In the EdTech sector, we often speak at length of the plethora of benefits available via effectively delivered online learning, both economic and practical. But should we teach all content online, all the time? No – or at least not yet. As we well know, a lot of learning happens outside the classroom. This is true at all levels of education, from early school years up to post-graduate studies at university. The pandemic has shone some light on this, with a decrease in enrollments and increase in self-reported mental health problems among students. In this article, we’ll dig deeper into some of these and discuss why it’s so hard to replicate the traditional learning experience with technology completely.
1. Facilitating Social Interaction
This is an obvious one. Traditional campus education is social by nature. Whether it’s the lectures, the social events, or the bars, students have plenty of opportunities to meet and interact with one another. One of the key benefits of a university campus is the diversity of people and ideas that it brings together. This is something that simply can’t be replicated online. Furthermore, it is of paramount importance to learn how to interact with people from different backgrounds, and this is something that can only be learned in a social environment.
2. Building Community
A college campus is much more than a place for learning. It’s a community in its own right. This is an important aspect of higher education. A student’s sense of belonging to a community is an important factor in their sense of well-being. This is a key factor in creating a sense of engagement and motivation for students. It’s also a key factor in the development of identity as a student.
Without this, students are impacted in a number of ways. In terms of mental health, a lack of community is a major problem, especially for young people who are still developing their sense of identity. In terms of motivation, this is a huge factor. A student that is strongly connected with their community is more likely to remain motivated and achieve their goals. This is why face-to-face interactions are so important.
3. Retention Rates
Recent research has shown that a campus has a dramatic impact on student retention. This is because the social aspect is so important. Students are less likely to drop out when they have a strong social network. Not only do they have a great support network, they also have a sense of belonging and community. This is why retention is so much higher in traditional campus environments, and it’s something that can’t be replicated online.
4. Providing a Place to Learn and Fail
Think back to your first day at university. It’s likely that you’ll remember walking into a lecture and then failing the quiz at the end of the session. It happens to the best of us! However, in order to learn, you should be able to fail, and this is something that is much easier in a traditional campus setting.
In a traditional university, the learning environment is typically more relaxed. This isn’t to say there is no stress and pressure to perform, but students are used to the academic environment and know what to expect. They are more likely to ask questions, engage with the lecturer and generally ask for help. In this environment, they can take more risks. This is much tougher to replicate online.
This is a complex issue. Broadly speaking, in a traditional university setting, students are more likely to participate in class, ask questions and generally engage with the lecture. This is because they are in the same room as the lecturer, and there is no barrier to them asking questions. Furthermore, there is more potential for engagement. It‘s easy for a student to communicate with their lecturer face to face, and this will help them to understand and engage with the material.
Online, there is a barrier for students to communicate with their lecturer, and this impacts their engagement. Furthermore, without face–to–face interactions, students are less likely to ask questions and engage with students in the same class.
The Bottom Line
Online learning is an extremely powerful tool, with the ability to revolutionize the way we consume education. However, it‘s important to recognize that there are certain elements that can‘t be replicated online. This is especially true with regards to social interaction, student retention, and building community.