Thursday 25 June 2015

Pros & Cons of Virtual Classroom

The virtual classroom has much appeal in the South African context. Distance learning offers distinct advantages, and promises a way to overcome some of the problems currently associated with particularly school education. Many South African schools lack the right facilities to give learners a meaningful and well-rounded education, so there is much to be gained from using virtual classrooms that are better appointed. Virtual classrooms can also help to overcome the problems of the lack of teachers and the lack of education that teachers themselves often have.

So let’s have a look at the pros and cons of the virtual classroom in the context of South African education.

The advantages of a virtual classroom

Better access to education

The most obvious advantage of a virtual classroom is that it overcomes the problems of geographic dispersion and allows people in remote areas to have access to education. With a virtual classroom there is obviously no need for physical attendance, which is a massive advantage for learners who live far away from physical schools or for rural schools that face challenges when it comes to access to learning materials and infrastructure.

Better access to equipment

One of the biggest challenges facing particularly rural South African schools is a lack of classroom equipment. One only has to think of a science classroom to realise the problem that this can pose – without proper equipment proper education becomes exceptionally difficult. So a virtual classroom that is well-equipped can overcome this problem. The virtual teacher is able to conduct the lesson using all the necessary equipment.

Independence and time management

For those who access a virtual classroom from home, where there is no teacher present, the experience can help to improve independence and time management skills. The learners are required to follow the lesson and complete any tasks that are required in their own time. While many might have parental supervision, all learners nonetheless have to learn to manage their time and to work independently of the classroom and teacher scenario in doing assignments set in the virtual classroom.

Decreased costs

By connecting to a virtual classroom a school or home can decrease the costs of education. For the school this would mean that they do not have to spend money on classroom equipment or learning materials as these are typically supplied inside the virtual classroom. For the family of someone connecting to a virtual classroom from home this would mean saving on school fees, school uniforms and sundry other school-related expenses.

Advanced and special classes

Many schools – especially those in South African rural areas or those that have budgetary and staff challenges – are unable to provide anything other than rudimentary education. They are not able to offer advanced classes in any subject and, on the other side of the spectrum, they do not have the facilities to cater for special needs learners.

Virtual classrooms can help to solve both of these problems. In the first instance, more advanced learners to can connect to a virtual classroom outside or instead of the actual physical classroom in order to get more advanced instruction. And special needs learners will be able to benefit from the technologies employed in a purpose-designed virtual classroom.

The disadvantages of a virtual classroom

Technology requirements

At the very least, accessing a virtual classroom requires some type of computer device and an Internet connection. These can be challenges, especially for learners in disadvantaged schools and areas. There may not be the infrastructure necessary for Internet connectivity. Similarly they may not have, or have access to, the necessary devices with which to connect and interact with the virtual classroom. This is a serious challenge to the virtual classroom model in South Africa.

Lack of face-to-face interaction

The benefits of face-to-face teaching are well-documented. Learners benefit from having a physical person with whom they can interact. This is one of the main drawbacks of the virtual classroom: its virtual aspect. While there remains the possibility for one-on-one teaching, the teacher is still at a remove from the learner and appears on a screen. This may result in a feeling of remoteness from the teacher, which can easily lead to the learner becoming distracted.

Additionally, if it is a one-way virtual classroom with the teacher unable to see the learners, the teacher has no way of seeing what is going on and responding to it.

The need for self-motivation

A certain amount of self-starter motivation is necessary for the virtual classroom experience to be a complete success. Learners have to motivate themselves to complete assignments and study, in the absence of a physical teacher with whom to interact. A teacher or parent may well be on hand to provide supervision and encouragement, but this is often not possible, leaving learners to attend the virtual classroom and complete assignments by themselves.

No comments:

Post a Comment