Is it possible for online education to provide a better learning experience than in-person education?
Most people will answer a definitive “No” to this question. However, we are still in the “online education 1.0” or maybe “online education 1.5” stage, even though online education has been around for decades.
So, a better question is:
How can we design online education to capitalize on the advantages of online learning in order to make the learning experience unique and possibly even better than the in-person class experience?
Online Education 1.0
Up to now, online education has typically consisted of doing things like watching video lectures, posting on discussion boards, and submitting assessments (tests, essays, etc.). Basically, we’ve tried to mimic the in-person experience in the online space.
At the start of the COVID pandemic in 2020, education worldwide was forced to abruptly move from an in-person experience to a 100% online one overnight. The results of this was that using an in-person pedagogy and curriculum in an online setting didn’t work well. This led to many of those involved in the education system to claim that online education would always be inferior to in-person education.
Online Education 2.0 and Beyond
In order to move past Online Education 1.0, we need to reinvent online education from the ground up. This means that we need to identify any of the unique advantages that the online space provides over an in-person classroom.
ONLINE EDUCATION ADVANTAGES
- Can provide multiple synchronous and asynchronous communication media for instructor-to-student, student-to-instructor, AND student-to-student communications, such as media-rich discussion platforms, collaborative tools (whiteboards, etc.), communication platforms (Zoom, Discord, etc.), social media, and 3d metaverse spaces.
- More opportunities students to become content creators in addition to consumers of digital content because of the proliferation of online tools
- More personalized learning opportunities
- Social and experiential learning opportunities – in a face-to-face setting, you’re socially learning with students near you; in online, you can socially learn with all students
- Able to more easily and dynamically form groups based on knowledge/skill proficiency
- Digital assessment options (including game-based assessments)
- More immediate feedback/assessment
- Flexibility to change anything, anytime – and maybe received automated feedback
- Can provide safe environment to take risks/experiment
- Opportunities for just-in-time learning
Promoting Lifelong Learning Skills
- Growth mindset
- Learner agency
- Digital collaboration skills
- Digital media skills
- Self-discipline, executive function
POSSIBLE NEW ONLINE COURSE FEATURES
- Provide mastery feedback (competency-based learning)
- Promote learning autonomy if system allows participants to decide learning topics to pursue
- Identify specific areas of improvement
- Team-based competitions
- Synchronous or asynchronous
- Replacements for traditional discussion boards
- In-course and post-course community
Participant Digital Content Creation
- Platforms to create, share, and discuss
- Creating artifacts as assessments and evidence for digital badging/microcredentials
- New technologies and platforms for peer learning opportunities
- Provide easy ways for students to schedule informal online meetings by themselves
- Using tech/AI to help keep the advanced students engaged while addressing the learning needs of others
- Automatically make course material available in advance or on an as-needed basis
NEW THOUGHTS AND IDEAS
These are just a handful of ideas that can help better engage online learners. We’ll need to continue to innovate in the online education space in order to move our entire education system forward in the future.
Please feel free to contact us and share your thoughts and ideas about how we can improve the online education experience. We’ll continue to update this article with new ideas periodically.