Online Learning Programs Are Changing the Way Students Learn

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The article “Online Learning Programs Are Changing the Way Students Learn” by Harvard researchers Jason Orgill and Douglass Hervey, and Harvard Business Professor Clayton Christensen tells about the impact of online education on the way students learn. They argue that online education offers a range of innovative opportunities for modern students, which will bring the greatest benefit if combined with traditional learning and teaching methods. The researchers address the teachers at various levels of the U.S. education system, especially those skeptical about the advantages associated with online learning. The rhetorical situation here consists of the issue of imperfect educational practices in a traditional classroom, which can be resolved with the help of using the benefits of online education; the audience is made up of the teachers, school officials, and, possibly, parents, who can be mediators of change; constraints are represented by those teachers that oppose online education spread as well as those school administrators who do not realize the advantages or desirable uses of online education. THESIS STATEMENT: Online education has the potential to revamp the traditional educational system in the United States due to its individualized nature, focus on creativity and critical thinking, ability to meet various students’ needs, and ability to motivate students.

The first clear benefit of online education is its ability to empower students to reach their full potential owing to its individualized nature. Customized feedback is at the core of the educational model employed at many online learning classrooms. Orgill, Hervey, & Clayton provide a convincing example that illustrates how this feature of online education helps students develop their potential by flexibility, ability to cater for students’ individual abilities and talents, and ability to provide necessary coaching through constant feedback. In particular, students at Khan Academy, an innovative education establishment that widely uses the methods of online learning, capitalizes on its state-of-the-art approach to learning. Here, as Orgill, Hervey, & Clayton describe, students benefit from focusing classroom exercises throughout the day. They download lectures and work on them after school. This contrasts with the traditionally accepted way of learning when the focus is on lectures throughout the day and students are required to work on exercises after school. The teachers in such classrooms perform the roles of “professional coaches and content architects,” who assist students with progressing “in ways that they never could under most current models” (Orgill, Hervey, & Clayton par.5).

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Next, focus on creativity and critical thinking is what makes online learning progressive in comparison with the traditional teaching and learning methods. Rather than focusing on rote learning, online education, when integrated in a regular classroom, stresses creativity and active problem solving. When real learning occurs in the classroom, where all students are absorbed in doing exercises and teachers serve as coaches helping them to progress adequately, the students learn to create ideas, think critically, and look for solutions to the issues in question. According to Orgill, Hervey, & Clayton, “Active problem solving makes learning much more fun and engaging for students” (Orgill, Hervey, & Clayton par. 6). Moreover, online learning in such classrooms also fosters collective work skills as “students at institutions like Khan can huddle together and solve math problems around their laptops as if they were trading baseball cards or marbles” (Orgill, Hervey, & Clayton par. 6).

Also, online learning has the ability to revamp the traditional education system by its focus on meeting students’ needs. It has been one of the greatest drawbacks of the modern education system that it fails to meet the needs of certain categories of students. According to the researchers, these unmet needs include irrelevant material or methods that do not align with students’ abilities, styles, or intelligences. Also, they include lack of access to a breadth of educational resources, especially for students who live in rural, urban, or small markets. This hampers learning the humanities, Chinese, arts, economics, and various Advanced Placement courses. As for online education, it can help solve these problems by providing access to a wealth of educational resources, combining traditional and online teaching and learning methods, and being accessibly to students from previously inaccessible areas.

Finally, online education has a great potential for revamping the current education system in the United States given its capacity to motivate students. According to the Harvard researchers Orgill, Hervey, & Clayton, the loss of its ability to motivate students, both internally and externally, is at the heart of all problems faced by the modern education system. It is even a greater problem than large classroom size, insufficient money, activity of teachers’ unions, or other issues. Without motivation, students study without enthusiasm, since they feel that the education process does not align with their aptitudes, styles, or level of development. However, using the example of the Khan Academy, where teachers perform the role of coaches, it ca be claimed that the students are highly motivated. This happens as they receive a chance to “self-direct their learning paths” (Orgill, Hervey, & Clayton par. 10).

Overall, online education methods have an unprecedented potential to revamp the traditional education system due to their innovative approach to learning and teaching. When integrated into a classroom, online learning empowers students through customized feedback and individualized approach, through focus on creativity and critical thinking. It capitalizes on students’ unmet needs and raises their motivation. It simply teaches them how to be successful learners. By the way, Dan Lips, the author of “How Online Learning Is Revolutionizing K-12 Education and Benefiting Students,” thinks just the same.

  • Lips, Dan. “How Online Learning Is Revolutionizing K-12 Education and Benefiting Students.”
    The Heritage Foundation. January 12, 2010. Web. March 24, 2015.
  • Orgill, Jason, Hervey, Douglass, & Clayton Christensen. “Online Learning Programs Are Changing the Way Students Learn.” Opposing Viewpoints in Context. 2013. Web. 24 March 2015.

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