Online Learning: Digital learning has become the need of the hour after the outbreak of Corona pandemic across the world, but a mix of on-campus and online study is considered the best.
Online learning has become an important part of the life of the students.
Due to social distancing and lockdown, university studies have been disrupted for the last 18 months. According to the annual Student Experience Survey, students are under great stress and there has been a dramatic drop in student satisfaction across Australia. Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge has drawn attention to this by calling for a “return” to on-campus studies. But the world is becoming digital. In such a situation, the old practices of lecture hall will not help the graduates to move forward in their career. We need university studies that help students succeed by preparing them for the digital future.
It has been reported in several studies that spending less time in the office and working from home will make work more mixed. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this trend dramatically. Various industries have found that they can work effectively online, making it an authentic workplace. Telehealth has become an alternative to consulting your GP, while the first place to find a service or product is an online search engine. Professionals need to demonstrate their skills in any environment – physical or virtual – and be confident enough to work in a new location and format. What will be the learning impacts?
The learning process is formed through interaction with teachers, peers and information. Decades of research shows that learners learn best when learning is active, engaging, relevant and intentional. These principles hold true wherever teaching takes place: whether on campus, online or in the workplace. The real question is how to balance the best online with the best on-campus and workplace work.
Universities are already on this path. University studies have been blended for more than two decades as study resources, activities and assessments were moved to subject and course websites in virtual learning environments. Previously, the objective was to organize learning in a way that is accessible wherever and whenever, today the digital learning environment has become more sophisticated. They also now provide tools for group learning, projects and creativity.
‘Emergency distance learning’ not the norm
Online learning was often a compromise during the pandemic. Good teaching design takes time as teachers tailor curriculum, resources and assessments to suit their learners and discipline. In March 2020, like most Australian universities, academics at my institution, Deakin University, had a week to rebuild our courses to help our 41,000 on-campus students study. Of course, many of the activities we had planned turned out to be impossible, and online options quickly evolved over the next few weeks.
This global rapid change was dubbed an “emergency distance learning” by American professor Charles Hodges and colleagues. He warned that we should be careful not to form an opinion about online learning from this experience. Good online learning creates a sense of community. It engages students with rich resources and activities. It helps learners to find study friends and places for their independent work.
However, the interaction is different in online learning. Instead of meeting in a cafe, students chat online to share ideas and solve problems as they do in their daily lives. Social learning can take place on campus or online.
Some activities are best done online, some in person
Some activities must always be online. For starters, contemporary information is digital. Although we enjoy their physical space, university libraries are now essentially digital, with most books, magazines and images available and used online. Data sets are also mostly digital and are analyzed with digital tools ranging from spreadsheets to sophisticated software. Digital learning is great for exploration. The world is at your fingertips, and computers never tire of practicing basic skills with you.
Other activities must take place in the physical space. Using specialist equipment or experiencing the workplace often means being in a purpose-built space. Being in the field develops observational skills and provides more sensory information to consider. Collaborating with peers in the same room develops human interaction skills using the different social cues we have online.
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