Online classes vs. classroom learning

Will online education render traditional campus obsolete? Patricia Mascarenhas explores the issue in depth.

Last Updated: Nov 13, 2013, 18:10 PM IST

Will online education render traditional campus obsolete? Patricia Mascarenhas explores the issue in depth.

The increasing popularity of virtual learning in India has led to a raging debate: will it overtake the ground based campuses?

Proponents of virtual learning say that online degrees have become a perfect option for people who may not be able to enroll in a traditional classroom. “Online education has innate benefits of mass reach, anytime, anywhere accessibility.” says Mayank Gupta, COO, EduKart. It provides an alternative to people who may want to learn at home while doing part-time jobs, or pursuing hobbies etc. “It is reasonably priced, and helps build a global network. I doubt that in days to come, any institution will remain untouched by online education.” he explains.

High priests of education however, are cautious. “Although it offers flexibility virtual learning cannot everything can be taught online,” says Kiran Mangaonkar, principal, Sonopant Dandekar College, Palghar. He gives an example of a science practical component which requires physical supervision of a teacher demonstrator in the laboratory. Manju Nichani, principal, K C College, says, “Although a brilliant concept online learning cannot overtake traditional universities. It can only complement and supplement that.”

Traditional universities go far beyond just book learning, says Nichani. “There is a direct connect between teachers and students. A lot of learning takes place with this mutual relationship.” Besides, it also gives an opportunity to meet other students. “A peer group has huge influence on each other.”
Despite its popularity and flexibility, online education is out of reach for many, says Mangaonkar. “Slow internet connections and/ or older computers make access to course material difficult,” he says, adding that virtual learning may cater to many but is not best suited for all. “Learners with low motivation and bad study habits can easily fall behind. Instructors may not always be available, leaving students feeling isolated from classmates or instructor.”

Both online and conventional educations have their highs and lows (See Box). There is more than enough room for both. The key is to find the best fit for one’s personal needs. Many feel that online education can be very useful when blended with the traditional. Universities like Stanford and Oxford are already offering online courses and also giving certificates.

“The blended system also known as HYBRID is best to practice,” says Mangaonkar. Gupta agrees with him and signs off, “Rather than overtaking, online education should become an inseparable part of the education system. This combination will definitely help India realise its full potential which still remains unexplored.”


Pros and Cons

Pros of Online Education

* Flexibility

* Off campus studying

* Less travel to and from class

* More ICT use

* Quick syllabi revision

Cons of Traditional Universities

* Less flexibility

* On campus studying

* More travel

* Less ICT use

* Slow syllabi revision

Pros of Traditional Universities

* Direct contact with teachers and students

* Access to campus activities

* Suitable for hands on training

* University degree

Cons of Online Education

* No direct contact

* Less access

* Technical difficulties and software crashes

* Online certified degree