The Effects of e-Learning on Higher Education: Pre and Post Covid-19

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

The Evolution of e-learning

For decades, virtual learning has slowly redefined traditional education as it was once known. Whether it’s referred to as e-learning, online learning, virtual learning, or web-based training, there is no doubt about it that this method of obtaining information has expanded on how, and how many, students are able to access education today.

Prior to March 2020, most students and teachers who participated in online learning did so because it was the best method of learning (or teaching) for their lifestyle. 

However, when the coronavirus pandemic first reared its ugly head temporarily leaving the world at a standstill, students and teachers alike found themselves being forced to conform to the virtual world of learning and teaching; many of whom had no prior experience doing either. On both sides, people found themselves being a part of experimental learning as new systems were created. To make matters worse, these new systems needed to be developed and implemented at record speeds with very little time to test for errors.

The Benefits and Pitfalls of e-learning

Benefits. Many of the benefits for e-learning are the same now as they were prior to the pandemic. Some students enjoy the convenience of taking courses from the comfort of their own homes, some choose e-learning for its flexible schedules, and others choose this option for its cost benefits.

Pitfalls. As beneficial as e-learning can be, it does not come without pitfalls. Research has shown that e-learning has proven to result in lower grades across the board. Knowing this, colleges and universities are always looking to improve upon their e-learning strategies. This idea is not new. Improving the virtual programs has been a goal of many institutions far before March 2020.

Covid-19 related pitfalls. Unfortunately, students who never would have chosen virtual learning as an option were left with two options: either learn a new system and begin taking online courses, or delay their education indefinitely. For the students who thrive in the traditional classroom setting and would miss the sense of belonging that comes with it, this was a huge challenge. There are those who struggle with not having the teacher physically present to ask and answer questions. And although, there are methods of communicating with teachers: online office hours, emails that can be sent at any given time, and maybe even virtual meetings via some form of video communication, for the struggling student, these forms of communication simply are not equivalent to in-person learning and may not suffice. 

Covid-19 and its Effect on Online Learning

As expected, Covid-19 has had an enormous effect on e-learning. At first thought, one may think about the obvious changes in class schedules, the uncertainty of what the future will bring, or maybe even the struggle of dealing with tech issues. But the problems of this global pandemic extend much further than these issues alone.

Many students who usually attend institutions in-person now face new challenges as they navigate a new world of online learning. Some of the more serious issues for these students include, but are not limited to, not being able to meet basic needs such as food, housing and money. Additionally, there are low-income students who did not own electronic devices prior to the pandemic and needed assistance with acquiring the equipment necessary for virtual learning. 

In addition to the aforementioned concerns, due to a rise in mental health related issues, the number of support services have grown exponentially. Many colleges and universities have implemented video options to consult with mental health professionals. There are tele-health and tele-counseling options available that did not exist previously. There have also been mindfulness classes, applications, and other resources provided electronically as a way of assisting students during these times.

e-learning in the future: What’s next?

Students and faculty have managed to establish new ways of learning, develop new routines, and overcome unexpected challenges. Considering the fact that this global pandemic has not yet come to an end, it is still a bit early to know all of the effects that Covid-19 will have on e-learning, or to foresee what permanent changes will take place. As new data reveals what has worked and what has not, there are likely to be drastic changes in the future.