Online learning platforms have proliferated as online instruction has become one of students’ preferred methods of learning at all educational levels, including workers who want to learn new skills and university students who want to study a topic outside their university curriculum.
With the increasing popularity of online learning platforms, students seeking a suitable opportunity may feel confused with the many options available. In this article, Al-Fanar Media provides you with a brief guide to help you choose the most suitable online learning platform for you.
What Is Online Learning?
Online learning entails every learning process that uses cyberspace, synchronously or asynchronously.
Some may think that online learning and distance learning express the same thing. Actually, online learning is just one form of distance learning. Joshua Stern, an American education expert, explains that distance learning is a broad category with a long history.
Forms of distance learning available today, he writes, include correspondence courses conducted via postal mail with little interaction; telecourses broadcast via radio or television; mobile learning accessed via smart devices, such as mobile phones; and online learning via Internet-based courses.
Quality Requirements for Online Learning Platforms
Have you ever asked a friend how good is the course material given by a teacher in their classroom? The same is true if you want to identify better-quality platforms for effective online learning. To know and understand these matters, you should consider the availability of the following indicators in the platform you choose:
For many students, the freedom of not being restricted to attending class at a specific time and place is one of the biggest advantages of online learning, as opposed to face-to-face learning in a traditional classroom.
- Various Interaction Options
According to Mary Burns, a learning technologist writing on the website eLearning Industry, the availability of interaction methods for learners is one of the most important indicators of a good online learning platform. Tools for interaction include discussion pages that enable students to engage in a class discussion together on the topic presented by the instructor, ask questions at any time, and benefit from exchanging their knowledge.
Likewise, threaded discussions and chat rooms allow students to keep track of a particular topic that they want to focus on. Besides the ability to communicate with the lecturer in an easier way and get quick answers to their questions during non-lecture times.
- Quizzes and Homework
No matter how good the content available on any platform is, without a system of continuous testing, there will be no guarantee of a high benefit. In a post on the Wiley Network, Douglas Petrick, a physics teacher, talks about the importance of pre- and post-lecture quizzes to test students’ understanding of the material as the course progresses.
Homework is another important way of connecting students with the educational programme. It helps learners develop their research and teamwork skills, through discussions among students about the best way to accomplish their assignments.
- Easy Platform Management
Another technology expert, Laura Kszczanowicz, writes on the Droptica software development company’s blog that easy platform management is important for instructors designing courses and an influential factor in students’ completion of an educational programme. Platforms that are easy to use save time and allow students to take advantage of all the platform’s possibilities.
Good platform design aspects include the placement of learning tools and pages that students will need in clear and connected places, and their suitability for all types of users’ devices, including computers and mobile phones.
Is Online Learning Right for You?
Being able to distinguish a good online learning platform is only one step, but there is still the question of whether this form of learning is suitable for you. To answer this, you need to consider the advantages and disadvantages of online learning.
Online Learning Advantages
As many students have discovered, the freedom of not being restricted to attending class at a specific time and place is one of the biggest advantages of online learning, as opposed to face-to-face learning in a traditional classroom.
Joshua Stern, the American education expert, cited other advantages, including 24/7 access from any device connected to the Internet. This feature appeals to people with busy schedules. It also spares them the hassle and cost of commuting to the classroom.
Stern also sees the development of life skills, such as time management, independence and self-discipline, as an additional advantage of online learning, in addition to greater opportunites it affords for interaction between student and teacher, and among students themselves, which gives a greater sense of connectedness among all.
Online Learning Disadvantages
The chance of becoming distracted is one of the biggest challenges students face in online learning. Writing on eLearning Industry, Priyanka Gautam, a digital marketer and edtech promoter, explains that students’ connectedness to the Internet makes them more vulnerable to distraction, through social media, for example. This requires online teaching be clear, interactive, and highly attractive.
Without good time management, your problem will not be about choosing the most suitable online learning platform, since the freedom offered by online learning will become a flaw instead of an advantage.
Moreover, there may be health hazards from spending long hours in front of a computer screen, such as visual and back problems.
Even the freedom of not having to stick to specific classroom times and places can turn into a drawback. The absence of fixed dates for lectures or a deadline for completing the programme may cause some students not to give online study the same degree of attention they give to traditional learning.
Online Learning Is Not for Everyone
Certain personal qualities will influence how successful students will be with online learning.
First of all, online learning requires an acceptable level of digital literacy and proficiency. For example, you must know how to upload educational materials, assignments, or required documents, in addition to fulfilling all the requirements of the course, from registration to completing the educational programme on the platform.
If you struggle with isolation and prefer to study or work in groups, you may find that online education is not motivating enough and become bored with online lectures and assignments. Online learning best suits people who are comfortable with individual work and do not need external motives to show commitment.
Effective time management and self-discipline are also very important skills for successful online learners.
Without good time management and the ability to commit to setting aside specific times to study, your problem will not be about choosing the most suitable online learning platform. Successful online learners must be dedicated and goal-oriented, or they may find the freedom offered by online learning will become a flaw instead of an advantage.
- A Guide to Top Platforms for Online Courses
- 5 Free Resources for Learning English Online
- The Pros and Cons of Online University Learning
- The Acceleration of Online Education: What Can We Learn from the Crisis and Beyond?
- Blended Learning: Finding the Right Blend for University Students
Also see Technology & Online Learning, a collection of Al-Fanar Media’s reporting on the use of technology in education and the issues it raises.