Online learning replacing traditional education – a friend or foe?

To the many of you out there who are pursuing higher education, have completed some form of higher education, or are considering post-secondary learning: With the current age of technological innovation at the hands of such a globalized community, what do you think of technology’s’ collaboration into the world of education? Has this e-learning experience replaced the traditional ways of classroom lectures? If not, will it? Is technology replacing education really a friend or a foe?


Technology is transforming a new generation of education

Below is a short video interview with Sir Ken Robinson, an author, speaker, and educationalist. Sir Ken Robinson provides his opinion on how technology is transforming education. In the age where children are born into a generation of technological innovation unlike some of their educators, the concept of technological shift in education is no longer out-of-bounds. Sir Ken Robinson argues the need for teachers to reform the education system, using creative measures to build around technology and into the heart of education. Sir Ken Robinson has also created quite a visually uplifting presentation on a history of education systems and the changing paradigms to modern contemporary systems. Here is a quick link to the video for those interested!

Let’s break it down: pros and cons

Take a look at some advantages and disadvantages. It is hard to argue whether one is right or wrong, what is better or worse or even if something can be both good and bad. Keep in mind that what may seem like a disadvantage to one may be the perfect benefit to another.

Online learninghires1


  • Convenience: hurrah for saving on gas and public transport! Why not change the scenery and sit in the library, at a nice park, or even stay in bed. Live in a different country? Visiting the cottage? That’s no problem at all!
  • Time management: work is no longer in the way of your academic responsibilities. That’s the beauty of it – make your own schedule and pace yourself.
  •  Enhanced communication: discussion boards, emails, search engines…etc. you name it, someone out there will be more than happy to guide your studies.
  • Learning motivation: rather than being fed through a tube of endless textbook pages, students can discover, involve, and connect to the material themselves.
  • Variety: there are an abundance of degree programs and certificate courses offered. No matter where you are, there are classes offered for your convenience.


  • Self-discipline: do you have the motivation? The time management skills? (You see, time management can be both beneficial and detrimental!)
  • Communication: While some may argue there is a greater sense of communication between the peer-peer and peer-prof relationship, others that are of “introvert” personalities may beg to differ.

Traditional learning  WiersmaEngagingLecture1


  • Immediate interaction: lectures are prepared and directed immediately, whether through lecture slides, video examples, hands on experiments…etc. There is an immediate sense of opportunistic participation.
  • Discipline: within a fixed semester schedule, concepts are taught in a timely manner as not to overwhelm students.
  • Student interaction: there is an opportunity for those to form new friendships, study groups, or simply someone with similar interests.
  • Hands-on: For those hard to grasp concepts, sometimes the best solution is to get those hands tinkering!


  • Fixed structure: while one may catch on fairly quickly, the other may be grasping onto the concept barely by the tail. A fixed lecture schedule can’t be personalized to each and everyone’s needs.
  • Classroom discussion: Due to the amount of material some courses need to cover within fixed time frames, there may not be much room for student participation.
  • Process: The teacher is the authority to an existing curriculum, students are learning through standardized tests and sometimes outdated texts.

These are just a few that are important to myself although here is a link I found to a great comparison chart of many more advantages and disadvantages.


The race to the top

Coursera, a California company offering online college classes is among many in the rise towards higher education. Coursera is co-founded by Daphne Koller, a Computer science Professor at Stanford University. Dr. Kollers’ involvement with Coursera has enticed and inspired many. Her start-up program is brilliantly presented in this Ted Talk and Coursera has since partnered with 10 public university systems potentially offering online classes to 1.25 million more students. Universities joining the technological bandwagon include State University of New York, University of Colorado, University of Nebraska, and many more. With a flexible platform provided by Coursera, courses will be offered at lower costs, more efficient learning and increased graduation rates…etc. This will all be provided by Coursera through the rising introduction of available MOOCs (massive open online courses) that are a blend of traditional facilitated learning with modern technological resources.

Currently it has been reported by Marketdata Enterprises Inc. that 30% of higher education involve online course enrollment. This 6.2 million student enrollment is actually a 385% increase since 2002. Now imagine what these numbers might be now…this number is predicted to rise another 7% to 37% by 2015. Another survey by Babson Research Group also show that 32% of students take online courses at a certain point in their academic journey. Numbers aside, what does this all really mean? Take a look at the video below, it is a great summary of how the world has changed through the social media generation into a world of digital learning. In this day and age, no matter the generation you were born in, the time now is a technologically infused globalized society. Whether you are for or against a replacement of traditional standards towards modern digital resources, we are a midst a reformation to the education system – towards a digitally enhanced learning experience.


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