Although COVID-19 continues to sweep across the nation, the rollout of the first vaccine gives us a glimpse of a light at the end of the tunnel. Of course, it’s going to take quite some time for the vaccine to be readily available to every eligible citizen. Most countries around the world also look set to prioritize certain demographics when rolling out the vaccine.

Healthcare personnel and long-term residents in care facilities are to be the first group vaccinated in the UK, for example, with frontline essential workers and people aged over 80 due to be the next in line.

However, many people maintain that teachers should be given higher priority, due to the ongoing dilemma over keeping schools opens. While it’s unclear whether teachers and other essential frontline workers will be able to get the vaccine, it should enable schools to reopen with some level of enhanced safety.

Of course, the likelihood is that children will remain a fairly low priority in terms of rolling out the vaccine. As children have been statistically less likely to suffer serious complications due to COVID-19, they won’t be among priority vaccine groups. Despite this, children can still carry and transmit the disease, which means schools could continue to be a hotbed of COVID-19 transmission, even when teachers are vaccinated.

Should Students Continue to Study Online?

Since the coronavirus outbreak, a significant number of students have been learning online. When schools and universities were first closed in the initial wave, online platforms were launched in haste to ensure kids could continue their education. Since then, schools and colleges have had time to tweak their online learning portals to deliver even better online learning facilities.

Now, we’re beginning to see the benefits that come from learning in a virtual environment. As more children gain access to laptops or tablets and an internet connection, the widespread accessibility of online learning makes it a gamechanger.

In fact, online learning has been so successful in 2020 that many people predict this method of studying will continue in the long-term. While being educated online may be a fairly new experience for infants and high schoolers, university and postgraduate students have been taking advantage of virtual learning platforms successfully for quite some time. So, what exactly are the benefits of online learning and will it become a mainstay in the education sector?

The Benefits of Online Learning

At first glance, the benefits of online learning seem obvious but, look a little deeper, and you’ll see just how advantageous a virtual education can be:

1. Accessibility

When students attend school or university in person, they need to be situated fairly close to their educational institution. University students routinely move across the country to attend their school of choice, often racking up significant debts as they pay for housing. Similarly, being within the catchment area of a good school can add thousands of pounds to the value of a home.

With online learning, however, there are no geographical limits when it comes to where you study from. If you’re accepted into a prestigious university that happens to be 1,000 miles away, you don’t have to up sticks and move, unless you want to.

2. Personalised Learning

It is well-known that individuals have different learning styles, but it’s tricky for teachers to cater to the individual needs of 30 students in a classroom. Similarly, professors at colleges and universities can’t accommodate 300 individual learners within a two-hour lecture. Sadly, this makes it tough for personalised learning to take place.

When students are learning online, however, there is no limit to the resources at their disposal. Educators can create content ahead of time that enables students to choose how they want to learn. By incorporating personalised learning into the curriculum in this way, individual learning styles aren’t just respected; they’re actively encouraged.

This is a major benefit associated with online learning, and one that benefits adult learners too. Indeed, the ability to create your own schedule and learn in your own way when you’re studying an online MBA or an accredited Doctor of Business Administration online program, is one of the reasons they’re so popular.

3. Enhanced Technical Skills

We live in a digital age and so everyone needs to learn the relevant technical skills. Children are fast learners, which means they grasp new technology better than many adults. As any parent of a toddler will tell you, they can often navigate their way around a mobile phone or tablet before they can walk!

Online learning gives students the opportunity to develop their technical skills, regardless of their age. From pre-schoolers to secondary school and uni students; online learning gives you the opportunity to become proficient in skills that you’ll need to use every day for the rest of your life.

As technology continues to evolve, virtual conferences and live lessons are set to become increasingly commonplace, both in schools and universities. By starting at a young age, children will grow up learning these skills as second nature, which will stand them in good stead for the future.

Will We Ever Go Back to Classroom-Based Learning?

Although online learning will undoubtedly be a big part of the future, it’s unlikely to replace classroom-based learning in its entirety. The social aspect of school is important, particularly as young children begin to develop their interpersonal skills.

However, it is likely that virtual learning will become increasingly popular for undergraduates and postgraduate students. With increased access to courses, lower costs and personalised learning opportunities, the benefits of online learning can significantly outweigh the advantages of learning in a face-to-face environment.

While the changes we have seen in 2020 evolved in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this may have simply accelerated the changes we were already seeing in the education sector. As students look for better quality and a bigger return on their investment, online learning looks set to be a defining feature of higher education in years to come.

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