COVID-19, commonly referred to as “coronavirus,” is undoubtedly the biggest issue in the world right now. Due to the virus, many organizations are halting operations across the United States. These organizations, ranging from professional sports leagues to universities, are reacting to the pandemic with great caution.
U.S. colleges and universities are taking caution by trading face-to-face lectures for online-based instruction. This week, Albion College announced their switch to online classes, officially starting this past Monday.
In a generation defined by technological innovation, it is important to analyze the effects that online instruction has on learning. These effects, which are controversial in the educational realm, must be understood in order to best serve students during the unusual and unfortunate circumstances of COVID-19.
An MIT study, completed in 2012 by David Pritchard, MIT’s Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics, found that online learning may actually have benefits that exceed face-to-face learning. In this study, students who were taking an online physics course learned a greater amount than students who took the class in a traditional, lecture-based format. Furthermore, the study found that improvement among the online physics students was equal to or better than 65 previously studied traditional lecture-based classes.
While perhaps students learn more in online format, some educators are resistant to the change to online instruction.
“I do think there’s something very detrimental about taking a generation of students raised with a crippling technology addiction and putting them in a situation where the ability to resist that technology addiction drops to essentially zero,” said assistant sociology professor Matthew Schoene.
For a generation born into the internet revolution, the effects of online instruction might be profoundly different.
“I would predict that academic performance declines across the board,” said Schoene.
While professors have some concerns, students have their own worries.
“I don’t think I am going to like online classes, and I feel like it will be harder to find motivation,” said Cole Nelson, a first-year from Saline, Mich.
For students, finding this motivation may be key to success in online classes. Because COVID-19 is so dangerous, online classes are necessary. Motivation during this time will be imperative to the success of the online alternative.
Despite worries about the online format, Schoene is still optimistic that this is the best option going forward.
“In the spirit of social distancing, it seems that online classes are a prudent option, and perhaps the only option available to us,” said Schoene. “If students trust that their professors will do their best, and professors trust their students to take the online environment seriously, I have faith that we’ll make it through the semester together.”