Face off: Does learning from home do more good than harm?

Charlotte Fong
  • Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint
  • This week, they discuss the pros and cons of virtual education
Charlotte Fong |

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E-learning, the way of the future or a stopgap for a time of crisis?

Charlotte Fong, 18, New York University, Abu Dhabi

Due to the ongoing pandemic, schools in Hong Kong have been conducting online classes with students learning from home for around half a year now. While some may groan at the mention of Zoom or Google Classroom, distance learning is actually a viable and productive way for students to get the most out of their classes.

Online learning allows students to experience authentic classroom education from the comforts of their very home. Many local schools opt for a real-time learning schedule, meaning the classes follow the timetable for face-to-face instruction with the teaching holding live sessions for the set period of time. Despite instruction being online, the teacher is still able to deliver classroom lectures through the use of videoconferencing and remote teaching softwares. They can write on a screen, ask students to answer questions, just like they would normally do during in-person classes. Some schools even ask students to wear their uniforms to mimic a classroom setting.

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Some friends that I have asked prefer learning from home due to its flexibility and promotion of self-directed learning. One of them pointed out that they can watch and rewatch recorded lectures to thoroughly understand the concepts being taught. In contrast, they struggle with the teaching speed during in-person classes and since everything is only mentioned once by the teacher, they have no way of going back to revisit class content. Online learning is the way to go for those who find it difficult to keep up.

Additionally, learning from home trains students to be independent and self-motivated learners. There are no teachers to monitor their progress every hour, which means they need to be diligent in organizing their schedules and devoting the appropriate amount of time to their learning. When they don’t understand something, instead of raising their hands and directly asking their teachers for clarification, they can proactively seek help online and discover answers for themselves. This is great preparation for college classes where it is heavily reliant on the student to chart their own course of learning.

The pandemic is here to stay and so is online learning. Instead of bemoaning the loss of in-person classes, let’s take some time to appreciate all the benefits that learning from home has brought.

Teresa Kwok, 15, South Island School

Home learning may have saved up your travelling time and provide flexibility for you during the coronavirus pandemic. However, online learning does more harm than good because of the following reasons.

First of all, it is hard for students to engage in lesson even though they turn on their camera and put away all the electronic devices. Students do not have interactive learning during online classes, such as doing experiments in school laboratories, using different tools to model different scenarios, since they do not have these experiences, they may not have a good understanding on what they are learning.

Secondly, students are tired to look at the screen for 6 hours in a day and it is hard for them to concentrate for a long period of time, especially they are not having interactive learning. Besides, students receive less support from their teachers because they cannot ask them questions immediately when they encounter difficulties. These factors may drag their learning progress and affect their exam results.

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Also, students have lost their social life. Students learn in school but also build up their social life and connections with their classmates. Although students can still facetime or text their friends through different social media, the ideal way is to meet up with your friends in school and chat with them during break time. Online classes fail to give a perfect social life to students.

Furthermore, students become lazybones because of the flexible learning schedule and it will be hard for them to adapt to the normal learning schedule during face-to-face class. In a way, students have the flexibility to learn whenever they want if they are disciplined. However, most of the students are procrastinators which they may prefer watching youtube or playing video games.

In conclusion, although online learning provides a flexible schedule, online learning does harm more than good in the long term, mainly because this will definitely affect students’ studies and their social life.

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