Experience versus convenience: offline or online learning?


Written by Sriyashree Padhy

The pandemic has brought upon several disruptions including the learning setup. Since I was (still am), a college student when the COVID pandemic hit, I’ll express opinions from my perspective.

The biggest reason for me to go to a college which is far away from my home was to experience the whole ‘independent living’ thing, to be (for the most part) responsible for my own self, among other reasons. There’s also the fact that a face-to-face interaction, even when one is enrolled in a college that’s in the same city as their home, provides some life experiences and lessons. You get to learn about the stuff that is not exactly verbally explainable, but can only be experienced. 

Face-to-face classes, or offline classes as we call it, are somewhat of a conventional mode of teaching, so many people feel more comfortable if they sit down in a classroom, with the teacher explaining concepts. Online conversation is somewhat of an inconvenience, as people usually prefer the face-to-face experience rather than being on a call where the teacher explains concepts and solves doubts. ‘Offline’ meetings and interactions provide solid information about what kind of a person you’re interacting with. You can know a lot about a person by just observing their posture. This is important for college students and their teachers alike, as the students can know their peers better, and the teachers can determine which student gets distracted easily.

But online modes of interaction do not offer this feature. And when there is any internet connectivity issue, you either miss out parts of what the teacher is saying, or even can’t attend the class altogether. This was stated by one of my friend Sruthi, who feels like online classes don’t hold the same appeal as offline ones, because you practically just sit alone, staring at a computer screen, wondering when this torture would end. And according to a paper published by American Economic Association, the evidence accumulated for the study indicates learning outcomes were reduced for students in the purely online section relative to those in the face-to-face format by 5 to 10 points on a cumulative final exam. 

Fundamentally speaking, there’s nothing wrong with online classes too. For people who feel uncomfortable asking questions in physical classes, online platforms provide a sort of anonymity, even though your classmates still do know you. Asking doubts in online classes doesn’t make these people feel self-conscious, or being judged for asking about basic concepts. Online classes also have an edge over the offline ones, where teachers can straight away block the troublemakers who disrupt the class, without having to wait for the suspension letter or the college administration to step in.

But if someone were to ask me or even my friends, I would definitely go for face-to-face classes. Classes are not just about the teacher droning on and the students listening; they’re much more than that. I want to have the freedom to straightaway ask my seat neighbour to give me her notes, in case I missed some part. Offline classes have also helped me establish a rapport with my teachers and classmates, which hasn’t been possible so far in online classes. 

Sriyashree Padhy is a 3rd year student pursuing her Bachelors in Technology degree from Vellore Institute of Technology, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India. She’s passionate about books, music and discussions on politics.

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