As the world struggled through the COVID-19 pandemic and organizations were forced to change the way they operated, students all over the world shifted online to continue their studies. Online teaching and learning are not new, but the changes wrought by the pandemic in 2020 might be here to stay.
For years, tertiary institutions have embraced technology to facilitate learning, with online learning platforms delivering courses via recorded lectures, video, wikis, chat rooms, and other online resources. Previously, the only choice prospective students made was whether the content of a course aligned with their study and future career goals. Now, students must also decide whether to take on-campus, recorded (asynchronous), or live online (synchronous) classes.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing numbers of students were choosing to study online instead of attending on-campus classes. Online classes are an attractive option, particularly if you live a long way from campus or if you work.
Instructors are often the difference between a good or an average on-campus class, but students often do not consider how much an instructor brings to online classes. Some students choose recorded classes and regret it. Understanding what an instructor brings to your online courses is important, particularly for students who are choosing technology courses.
Questions Questions Questions
There is an old saying in learning that the only stupid question is “the one that isn’t asked.” But if you choose to take a recorded class, how can you ask a question? You can, of course, email the course coordinator, but then you have to wait for a reply and sometimes it never comes.
When taking a live online class, you can ask questions and get a response immediately. It is no different from an on-campus class. In addition, other students attending the class might ask questions that you hadn’t thought to ask.
When taking introductory technology courses, students often find that some of the concepts are difficult to grasp. Technology courses can be overwhelming for new students without a strong IT background, particularly the foundation courses such as network+ certification. These courses teach important skills, and they also provide a base for students who wish to take future courses. If you choose a recorded class, you might find such courses difficult. You might not have the first clue about how to configure a wireless network, for example. Taking a live online class means you can stop the instructor if you don’t grasp a concept and ask them to give a deeper explanation. You can ask questions.
Students taking introductory IT courses are often inexperienced and might need additional time and assistance in order to grasp foundational concepts. Live online classes make that possible.
There are some technology courses that benefit from a practical approach to learning. For example, the Security+ certification teaches troubleshooting in a “hands-on” environment. Students learn problem-solving best practices by doing, not just by listening.
They often do the work “live” and, as with any learning task, sometimes they need help. For practical courses like CompTIA Security+, you need an instructor who can direct your learning and give immediate feedback to ensure you understand the concepts and processes that help you complete each task.
There is a strong body of research that shows feedback and reinforcement are pivotal to learning success. Importantly, learning is best facilitated if the feedback or reinforcement is immediate. The longer it takes for the feedback to be delivered, the less likely that students will retain the information.
Students who take recorded classes might get a few written notes on work they submit, or they might simply get a grade. That is not really learning.
During live online classes, instructors “prompt” students toward the correct answer in class, and this has a dramatic impact on student learning. It is not possible for an instructor giving a recorded class to prompt students.
All students want to know their progress, and a live online class gives students the opportunity to check their understanding with instructors immediately. The feedback students receive is no different from the feedback they receive in an on-campus class.
Beginning with Socrates, students have learned through question and answer – in other words, through discussion. In a live online class, students have the same relationship they have with an instructor in an on-campus class. The instructor asks questions, and the students offer answers.
More than that, the flow is two-way. Not only can students listen and learn from the instructor, the instructor can listen to – and even learn from – the students. Instructors gain feedback from students during live classes that they would not receive from a recorded class. Sometimes instructors explain a concept that is difficult for students to understand. The instructor only knows this if the students give feedback. Instructors can then modify the content to ensure that students learn the required skills.
A good instructor will facilitate this “back and forth” to ensure students achieve the best possible learning outcomes from each course.
Students usually learn from three sources: the instructor, the textbook/course materials, and other students. Sometimes people in a similar situation (students taking an introductory course who want to work in IT security) can teach each other. For example, one student may have found a better method for solving a problem than the one described in the textbook.
In most online classes, students can interact with each other, not just with the instructor. If you take a recorded class, you have very little or no interaction with other students. A recorded class removes one of the three sources of student learning.
Online Certification Courses
Many technology certification courses teach students skills they will use in the workplace, but they also give students the knowledge they need to pass certification exams. If you are taking a course such as the CySA+ certification course, you need to gain specific skills – how to configure and use threat-detection tools, for example – in order to pass the exam and gain certification.
Learning such skills is almost impossible if you simply try to follow a guide, whether that is a textbook reading or the instructions from a recorded lecture. You need to ask questions, attempt the work, make mistakes, and then learn from those mistakes. This is often not possible, or very time-consuming if you do not have someone to guide you.
Online instructors can give you immediate feedback, help you learn from your mistakes, and check your work to ensure it meets the standard required to pass the certification exam. In a live online classroom, you get a second chance if you make a mistake. You do not get a second chance in a certification exam.
Having an instructor in the “room” during a live online class is an invaluable resource. They guide you, provide personal, immediate feedback, and they can answer questions that may not be covered by the course materials. If you choose to take an online course with recorded
lectures, none of this is possible. Taking live online classes is the smart option if you want to get the most out of your online learning.