Though we’re well into the 21st century, online learning is uncharted territory for many students. There are several reasons for the relatively slow adoption of live web-based classes, but most of them are rooted in the following two concerns.
- It’s not as effective as in-person learning (e.g., in the classroom or at a table with a private tutor).
- The lack of physical proximity to the instructor means students are less focused and accountable.
Let’s address each of those, and show how online learning works for most students just as well as––if not better than––traditional learning modes.
First, the tutors and course instructors at Method Test Prep (myself included) can attest firsthand to the fact that the majority of students can learn, absorb, and use information through a web-based private tutoring session or course just as thoroughly as they can do so through in-person learning. Through our teaching experiences and the score improvements our students have achieved after working with us through our online platforms, we have discovered that students who are engaged and invested in the process (just as they would need to be if they were working with us in person) will be able to raise their scores just as significantly. The key is that the instructors have to be seasoned educators who have experience with teaching online––the web-based platform does require some tweaking to teaching methodologies. Once we are confident in our instructors, we are confident that they can optimize the effectiveness of online learning for their students.
Second, lack of meeting in-the-flesh does not preclude focus and accountability, so long as the tutor has the know-how to maintain his or her students’ concentration and knows what questions to ask to determine whether students are really “getting it”. Once again, this depends on experience and training, two things that are crucial no matter what type of test prep one seeks. Simple but important approaches––like asking students how to explain their method of solving questions even if they answered them correctly, or taking time to do wisely chosen in-session exercises––help us ensure that students are doing the right things on their end.
Once the myths that hold online learning back are debunked, we can begin to recognize the benefits of web-based prep. Here are the five most important upsides.
- Greater student engagement in classroom settings. Anyone who has ever taken a high school class knows that getting students to participate––a key element of constructive learning––can be akin to pulling teeth. Much of this difficulty stems from peer pressure: students are afraid of looking silly or stupid in front of their cohorts. But when students take an online course, they’re doing so in a comfortable environment (usually their own home), and don’t physically see the other students (though they can interact through a live chat). In this way, many students become less sheepish and more willing to volunteer answers, even if they frequently get things wrong. Other features of online classrooms––such as interactive anonymous polls––help students gain comfort with volunteering answers.
- Recording the sessions. When an in-person session wraps up, that’s it: students walk away with whatever they have written down or internalized. This leaves a lot to chance. Online classes, however, may be recorded and shared. In this way, students can always go back and reference something that wasn’t clear the first time, or review to absorb things they may have missed the first time around.
- Convenience. If you’ve got a computer and internet in your home, you don’t need to leave the house to learn online. No traveling means more time to devote to learning, and no cancellation due to things like inclement weather or car breakdowns. Even students who are under the weather and would have canceled the session to rest may feel okay with meeting online, as they don’t have to leave the house. No traveling can also mean greater scheduling flexibility, especially for those families and tutors with very busy schedules.
- Access to the best instructor for you. Geography can be a limiting factor when seeking just the right tutor or course. Online sessions remove the barrier of location, linking students to great tutors and course instructors no matter where they are in relation to one another.
- Enhanced interactivity. Because online sessions can involve sharing any screen or app, tutors can quickly cycle between a document (such as a sample ACT), a blank whiteboard, a picture or figure, and a graphing application. Furthermore, students can be given the controls to draw and manipulate figures. This increases engagement and enriches the learning process.
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