Why Online Classes are Not the Future of Education

Ally Stapleton, Editor in Chief

Teenagers are notorious for many things. Pure love of knowledge is not one of them.

Depending on who you ask, teens are rebellious, witty, social, secretive, angst-filled, petty, and/or resourceful beings. Rarely will someone say that they see teenagers as avid knowledge-seekers motivated purely by a love of learning. And this is because, in general, we are not.

Of course, teens, like any other human beings, can be passionate about certain topics and pursue them wholeheartedly. But, also like all other human beings, teens are indifferent towards many topics that they must learn about in order to earn a high school diploma. For this reason, online classes are not the future of high school education. High school students need something other than concepts and facts in order to enjoy learning. Only a real classroom can provide students with the engaging, dynamic learning experience that they need.

One of the major pitfalls of online classes is the lack of an actual teacher who knows each student individually and cares about each one’s success. A video of a teacher or written instructions on a computer screen will never be able to replace a real teacher. Some of the most interesting and memorable moments of the eleven years I have been in school came when the teacher strayed from the lesson plan to give the class extra information about a topic or to share a story or example from his or her life. A virtual instructor cannot stop to answer questions or tweak their teaching method based on how their students are responding, and they certainly cannot form the strong mentor relationships that develop between students and their teachers when they sit in a classroom together every day for an entire school year. They also cannot motivate students to complete work in the same way that real, live teachers do. Sometimes we need someone to stand over our shoulders and hold us to achieving our full potential. This is the irreplaceable job that only a real teacher can perform.

Interaction with other students is one of the most crucial elements of academic enjoyment and success and another thing that online classes cannot provide. The opportunity to socialize with friends is a major incentive for students to even come to school each day. Working through problems and questions with our classmates is a vital part of our education. It gives us skills that we will need both inside and outside the classroom for years to come. These skills cannot be taught by sitting in front of a computer screen. In order to become capable contributors to society, we need to be able to effectively communicate our ideas to other people in a variety of settings. We need to know how to make our voice heard in a discussion while also maximizing what we learn from the people around us. We need to be able to present our ideas in a confident, professional way that can convince others that we know what we are talking about. We need the ability to have respectful and productive one-on-one interaction with people we love and people we hate. Online classes do not equip us with any of these skills.

Online learning is certainly not all bad. It can serve as a way to learn about more subjects than are offered at typical high schools and solve certain scheduling problems. The online classroom is in no way equal to the real classroom, however, and it should not be considered a true replacement for traditional learning. Maybe someday teenagers will love learning so much that they do abundant amounts of extra work and outside research to supplement their textbooks and add more interesting, memorable bits of information to their array of knowledge.But until that day real teachers, fellow students, class discussions, real-time debates, and true classrooms will always be necessary.