom and how technology has transformed education. Anders hopes to return to education after he has gained valuable experience in the field of engineering.