While developing a course for school teachers, I’ve had several discussions with teachers to find out why some of them are reluctant to teach online. For this article, I’ve extracted some of the most commonly mentioned criticisms. I would like to respond to these claims with my own opinions. These answers are, therefore, subjective, but they’re also based on my extensive experience building online courses in a corporate setting and seeing online courses in use – a background that most of the critics do not have. Also consider taking a look at this site.
Are you a teacher? Would like to give online teaching a try? I offer a free, 6-lesson email course.
Teaching Online Takes Too Much Time and Effort
Skeptic teacher: “After teaching in class, supervision, administrative duties and preparation work, I don’t have the energy [to build an online course]”.
I believe that. Really, I do. Of course you are tired after work, I get that.
What I don’t believe is that a software engineer with a stressy job in an IT department has an easier time finding the energy to sit down at night and on the weekends to create courses. Teaching online is not a piece of cake for a professional who’s working 50 hours a week and then needs to take care of the family either. If you want get out of the corporate world, you still need to sit down and do the work. If you want to teach online, if you’re tempted by the potential benefits of teaching online, you absolutely need to accept responsibility: You’re not going to teach online unless you create courses. It’s not going to happen by itself.
Don’t waste energy on finding reasons for why it can’t work, and don’t be a victim. Find ways to make it work! Allocate time slots to your online teaching throughout your week. Cancel TV and work on your courses instead. Others before you have done it successfully – and so can you.
Online Courses Lack Quality
Skeptic teacher: “Teaching online is a second-rate way of teaching where personal interaction is missing”
The way this is phrased should already tell you that this is an inaccurate generalization. The truth is this:
The quality of an online course completely depends on the instructor behind the course.
This is actually no different to a classroom course – or are you trying to tell me you’ve never experienced a bad teacher in a classroom? There is no bigger impact on course quality than the knowledge, skill and experience of the instructor. A course teacher decides about the technology used, the amount of interaction, the teaching methods and the structure of the course. Offline or online doesn’t make a difference.
Obviously, adaptations are needed when taking classes online. Not everything that works in a classroom works online. However, that doesn’t mean that there will be no personal interaction. There are all kinds of technological means, and yes – they’ll be different from talking face-to-face in a classroom, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable. In fact, some participants prefer interacting online over classroom interaction.
There’s a reason for the tremendous success of social networks. People like interacting with others, and they over the course of more than a decade, they got very used to doing so online. Online coaches have been using webinar-style tools for years to use in online meetings. You may be skeptical about cameras and networks, but in the end, it’s still personal interaction between people on both sides of the connection. More and more platforms are adding video (think Facebook live) and online and offline interaction is getting more and more similar as technology progresses.
Teaching Online Only Works For Adults
Skeptic teacher: “Teaching online doesn’t work for children”.
First of all, who says children are your only target group anyway? If you’re a school teacher, your knowledge is valuable to a lot of people.
Secondly, I’m not at all sure that the statement above is true. Granted, children won’t sign up for paid courses online and then sit down in front of the screen for an hour a day to study. On the other hand, even children use smartphones from a very young age these days and they are extremely familiar with digital media. Who says you couldn’t design children-friendly learning activities online that parents would love? I’m actually quite certain there’s huge opportunity there.
Online Courses Don’t Teach Critical Thinking
Skeptic teacher: “It isn’t like you can put a 12-year-old in front of a computer and they will know instantly how to find the information. How will they know a valid source? What can they do with this information? All of this needs to be taught”.
To this day, I do not understand the argument that this person was trying to make. How is this different in the classroom? I could stand in the classroom and teach complete nonsense. How would students know? The education system defines school teachers as trustworthy sources of knowledge. If the same teacher taught online, would that mean that the knowledge taught is less valuable online than in the classroom? Of course not. The only difference is that there is no authority that lends credibility to online instructors. And of course this means that untrustworthy individuals can also teach online. This is a problem with untrustworthy online instructors – it’s not a valid criticism of online teaching. If it was, then one bad example of a bad school teacher would suffice to claim that teaching in classrooms doesn’t work.
