Saturday, December 9, 2023

How Online Learning Is Falling Short on Preparing Students for Future Careers

by Ivan Anthony A. Adaro | February 10, 2022

Learning and education are keys to success throughout one’s life, especially for career-oriented individuals who want to advance both personally and professionally. However, at some point in our professional lives, we might come to realize that there’s more to it than that. A college degree might be necessary for the careers we desire, a good resumé or certification record might be essential in order for us to work in the specific job we hope to apply in, and a strong academic background might increase our chances to have better career opportunities in the future. But another two notable factors that build the foundation of a strong and successful career journey are field experiences and practical skills that we should hone. And somehow, online education has robbed this from us.

Who would have ever imagined that we’d be told to vacate our schools immediately and board the earliest ride to our hometowns on a random and unsolicited day in March 2020? On short notice, classes were suspended, and instantly, the bright activities and cheerful people that added color to the campus vanished along with the unspoken goodbyes and canceled vacation plans everyone had hoped to do in the summer. As the news of class suspensions and border lockdowns flashed across all broadcasting network sites due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, the world instantly turned upside down. And as much as we assumed that COVID-19 would be over in just a few months, here we are, two years later, still confined in our homes and forced to enroll in online distance learning (ODL) courses whether we like it or not. Still, for us to reduce the spread of the virus, exercise good hygiene practices, and abide by the rules, we have no other choice but to stick to online classes and adapt to them.

As the new semester begins, the hope within us to have face-to-face classes remains higher than ever, but the increasing COVID-19 variant cases and travel restrictions derailed these hopes, which means we are to continue our learning virtually. And while it is true that switching to online learning is a great way for us to stay safe in this time of the pandemic and at the same time get the most convenient and quality education possible given the circumstances, it should not be a reason for the public to turn a blind eye to its drawbacks and how, in many cases, it has been falling short on preparing students for future careers.

Learning Online: The Reality

Nowadays, with the advancement of the world in the digital age, schools are taking advantage of advanced technologies that enabled online learning to be possible, including the opportunity and convenience of teaching and learning in real-time regardless of distance. But somewhere between the swiping and clicking, the digital face got so focused on building this technology that it has forgotten about the one thing that really matters in education: the personal interaction among the students and teachers. 

Online learning has removed the opportunity for students to learn from other students and the lack of physical interaction with the teachers has made the learning experience less dynamic. Establishing human interactions with other students and teachers and personally learning from them and exchanging direct feedback is at the heart of school experience, and, evidently, this is something online classes have greatly deprived students of. Currently, the most common type of interaction students experience in online classes is working in smaller groups, commenting on each other’s outputs, and engaging in live sessions. However, these are not enough and could never replace the real and tangible learning experience. These drawbacks are something that should not be ignored especially since collaborative and good team player skills are very essential in the work field. To be deprived of this type of school experience would be a very huge setback in the learning process for students, especially those who aspire to work in careers that involve communication and collaborative work.

However, more to the lack of interaction among the students and teachers, there is a much more profound reason why online learning is falling short in preparing students for their future career, and it is the fact that online learning has focused more on theoretical rather than practical learning, according to theorists and experts. What this means is that students in online classes are more likely to learn what the knowledge is about (theoretical) rather than how the knowledge learned needs to be implemented in certain real-life situations (practical). Frankly, that is the chief selling point of online education and this, in turn, leads to the deprivation of another key aspect necessary and essential in students’ future careers: practical skills and on-the-field work experience.

Lectures mostly do not take place at a specified time but are recorded as videos or podcasts. Assignments and quizzes are often done on a computer, and in turn, are often graded by a computer. Most of all, students are made to learn independently most of the time. What this means in practice is that the student takes the class alone. There is no immediate interaction between the professor and the students. It’s just a student sitting in front of a screen. This is the sad reality and one of the biggest drawbacks in online classes that makes students less equipped, practical, and prepared for their future careers. 

And if online learning is just a repeating cycle of listening to video lectures, doing school and paper works, taking quizzes online, and reading learning materials, how will that be ever enough to equip students with the necessary practical skills and on-the-field work experiences needed for their future careers? The reality is that it is not enough, says Sander Tamm, the founder and CEO of E-Student, a corporation dedicated to medical diagnostics and journalism. He claims that online learning indeed focuses more on the development of theoretical knowledge. Gaining practical skills and on-the-field work experience is what’s vital for the students, and those are things and values that a typical online class cannot offer. 

Tamm also pointed out that implementing hands-on student projects under one-on-one mentorship with a professional is one of the most effective ways for online learners to develop practical skills and field experience. This holds especially true for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students who have laboratory and field classes. With the proper prior planning and proper utilization of technology, successful practice-based online courses can be made possible. In fact, there have already been several successful practice-based online courses such as the event where Professor Aaron Volkoff, a science instructor at California Lakewood High School, successfully demonstrated how to monitor a heart rate using Zoom when his pupils complained that watching recorded videos and performing paperwork was not providing them with adequate skills needed for their future careers.

Post-Studies Woes

Finally, with more and more students graduating each year, the country’s basket of opportunities shrinks given our current economic situation. And truthfully, this is also a ballooning struggle for fresh graduates, as if finishing a degree without solid experience isn’t enough.

At this time of the pandemic, the public’s attention has mostly been drawn to the health and learning deficits experienced by the students. But on top of this, the student’s learning progress and future in their work careers and professional fields are just as important too. Online learning has its woes, even after two years since its pilot run. The students who were once college sophomores are now in their senior year, scrambling to get into internships and professional experiences they can grasp, all while the country’s education continues to pride itself on the progress that students cannot see. 

References

Cellini, S. (2021). How does virtual learning impact students in higher education? Retrieved February 8, 2022 from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2021/08/13/how-does-virtual-learning-impact-students-in-higher-education/

Klein, A. (2021). How Virtual Learning Is Falling Short on Preparing Students for Future Careers. EducationWeek. Retrieved February 8, 2022 from https://www.edweek.org/technology/how-virtual-learning-is-falling-short-on-preparing-students-for-future-careers/2021/03

Tamm, S. (2022). Biggest Disadvantages of E-Learning. Retrieved February 10, 2022 from https://e-student.org/disadvantages-of-e-learning/#online-instructors-tend-to-focus-on-theory-rather-than-practice

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