Face Off: Will online learning replace traditional schooling?

  • 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, students discuss whether online lessons should replace the traditional classroom experience
Kelly Fung |

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Students have spent nearly a year doing their lessons online -should this be the new norm?

Teresa Kwok, 16, South Island School

People may argue that traditional schooling is more beneficial than online learning because students can interact face to face with their peers and teachers. However, as technology improves, online lessons may well replace traditional schooling one day.

Online learning is more efficient because students save both time and money on travelling, so can focus more on extra-curricular activities. They will also have more time to rest, so they will be able to concentrate better in class. In addition, students can set a more flexible schedule at home, meaning they can work at their own pace and develop self-discipline.

This is essential because, although teachers monitor students by camera, they cannot see everything students are doing, so students need to be more proactive, listen to what they are being taught, and make sure they understand the content. This also gives students the chance to come up with their own studying methods while still getting constant support from their teachers.

As for the lack of interaction with peers and teachers, students can connect online using virtual groups, such as Zoom and Google Meet. In fact, there may even be an increase in interaction because students can use different functions – such as chat rooms and screen-sharing – to boost classroom discussion. This shows that online learning could be more productive than having in-person lessons in school.

It may be time to consider replacing traditional schooling with remote learning.

Face Off: Should maths be a compulsory subject at school?

Yuhan Huang, 14, German Swiss International School

Online learning and traditional schooling both have unique advantages. Ideally, people should learn to make the best use of both systems. But in-person classes should not be replaced by digital lessons.

It is true that some professional courses are better held online since they are targeted towards busy adults who would prefer to learn from the comfort of their homes, after they finish work. School students, on the other hand, are a different story.

Social interaction is crucial for a young person’s healthy development, and it cannot be replaced with online learning. Students need to interact with their peers through face-to-face conversations, instead of typing messages on a computer. Much of what makes school fun for students, such talking to their friends or playing during breaks, is not possible online.

Teachers in a traditional classroom are also able to cater to the strengths and weaknesses of each student, especially those who are struggling, and can hide behind cameras and microphones during online classes.

The physical distance between students and teachers online can create an impersonal atmosphere. As a result, it may be challenging for students to have the courage to speak up, and for teachers to reach out to students.

During online learning, students also miss out on valuable resources such as laboratories and studios, which are essential for hands-on classes like the sciences and film courses.

The vital requirements of a working computer with stable Wi-Fi, along with a quiet, comfortable learning environment at home, are not available to everyone. What’s more, increased screen time has been linked to anxiety and attention problems.

Online learning, therefore, is not a practical replacement for traditional schooling.

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