Jul 23, 2019 By Team YoungWonks *
In an age when the Internet has made the world a much smaller place and a lot of things are just a few clicks away, it is perhaps not so surprising to see the rise of online classes today. But how effective are these online classes, especially for kids? This blog aims to answer this question. Before we get around to looking at how useful / effective an online class be for kids, let us first examine what an online class actually means.
What is an Online Class?
An online class, also referred to as a web-based or web-delivered course, is a class taught through the Internet. Online classes are a form of distance learning, in that distance is no longer a factor and the teacher and the student needn’t be at the same location for the class to take place. Both the teacher and student/s would need just the Internet and their respective laptops, tablets or even smartphones to be able to meet in an online/ virtual classroom. As is evident, this is not a traditional classroom or method of teaching.
That said, most children today are exposed to the digital world at a relatively younger age; school students are known to use social networks, play games, create and contribute to websites, and research topics they’re interested in. Online classes then allow students to use technology so as to avail of a more engaging learning experience. Easy data collection paves the way for the assessment of a student’s strengths and weaknesses, which in turn can be used to come up with an individualized learning plan for each student.
How effective are online classes for kids?
With online classes becoming more common, there has been a lot of debate over their effectiveness. So let’s look at both sides of the argument.
First, let’s look at the advantages of online classes for kids:
It is important to bear in mind that typically an online class is preferred by those who may not be able to make it for classes in a traditional brick and mortar kind of institution due to several reasons. While it makes perfect sense for such students to opt for an online class, there’s no denying that there are also many general advantages that one can avail of.
1. Flexibility: This is one of the biggest takeaways in a freedom to juggle their careers and school because they aren't tied down to a fixed schedule. In a traditional classroom setting, class timings are fixed and the student has to work his/ her schedule around these dates and timings. Online classes, on the other hand, give students a greater say in terms of picking their class timings thus allowing them greater flexibility so as to devote their time to their other tasks as well.
2. Reduced Costs: Online education can cost less thanks to several reasons. For instance, one saves on commuting costs. This includes a range of costs related to transport be it fuel, parking, car maintenance, or public transportation costs.
3. Increased Exposure: Online education can offer students the opportunity to come in touch with and regular interact with people (teachers or students) from different regions, even different nations or continents. This usually leads to healthy collaboration while teaming up on projects. Simultaneously, it makes one more culturally open-minded and thus more receptive to other cultures.
4. Better Documentation: In an online class, all the information - including training materials - are safely stored in an online database. So should there be a need to have anything clarified, the student can access these documents with the click of a button, thus saving precious time.
5. Personalized Attention: Students in traditional classrooms typically do not receive the personalized attention they get in an online class. Due to the increased time with their instructors, students develop better problem-solving and communication skills. YoungWonks, for instance, promises personalised attention as its online classes have a student-teacher ratio of 1:1. Such a setting also fosters self-paced learning where the student is not under peer pressure to perform and instead focuses on actually understanding a given topic at his / her pace before moving on to a more complex one.
6. Access to Expertise Irrespective of Geographical Location: An online class levels the playing field when it comes to students from different geographical regions having access to a particular course. Unlike in a physical classroom, now the location of the student doesn’t matter and thus doesn't interfere with his/ her chances of pursuing a particular subject.
7. Ideal Setting for Flipped Classroom: A flipped classroom is a classroom that flips traditional teaching strategies. This means that in place of imparting instruction in the class, the lesson is initially conveyed through videos and the classroom session is devoted to students actually working on an assignment, something that is typically done at home/ outside the classroom. This is a form of blended learning in that combines traditional instruction (in the form of a teacher’s supervision) with modern e-learning techniques and an online class is a perfect platform for this kind of learning.
8. Screen Sharing Proven to Be Highly Effective: The advent of screen sharing technology has revolutionized the world of online learning / teaching. It has paved the way for seamless exchange of information between teacher and student regardless of their location and all one needs now is a good Internet connection to be able to make full use of this technology. Teachers can conduct classes using screen annotation - wherein the instructor can write, draw or highlight text on the student’s screen - there are several efficient graphic tablets one can use to do the same.
