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The Impact of E-Learning on Student Engagement

written by: Natalia Brophy•edited by: Amanda Grove•updated: 8/31/2010

Online education or distance learning is becoming more and more popular every day. However, some skeptics say that e-learning is not as effective as traditional methods, because it has a negative impact on student engagement.

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    The impact of e-learning on student engagement depends on a myriad of factors. This article is going to discuss three of the most important of them: learning styles, personality and level of self-discipline.

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    Learning Styles

    One of the most important factors that should be taken into consideration is a student’s learning style. Learning styles depend on how our senses process the information. Everyone learns differently and while online learning may be the best choice for one person, it could be completely ineffective for the other.

    The three basic types of learning styles are: auditory (listening and speaking), visual (seeing and reading) and kinesthetic (doing).

    Visual learners tend to enjoy distance learning and get the most out of it while auditory learners often struggle. Even though the current online education environment is predominantly text-based, some teachers record lectures on video and post them online. Others schedule video conferences with the students. This not only helps students with an auditory learning style, but makes the online learning more personable and therefore, effective for the others.

    Since kinesthetic learners learn through doing or experiencing things, a traditional classroom environment is usually more inviting for them. Online educators can help them by implementing as many practical exercises as possible and encouraging them to post in classroom forums and discussion boards.

    The benefit of e-learning is that students can access a class or a course anywhere at anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They can post on discussion boards whenever they have time and usually as often as they wish. They can also email their teachers at any time instead of waiting for their office hours.

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    Personality

    Personality is another factor in determining the impact of e-learning on student engagement. For many people posting online is much less intimidating than participating in a traditional classroom setting, so they are encouraged to participate in discussions and share their opinion. Others prefer face-to-face interaction and they find it harder to express themselves while staring at the computer screen.

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    Self-Discipline

    There is a lot of debate about whether or not online learning is as effective as traditional methods, but everyone seems to be in an agreement that e-learning requires discipline. Students who lack self-discipline struggle and for the most part are not engaged as much as they would be in a traditional classroom setting. If they can’t motivate themselves to work independently, distance learning is not a good option for them.

    While the impact of e-learning on student engagement can vary greatly and some argue that it is in fact, negative, more and more schools and colleges implement it in their curriculum. Today more than 75% of colleges offer online courses or degrees and online public schools are not a rare commodity.

    Is the online education revolution going to replace the traditional classroom in the near future? Unlikely. Is e-learning going to continue to grow and improve? Undoubtedly.

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    References:

    Charlotte Neuhauser, "Learning Style and Efectivenessof Online and Face-to-Face Instruction". The American Journal of Distance Education, 16(2), 99-113. Copyright 2002, Lawrence Elbraum Associates, Inc.

    "Online Colleges". Edvisors Online Education Programs. August 31, 2010 <http://www.edvisors.com/colleges/>

    Steven R. Terrell, Ed.D., 'Supporting Different Learning Styles in an Online Environment: Does It Really Matter in the Long Run?" The University of West Georgia. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume VIII (2), summer 2005.