Online learning has become a $56.2 billion industry and is expected to double as more than half of all college classes will become eLearning-based by 2019. Despite its stigma as a less acceptable form of learning compared to its traditional in-person counterpart, millions have embraced online classrooms including major universities and Fortunate 500 companies. Harvard and MIT offer publicly available online classes while other websites like Coursera offer up an abundance of free, online classes available from colleges and universities around the world.
Yet in order for online classrooms to overcome negative perspectives, they will have to wholly match the experience of traditional classroom teaching. Poor streaming capabilities, disorganized content and lack of accountability could easily ruin and discredit online education. There are web classrooms doing it right, and they all have a few things in common. Here is how online learning environments of the future will match the in-classroom experience and help improve learning.
They’ll have established seamless, easy-to-use access.
Online classrooms are inherently convenient because you can learn from anywhere – your home, a coffee shop, etc. Things get sticky when it comes to extra steps like software downloads or grainy, lagging streaming quality. Things that inhibit a student from having a seamless experience can discourage them from online learning altogether. Why go through the hassle? Successful online learning environments will be a portal, one easy location, for lectures, trainings, assignments, virtual office hours and more. The web lends itself to convenience; if your classroom doesn’t offer that, it will be disregarded.
They’ll offer the experience and interaction of in-classroom learning.
We’ve been over the convenience aspect of eLearning, but there is something to be said for the experience of sitting in a physical classroom among fellow students. Live interaction with questions and group discussions can spark thoughts that might not cross students’ minds if they weren’t engaged with each other. It is possible to capture that in-classroom experience online; it’s just a matter of having the right tools that allow students to see who they’re learning with and interact with them in real-time. We’ve built ClassInteract to do just that—it allows up to 25 students to attend class via their webcams, which enables more meaningful communication with their classmates. Asking live questions via a chat function and otherwise making an online class feel like a traditional classroom is important. An isolated, stay-at-home learning experience simply won’t cut it anymore.
They will enhance collaboration.
Traditional education is full of group projects and late night study sessions with peers. While they might not always be fun, they allow for a level of collaboration that helps students motivate and learn from one another. But these opportunities for collaboration should not be restricted to an in-person environment. Online classrooms that are designed to help students succeed will include discussion boards or separate group video sessions for students. They’ll create a sense of community that encourages students to learn from and empower each other.
They’ll provide access to professors.
Office hours are an integral part of everyday education. Having access to professors who are experts in their field adds major value to in-person learning. Hearing the thoughts of those experts delivered directly to the student can jumpstart thinking in new and previously unimagined ways. When your professor is located hundreds of miles away, it can be difficult to get that one-on-one time. But with today’s technologies, virtual office hours are a more viable way of getting this personal feedback than ever before. With the flick of a webcam, a professor can engage with a student “face-to-face” and build their relationship just like they do in-person at colleges and universities.
We’ve had the pleasure of working with organizations like Yale University and Pearson to further online education, with the goal of assisting in embodying all of the qualities above. As online classrooms grow in number, so should access and interactivity.
What would entice you to learn online? Let us know in the comments.