If good teachers teach critical thinking, then offline or online doesn’t make much difference. Again, the determining factor is the instructor’s quality of teaching.
Teaching Online is Inefficient
Skeptic teacher: “Teaching online is inefficient”
For some topics, it may be. You’re obviously not going to learn to play tennis in an online course. However, maybe your course isn’t aiming to teach tennis players. Maybe you’re creating a course for sports commentators who need a detailed knowledge of the rules of tennis – and those could be taught very well using an online course.
If you’re still doubtful, ask yourself this: Would corporations be using eLearning to the extent that they are if it was inefficient? I don’t think so.
eLearning hasn’t replaced classroom training and it will not do so in the future. There will always be cases where classroom training is more useful, cost-effective and efficient. But there are also many cases where online courses make a lot of sense.
Online Courses Don’t Teach Soft Skills
Skeptic teacher: “Information literacy, for example, is a soft skill you might learn in English or History class as part of a research paper. How do you teach that online in a way that is as meaningful as in person?”
I would like to play that ball right back. Why would teaching information literacy not work online? Where exactly is the difference? If you want information literacy to be part of the skills your course teaches, you’ll just design your course in a way that makes this possible. You can have the same kind of interaction with your learners online, you can ask the same questions, get learners to critically question information – it’s your course design, you decide.
Skeptic teacher: “It sounds like you’re interested in helping people convey specific content knowledge, the type that you just “sit and get.” If that’s the case, online learning makes sense. It’s not the same thing that classroom teachers do though”
This is a statement of somebody who has never looked into modern eLearning and online teaching and is repeating false claims based on bad examples of online courses. Quality eLearning is all about interaction. When creating online courses, you should always aim for making the experience for your students about applying what you teach. Interactivity and interaction between students and teachers help learning retention and if it’s missing, your students will not take away what they otherwise could.
Teaching Online is an Evil, Profit-Oriented Scheme
Skeptic teacher: “Isn’t this profit-oriented?”
Teachers often chose their profession because they want to educate children give them a head-start into the world. When facing the option of making money from teaching, they feel this is somehow wrong.
The thing is this: You also get paid for teaching in schools. Even if you wanted to do it for free, you still have bills to pay. University students pay a lot to gain access to a professor’s knowledge. Professors are paid for teaching at universities. So why would it not be ok to be paid for offering a quality course online? I think as long as you’re helping your learners, there’s no ethical conflict. If people are happy to pay for your course, it means that the benefits for them are greater than the costs. Why would you take the benefits away from them?
Teaching Online Will Ruin Public Education
Skeptic teacher: “The movement [towards online courses] is rooted in a profit-motive mindset rather than education-motive mindset. Virtual learning is a way to put public schools out of business This will ruin public education”
No it won’t. Why would it? First of all, we’re not talking about replacing public schools at all. Public schools are recognized by governments and even if online courses wanted to take over, they couldn’t. We’re talking about you, the teachers, teaching online. There is no evil, secret power in play here. If you are not aiming at putting public schools out of business, then that is not an aim of your online course. If you’re not aiming to offer bad-quality courses, you can expect your courses to have decent quality. If your motive is education, then your courses will be educative. The quality of your course is completely up to you. There is no reason why the educational quality of your course should be lower than your classroom activities.
Is teaching online profit oriented? Yes, very often, it is. So is selling stock photos online, and yet we’re happy that we gain easy access to high quality images. Selling eBooks is profit-oriented, but I for one like the easy access to information it provides. Profit orientation is not a contradiction to education orientation. Profit orientation is a side effect of having to pay bills. If you’re lucky enough not to have to worry about paying bills, offer your courses for free and a lot of learners will be happy about that.
Critics of online courses sometimes seem to compare the worst online courses to an ideal teacher in a classroom. Not exactly a fair comparison. I don’t think online courses will ever completely replace classrooms (nor should they), but they’re an excellent extension and can work as a replacement for many topics. Dismissing online courses for a variety of prejudices is neither fair nor reasonable.
Are you a teacher? Would like to give online teaching a try? I offer a free, 6-lesson email course.