Over the past 12 months or more, the shift to online learning for many has been obligatory and not exactly the choice they would have originally made. To the pleasant surprise of the majority of these learners, however, online study has proven to be more effective than they imagined, and also has come with some added benefits, especially in terms of convenience and cost.

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However, the question remains; can the online classroom experience really replace that of the traditional one? It's a divisive issue that tends to prompt pretty strong reactions from different parties.

💻 Online Supporters Say...

  • Online learning is more flexible, allowing us to study at home at times that we can fit better into our schedule.
  • Online learning is more affordable because providers often don't have to worry about the overheads of running a brick-and-mortar school or training center.
  • Online learning is more efficient because you don't have to spend additional time and money getting to and from a classroom.
  • Online learning is better for the student because student and teacher interact more directly than they do in a classroom filled with other students.

🏫 Traditional Classroom Supporters Say...

  • Successful language learning requires cues from body language and expression that can only be properly conveyed in a traditional classroom setting.
  • Online learning often distorts pronunciation because it's all heard and spoken through digital microphones and speakers.
  • Online learning is limited in how students and teachers can interact as all the two can do is look at each other through a screen, usually not even meeting eye to eye.
  • Having other students around in the classroom setting is better because it provides a social element to learning that can help make it more appealing to learners, thus keeping them coming to class regularly.

🤔 Can the Former Replace the Latter?

While it is impossible to deny some of the shortcomings of the online space, we believe that online learning can absolutely be a viable substitute for traditional classroom learning. Beyond that, it can be much better. Here's why we think so:

✔️ Ubiquity of Online Resources

The online space in general is no longer a fringe element of our society, nor has it been for a very long time. In the 1990s and early 2000s, it was still considered somewhat unusual to conduct learning and other activities online, the same can't be said in 2021. Every device we carry on our person is connected to the Internet in some way. Even our household appliances are online now. We can buy and read the books we need online, talk to our teachers online, experience a real classroom feeling with a whiteboard, interactive features and more online, write and submit homework assignments online. When all is said and done, what can the traditional space do that the online space can't?

🖥️ Improvements in Technology

Another issue with online learning in the past was stability of connection and quality of video, among other things. Seeing your teacher as a low-resolution image on a Skype screen was hardly conducive to a good learning environment. Nowadays, though, we have HD cameras coupled with much stabler and faster Internet connections that make us feel much more like the teacher is in the room with us. The microphone and sound quality, too, has improved, allowing us to enjoy a more authentic audio experience as we learn online.

😊 Interactivity

Online classrooms are now so interactive compared to the past. Depending on which software you use, a typical online classroom features an interactive whiteboard, scope for games and activities, IM facility, reward points for students and much more. It's a real learning space now, and not just a screen with camera and audio. Teachers can upload their materials like PowerPoint presentations, videos and more. This also makes the space neat and contained for the teacher. In the traditional classroom, resources need expensive storage units and may need to be replaced over time. Digital ones store seamlessly and endure for years.

🏋️ Flexibility and Convenience

The nature of people's work and lives are changing, partly because of COVID-19, but also because of changing lifestyles. Young families are increasingly favoring jobs where they can work from home in order to better take care of children while working. Their lives can't be as rigidly scheduled as they have been in the past. Online learning is often much more flexible in its timing because tutors are also working from home and able to have class at the drop of a hat. It also cuts out the need for additional travel, which is handy because that can be a factor that puts off tired learners from attending class. It's a bit like not going to the gym that one time after a tough day, but then skipping the next several days, too.

In short, the answer to the titular question is "Yes, it can." The next question, therefore, is when will it happen?

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