The pros and cons of online learning for higher education

Hailey Noecker is a sophomore at Montclair State University who’s trying to find a new normal as she fulfills 16 credits this semester from home.

“I’m a very hands-on learner and I’m missing out on that by being online,” she said. “I’m back at home and I’m in my room and it’s not that kind of school and life separation anymore. It’s really hard.”

Noecker an education major so part of her learning has to be hands-on in a classroom setting.

“I was supposed to start my field work this year and I was about a week into doing it and it was just cut off all of a sudden. It’s not that I’m concerned that I’m not going to fill those credits because a lot of professors have made it clear I can do assignments to make up for those hours that they weren’t able to complete. It’s just more of a concern that I will be going into my next classes not having that same experiences that other students have had,” she said.

It’s an issue that schools are aware of and are trying to address.

“As you know, nurses need to have clinical hours in order to progress. And teachers need to have in-class hours in order to progress. And we’ve had to rely on the accrediting bodies to give us some flexibility because those opportunities are not available right now,” said Monmouth University President Patrick Leahy.

But it’s not all negative. Educators are finding some silver linings in the new teaching system, says William Paterson University President Richard Helldobler.

“Some of our faculty are discovering things that they can do in an online format that you can’t do in a face-to-face format, and I think that will supplement or augment their teaching when they return to campus,” he said.

“They have opportunities to work at their own pace, in many ways, as opposed to showing up for a face-to-face class. Of course they are longing to return to their traditional collegiate experience of either staying in their residence halls, joining clubs, playing on athletic teams. I think they’re missing that. I think our graduating seniors in particular are missing some of the traditional things that they’ve got to do. We’re trying to give them a commencement virtually and then we’ll do a face-to-face at a later date,” Helldobler continued.

Students also feel there are some benefits to remote learning.

“I definitely think that accessibility has been a big plus of it. For a lot of my classmates, they were commuters and sometimes traffic would get in the way or they were running late and they wouldn’t be able to make it to class. Now there isn’t that problem because it takes about two seconds to log onto the Zoom call, so it’s a lot easier,” Noecker said.

Most schools have already moved their summer classes online. Now they’re just trying to figure out whether they’ll be back in the fall and what that semester will look like.