It is no wonder then due to this plethora of advantages, online education has gained mainstream acceptance today. With an online class, one can have greater control over one’s learning environment, which in turn helps one get a deeper understanding of the subject being taught. If anything, online classes have opened up education to a larger chunk of the populace than ever before. Vishal Raina, CEO and Founder of the popular after-school coding program YoungWonks points out that online classes can be extremely beneficial to students, provided they are managed well. He shares how a lot of emphasis is laid on project-based learning in a YoungWonks online class. “Project-based learning is where students acquire a deeper knowledge through active exploration of real-world challenges and problems. It promotes learning through doing and is in direct contrast to paper-based, rote memorization, or teacher-led instruction that just presents established facts. An online class with project-based learning makes for a great teaching tool, one that ensures that the student has understood what is being taught as part of the lesson,” says Raina.
Does the above mean that online classes do not have their share of detractors? Of course, this is not true. There are in fact several arguments against online classes; it is often said that they are nowhere as useful as traditional classes in a physical classroom.
So let us look at some of the common criticisms of online classes for kids and how one can work around these faults:
1. Criticism: Lack of accreditation
How to overcome: Doing a thorough background check.
Before one enrolls in any online course, it is very important to check that the program is accredited. Legitimate schools have their documentation/ papers in place and it is fairly easy to vet this information online. Doing a thorough background check of an online program is a small but crucial step that can save your time and money in the long run. California-based YoungWonks, for instance, has recently received accreditation -- under the category Online Learning - Technology -- from the Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACS WASC), which is among the six regional accrediting agencies in the United States that accredits supplementary education centers and/ programs throughout its territory. An accredited institute is one that has been vetted by the relevant authorities and typically has highly educated/ trained teaching staff, which makes the institute more reliable than the others.
2. Criticism: Low quality of teaching
How to overcome: Always opt for a trial class.
Online classes are a relatively new format, so it is okay to be sceptical and to want to try one out before making a commitment. After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating! Besides, it is true that several online classes do tend to cut corners thereby compromising on quality. This is why a trial class is important. A trial class will help the student and his/ her parent get a good idea about how good the experience of online learning has been.
Not all online classes offer poor quality learning; in fact many are known to be better than physical classrooms! A good example would be the Stanford Online High School (OHS or SOHS). It is a private independent school for gifted students located within Stanford University and functions as a six-year school for students in grades 7-12. It is a highly sought-after online school program and not surprisingly, getting admission is quite tough.
This goes to show that there are good online classes out there and these are the ones that believe in meticulous planning and invest in more high quality resources so as to make it a reality. So it would certainly help if parents keep an open mind and are not hesitant to do some research before zeroing in on an online class for their kids.
3. Criticism: Little or no face-to-face interaction
How to overcome: Go for online classes with a better student-teacher ratio.
Building a rapport with one’s instructor is a key element when it comes to determining how useful a class has been and it is no different for an online class. So it is imperative to choose an online class where the student-teacher ratio is a healthy one and personal attention is not compromised. For instance at YoungWonks, the student-teacher is 1:1 which means there is a one-on-one interaction between the two.
4. Criticism: Increased workload
How to overcome: Opt for an online class that offers project-based learning.
An online course could need more reading and assignments than a regular traditional class. It is said that some online classes even demand students to put in 15 or 20 hours per week. This is why one must take care and select an online class that offers project-based learning as it will engage the students in a better learning experience. Here the student will get to implement all that one has learnt in their lessons as part of online classroom activity, allowing the teacher to better assess the student’s progress.
5. Criticism: Greater need to exercise self-discipline
How to overcome: Opt for a class that offers hands-on training and encourages self-paced learning.
Online courses that have deadlines for assignments and tests can put unnecessary pressure on students and end up adversely impacting students’ time management and organization skills. But if an online class provides hands-on training in a healthy setting that also fosters self-paced learning, then the student can make actual progress.
Some things, of course, remain unchanged. In that, whether kids attend classes online or not, parents need to stay involved in their children’s educational development. If anything, an online class can help one save time and energy, thus allowing one to better plan one’s day. This makes it ideal for students who have several interests and even for grownups who wish to balance studies with work. Raina explains that this is why ProWonks, the online coding class for grownups, has an edge over several physical classroom courses targeted at professionals. “We live in an age where distance is no longer a factor and it makes perfect sense to take advantage of a premium teaching experience that is being offered in the comfort of one’s home. One just needs to do good research and maybe attend a trial class before deciding on an online class,” he emphasises.
*Contributors: Written by Vidya Prabhu; Lead image by: Leonel Cruz