Online Learning vs. Face2Face Learning
Guest article by Elly Beolchi
2020 was arguably the most challenging year that many education systems and students around the world have endured in numerous decades. During February/March last year, when the Covid19 pandemic burst and became global, schools had to move their classes online, forcing countless thousands of teachers to become techies and adapt their school curricula while many students struggled to stay focused and engaged for hours on their screens.
After the first hectic months of teachers attending professional development webinars and students complaining about the difficulties of online learning, it seemed that a balance was finally found. In fact, as much as Face2Face classes still largely remain the preferred way to go for teachers and students, many educators and students have learnt to live with online learning and make the most of it.
What are the PROs and CONs of these two modes of class delivery?
Clear Visual Body Language in F2F Class Learning
The primary difference between these two opposing ways is the class pace or dynamic. In a F2F class, body language is an ally to help convey the meanings of words, especially when it comes to learning a foreign language. Without experiencing clear body language, students easily feel lost and their learning inevitably slows due to the time wasted searching for the meaning in their teachers’ words. Despite the incredible technical features that online learning platforms have developed over the last 12 months, even a simple teacher action like redirecting students to breakout rooms to practise a language point is less personal and takes longer than does personally cueing them in a live classroom to create a group.
Interactive Online Learning
However, online learning can be highly interactive. There is a very wide range of language websites where students can quickly practise grammar or do vocabulary quizzes, allowing teachers in class to focus more on the skills that require their feedback. Look at speaking or writing during a class, for instance. Because of the nature of online learning, where speaking is the primary way of communicating, students are also encouraged to type a lot, which is a great way to expose them to spelling words. Typing is a natural way to reinforce the sounds of words or to correct any mispronunciations. Some discussion (speaking) or reflection (writing) at the beginning of an online class is undoubtedly a successful way to de-stress and warm up students, and another great opportunity for them to practise the language.
It goes without saying that class culture or atmosphere is constrained in an online environment. For example, the use of humour is limited as there is a higher chance of misunderstanding and the risk of being on mute when someone is saying something funny is always round the corner. Students may therefore perceive an online class as being a little “dryer” and less fun than the more personal and intimate F2F classroom.
Environmentally Friendly & Cost Saving
Another plus in favour of online learning is the environment-friendly awareness that comes with being in a digital low-paper classroom. There is also no doubt that online classes using less paper is a great incentive for schools and students to reduce expenses.
In the above attempt to objectively describe the advantages and disadvantages of F2F and Online Learning, it is sensible to understand that both methodologies have their strengths and weaknesses. The choice between them often comes down to your own preference as a learner and which method you feel more comfortable with. Whether you are more old-school or are willing to experiment with new technologies, the most important message to take away is to find your learning opportunities and make full use of them.
Elly Beolchi is Director of Studies at SMEAG English, an English Language school in the heart of Melbourne that specialises in training and developing the English skills of international students. For more information, visit www.smeag.com.au. SMEAG is an Industry Alliance of Migration Ways.