The Effectiveness of Online Learning Over Traditional in STEM

The desire for online learning became a necessity due to the advent of COVID-19. Primary, Secondary and Tertiary institutions switched to delivery of learning and study materials through the internet with the assistance of Education Technology. This has necessitated the need to revisit the public view on the effectiveness of online education, especially in higher education.
Some researchers have pitched a point of view that distance learning education through online delivery is better and more effective than traditional face-to-face learning through physical classroom delivery, while a report by Means, B. et al., 2009. disagrees with that view as they argued that students who have acquired knowledge through online learning methodology tend to be more productive than those who may have acquired knowledge via traditional learning methodology.
While both points of view can not be overemphasized. However, I believe that both views should not be argued in isolation of the course of learning in question. That said, some courses of study benefit the current technological innovation through online learning and others do not.
This study is aimed at understudying the effectiveness of online learning over traditional learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
With the understanding that learning a STEM course comprises not only classroom sessions, but also laboratory sessions and in some cases, it will require outdoor activities making will argue that it is difficult to learn science in an online setting. However, a report by Deshmukh, V. et al., (2012) argued that advancement in web technologies made online learning of science courses possible by assisting students to develop a better understanding of the concept and application of scientific knowledge. The innovation in virtual reality and augmented reality have made laboratory sessions possible, and classroom sessions can now hold remotely in a virtual classroom platform via the internet.
Deshmukh, and Forawi, (2012) reports also state the continued embracement of online learning in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) by both colleges and universities which now offer online courses. Even UAE Residents have come to terms with the method of learning and have begun to enroll in these online courses offered by these higher institutions. Among the few reasons he gave for the adoption and effective delivery method of online learning was the availability of e-learning technologies such as ebooks, podcasts, and blogs generally.
A report by Pitt, D. (2020) reported that the ineffectiveness of online learning is due to a lack of self-discipline in the area of class attendance and the inability for students to be able to interact during classes to ask their instructors or lecturers questions or further explanation on certain topics. Unfortunately, the argument is without the basis of technological research for web technologies that enable full virtual classroom options such as Vedamo Virtual classroom, bigbluebutton, or zoom video conferencing, where students can raise their hands to ask questions for clarification or explanation, students can also interact with both instructor and fellow students either via chat or by speaking through their microphone, some virtual classroom platforms like bigbluebutton has the feature of breaking students into groups for group discussion. While both physical face 2 face learning and online learning require a level of self-discipline in the area of class attendance, less discipline is required for online learning students because of their proximity to their phones or systems to effectively join class sessions, which can not be compared to face to face traditional learning where the student would have to consider timing and logistics to and fro the learning environment.
An article on revealed that the effectiveness of face 2 face learning over online learning is due to its combined methodologies of different aspects of learning which comprises group works, writing, discussion forums, etc. I understand the fears of this writer, however, most online learning platforms have designed and implemented different study activities to ensure that every component of learning is captured and this includes the discussion forum that is aimed that ensuring the student discussion among themselves by commenting or replying to the instructor’s question or that of fellow students. Also, the learning journal study activity by some institutions has incorporated the component of writing as students are generally encouraged to put in writing all they may have learned in the cause of the topic, module or week. This is outside the written assignment that students are required to type and submit before the due dates. As earlier mentioned, most virtual classrooms or learning management system encourages group discussion which can either be textbase or video discussions.