The top questions asked about online learning, answered

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How do I make sure my child is genuinely learning and not pretending?
How do I make sure my child is genuinely learning and not pretending?

Online learning is not new. In fact, people have been learning on the internet since The Open University in Britain began delivering learning online in the early 1990s. 

Even South African universities, such as the University of Cape Town, have hosted several online courses long before the Coronavirus pushed us into the world of regular e-learning. 

When the president declared a national lockdown on 26 March 2020, schools and universities had no idea that reopening dates would be pushed to early June of 2020, leaving these learning institutions with no choice but to shift to online learning or remain academically stagnant.

This meant that 1.2 billion children, globally, were no longer in the classroom at the height of the pandemic, many of whom moved to online learning for the rest of the year.

This said, for many parents, remote or online learning for their children is new territory. 

Though Covid-19 has also made e-learning an attractive option for parents who are seeking safer alternatives to the traditional schooling system, parents regularly ask the same questions about online learning, and online learning platform, Advantage Learn, has the answers.  

Here they answer the top five questions most often asked by parents who are considering online learning as an option for their kids:

1. Why should I consider online learning for my children?

Firstly, online learning provides children with the opportunity to enhance their academic performance. Contrary to popular belief, online learning is not a less effective or lower grade learning modality for your child.

Recent studies have shown that online learning is just as effective as learning in the classroom, if not better in many instances. Parents need to consider what might work best for their child's academic needs. 

Next, parents should consider e-learning for financial reasons. While online learning is not always cheaper than traditional in-person options, a large number of available online learning solutions leverage larger economies of scale than in-person learning solutions and usually cost a lot less.

Thirdly, online learning provides an element of convenience. This reason cannot be overlooked - online learning makes it possible to learn from wherever there is an internet connection and a device that can browse the web. 

This means you can forget the hassles of dropping off and picking up children from classes, as long as you ensure your child has the appropriate devices and internet connection to optimise their learning experience.

Also read: Looking back at the struggles of digital learning during the first wave of the pandemic

2. Is online learning safe?

Many parents ask about the safety of their learners when they are left, quite literally, to their own devices learning online. 

This is a great question and an important consideration. 

Online learning is safe, when approached in the right way with the right controls and measures in place but can, however, be unsafe in some instances. 

It is safe if the online learning solution/provider you choose is reputable and if you've conducted the relevant research you need for quality assurance purposes and your peace of mind.

3. What are the hidden costs I should know about? 

Choosing the supplementary online learning solution and purchasing it is not the end of budgetary considerations. Other cost areas need to be acknowledged and accounted for. The major cost areas to remain aware of are:

  • The cost of the programme/solution.
  • The data costs to facilitate access to the internet: Most online learning is done over video media which can mean, on average, around 1GB of data per hour.
  • The device costs, including the maintenance of the device. To learn effectively a learner will need a big screen device and the necessary supporting stationery. 

Also see: 'Take care of the infrastructure': How can we bridge the technological divide in online learning

4. How do I choose the right online learning solution/plan/programme for my child? 

A major challenge that parents face when considering online learning for their child is choosing the right solution from the plethora of online options that might be available. Understandably, this can be extremely daunting. 

When navigating this, the best thing for parents to do is to first establish their current context. 

When choosing a new school for your child, one would look at the location, facilities, curriculum, costs etc. Choosing an online learning solution should be treated much the same. 

The first step then is to consider your child's learning context and then to filter your options accordingly. The second step is to engage with your shortlisted providers to see what they suggest and offer. 

If you struggle to get helpful advice from your chosen provider then it is likely they are not going to support your child's learning as well as you would hope. This is a critical point and we strongly suggest parents test this out with their preferred provider.

5. How do I make sure my child is genuinely learning and not pretending? 

This is a genuine concern for most parents. Many parents are more comfortable knowing their children are at a physical location (like a school) learning where they can be monitored and immediately corrected. 

Therefore, online learning presents a problem where parents feel like they need to be monitoring their children constantly when they are learning online, given the increased opportunity for their child not to learn. 

Though this is a valid concern, if you have chosen a reputable provider/solution then the monitoring and management of the learning will be facilitated, and parents can choose their level of involvement while keeping their children accountable to their learning plan.

Effective learning takes discipline and so facilitating the learning process is key to ensuring learning is actually taking place, no matter what the medium.

Our current reality is that kids have to be lifelong learners to remain relevant in their skillsets and careers, so getting used to using online learning to acquire knowledge and skills is critical for a successful career and vocation. 

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