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Traditional education vs remote learning: how do the two compare?

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2020 saw many universities make a switch from traditional in-person education to remote learning almost overnight. This led to many implementing quick and low-cost short-term solutions to help students continue their courses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, many universities had already been looking into remote learning as a longer-term solution due to increased demand from students for a more hybrid approach to their learning.

Over the last year, remote learning has overtaken traditional education, but many students and organizations are looking to keep it in place in order to offer students a mix of both on and off campus education.

So, how do traditional and remote learning compare with each other and how do they benefit both organizations and their students?

Why has remote learning become so prominent?

The worldwide pandemic saw an acceleration for a number of technological trends, including an increased reliance on remote learning and working solutions.

Previously, developments in this area were slow in the higher education market with, typically, only 5% of an organization’s budget being allocated to IT spending. However, the COVID-19 pandemic changed this and has given many universities the motivation needed to make remote learning more of a permanent and cost-effective solution.

These solutions shifted high volumes of educational content and delivery online and urgent technological solutions had to be found to provide more one-to-one student engagement and group interaction opportunities online too.

This throws up interesting questions for the future of higher education. How much education delivery will remain as remote learning, and how much will return to traditional teaching?

What is traditional education?

Students learning

There is a long-held assumption that the best way to teach in higher education is to bring students and teachers together, in person. A traditional classroom situation is sometimes referred to as bricks and mortar learning.

The advantages of having a physical presence in classrooms, lecture halls, workshops and labs are perceived as:

  • Social interaction for students, building their enjoyment of the learning process
  • Greater opportunities for collaboration and group work
  • Students improve their learning experience from the body language, tone and warmth of tutors; and tutors being able to observe student reactions and behaviour
  • Offering face to face learning for inclusivity

On the other hand, the disadvantages of traditional education methods can be seen as:

  • Delivering learning at a pace and with content that may not suit all learners
  • Some students don’t enjoy the social interaction in traditional classrooms and find campus-based education overwhelming.
  • The need to overcome physical and timing barriers to get students in one place at the same time. Including the pressure on higher education students to fund their studies with part-time employment
  • Delivering education within restricted hours and with limited access to technology-based resources

What is remote learning?

Student learning

Remote and online learning covers a wide spectrum of ways to deliver educational content. This includes live and recorded lectures, student chat rooms for specific projects and digital libraries of learning materials.

Most higher education establishments already have sophisticated e-learning portals, with secure online areas for students to submit and discuss their work. This has expanded into far more teaching modules and resources being delivered straight into a student’s home.

The advantages of distance learning provisions include:

  • A highly versatile way to deliver education, especially when it uses the latest IT software for higher education
  • Creates synergy with young people's familiarity with technology and their expectation that they can be informed, educated and engaged via the internet
  • Students can access educational content anywhere, at any time of the day
  • Students can learn at their own pace, revisiting content as needed
  • Remote learning can prove more cost-effective for higher education organisation
  • Economies of scale can be achieved, creating live or recorded content that reaches a far wider student population, in any county
  • IT-based education solutions can protect learning continuity in exceptional circumstances – like a global pandemic!

However, there are some disadvantages to remote learning, including:

  • It relies on students having access to appropriate devices and a good internet connection
  • Not all disciplines can be taught effectively online, particularly as some subject areas rely heavily on practical application, specialist equipment and experimentation
  • Students using remote learning technology can become distracted and lack the discipline of a classroom environment
  • Students may feel more isolated and less confident about contributing to discussions without in-person forums

What are the key differences between traditional education and remote learning?

Let’s take a look at some of the primary considerations when balancing distance education and in-person learning:

Traditional education Remote education
Cost
  • Students need to travel to campus
  • Higher education organizations need physical buildings and resources and dedicated teaching time
  • Students have fewer travel costs and don’t have to live on campus
  • Higher education organizations can invest in IT software to deliver education and then achieve economies in physical assets and overheads
Flexibility
  • Students learn in a controlled environment at a pace set by the tutor
  • Education delivery is to a managed body of students
  • Students learn at their own pace, reinforcing and revisiting content
  • Higher education organizations can diversify and expand educational delivery
Accessibility
  • Students need to be present at set times and at set locations
  • Tutors need to be present, delivering real-time education content
  • Students can access their learning opportunities anywhere in the world, at times that best suit them
  • Higher education organizations can create much wider accessibility with a rich library of online resources
Accessibility
  • Some students find classroom environments a disciplined and supportive way to learn
  • Tutors get job satisfaction and create inclusive learning when present in person
  • Remote education can be the preferred option of some students, and they are less likely to ‘drop out’ of higher education, while others may not benefit
  • Opportunities to diversify and grow content online makes HE course outcomes more assured.

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It’s important to note that education is not a “one size fits all” scenario. Creating combined traditional and remote learning opportunities can help students and fits with all of the points outline above.

What will remote learning mean for the future of education?

Student learning

Having the software and technology in place to support a blend of traditional learning and remote learning opportunities enables higher education organizations to reach an ever-wider range of students in a more cost-effective way.

A shift to online learning will mean that students can study where they want, when they want but can also attend on-campus lectures if they wish. This switch to a more blended learning approach will help to provide students with the resources they need to complete their courses but means their quality of education is not affected depending on whether they choose to be on or off campus. Over 48% of students believe that online classes can be an effective way for them to learn in the future.

However, for this to become a reality, organizations will need to invest in IT infrastructure to ensure access to as many students as possible, with very little to no downtime. Having the best IT solutions to support blended learning helps to ensure consistent delivery and personalizes education experiences for students. This will help to create better outcomes for higher education institutions in terms of student retention and student satisfaction.

Having the right software in place must run alongside providing sufficient training and support for teaching staff, guiding them on the best ways to utilise online learning tools.

Solutions such as AppsAnywhere help organizations to deliver the apps and software to students through their own devices and from any location. Once students are back on campus, this will allow them to choose where they want to work without compromising on the quality of their education.

This type of solution also helps higher education organizations to deliver apps and software to both student’s own devices and managed devices, no matter what the device is which can help to suppot Bring Your Own Device (BYOD policies).

To find out more about offering remote learning solutions within higher education, please contact our expert team.