At Pamoja, we are always learning more about how online learning impacts students. In this article, we take a look at how online learning is being used in the classroom, and how it enhances success for students before they begin their university education.

Advantages of online learning

Today’s economy demands that we change and renew our skills throughout our lives, meaning that the flexibility offered by online learning is indispensable.

As many of the jobs that will be available in 2030 hardly even exist yet, there is a serious need for ongoing, specialised education that does not fit the early-adulthood, residentially-based degree model.

Furthermore, online learning is sometimes the only educational solution that can be fitted around professional life. For example, The Institute of Cancer Research‘s virtual learning environment plays a crucial role in allowing its students to fit their continuing education around clinical commitments and lab work.

And at school level, online learning can be a huge help when there are temporary teacher shortages, or when a student wants to study a subject not covered by the school.

Communication and collaboration

Online classes also bring students together from a range of different countries, providing exposure to alternative cultures, perspectives and communication styles.

This ability to collaborate across international and cultural borders is also becoming a crucial skill in the modern workplace, which relies more and more on the values of global citizenship.

In a world increasingly characterized by restrictions on movement rather than open borders, online classes can allow people to learn at an advanced level no matter where they are based.

In particular, a growing body of evidence suggests that blended learning is a huge step forward in making high-quality education affordable, adaptable and convenient.

How online learning prepares students for university

Classroom and tutorial teaching have distinctive strengths that cannot be found elsewhere, and when combined with online learning, they offer unique benefits.

For example, an Institute of Education study discovered that online learning had a number of different advantages that helped prepare students for university.

With learning becoming increasingly collaborative, 78% of students said that being able to plan group tasks using online calendars, scheduling tools and discussion applications was important for their success at university.

While 71% said they found social networks useful for building relationships with other learners.

Teachers in the study also observed that online discussion forums allowed quieter learners to be heard in a way that doesn’t always happen in ordinary classrooms.

Digital literacy

Online learners were also more digitally literate, acquiring specific tech skills such as finding academic resources or coordinating group work online, and using multimedia resources for academic production as well as exam revision.

Importantly, they were also found to take greater ownership of their learning – they were less likely to rely on university tutors for help, more likely to set goals based on their own performance, and better able to manage and pace their own studies.

All online learners surveyed agreed that studying online prior to university had increased their independence as learners – again, an ability that will give them a considerable advantage in their careers.

A blended learning approach

In fact, a blended learning approach can be adapted to virtually any educational need, though success usually requires a tailored product that fits the needs of the school and its students.

According to the ASU study above, there are certain factors that tend to determine the success of online learning programmes: engagement with faculty members, provision of remote support, a strategy that addresses different student populations, and use of outside vendors where applicable.

As ever, it is important for educators to work with partners that have expertise in what works and what does not – as well as existing technological solutions that can be adapted and applied to the needs of the school.

Students will always need a teacher. Yet, online learning, when judiciously used as an augmentation of traditional methods, can be the perfect complement – as well as offering students skills and opportunities beyond all their expectations.

For more information about what we do at Pamoja Education, visit our website. Article written by John Ingram, CEO of Pamoja Education