The outbreak of the coronavirus, declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), presents people all over the world with a life-like challenge. The consequences for daily life are major for everyone. At the same time, the virus is a challenge to our adaptability and resilience. The crisis we are in now requires different ways of working, shopping, learning and communicating. Online shopping and social networking are not new to us, and neither is distance learning. But the corona crisis underscores the importance of research into online education and learning opportunities.
The education sector is responding to the home-stay situation with a rapid transition to online learning. However, in order to properly organize online education, it is first necessary to carefully consider the extent to which learners and teachers are prepared for this transition. Serious consideration must also be given to whether the usual way of teaching is still effective when it is transferred from the classroom to technological equipment. In addition, inequality increases as access to technology and digital devices comes into play. There are many learners who suffer from digital inequality in one way or another for example, because they do not have access to an internet connection or the equipment needed for distance learning. This virus outbreak widens the gap between those who do have access to digital learning opportunities and those who do not. Access is not evenly distributed and inequality is increasing.
Terms such as online learning, online teaching, distance learning often replace the more general term of distance education. There are many definitions of distance education: The American Distance Learning Association defines distance learning as the delivery of education and upbringing through electronic media, such as satellite, video, audio graphics, computer, multimedia technology, etc. Distance education refers to the teaching and learning environment in which the students and the teacher are geographically separated and rely on electronic devices which allow the access to classes, meetings etc.
Distance education has several characteristics:
– It provides two-way communication between a teacher and students;
– Learning control is performed by the student himself, not by the teacher.
– Collaboration is one of the biggest challenges in distant education and the purpose of the teacher is to increase cooperation among students.
– Students and teachers can easily make connections with each other through e-mail and various teaching platforms or other means of communication such as Whatsapp, Messenger etc.
– Student orientation is another advantage of distance learning. Although teachers still play key roles in creating and organizing courses, the students themselves decide on the direction, scope and duration of participation in activities by their own choice. Teachers set goals and facilitate the learning process, and students discover content and solve tasks or participate in projects
Another characteristic of distance learning is that there is a huge number of resources on the internet and the students work at their own pace. Thus, the walls of the classroom are eliminated and in this way the obstacles of where, when, who can participate in education. This is very helpful to individual students living in remote areas, on condition that they have access to the internet and also owe a device to work on.
Multimedia technology provides an environment for teaching and learning which is authentic and more realistic than a traditional classroom because students can access current databases and communicate quite easiy. The teaching content in distance education can be transmitted through printed correspondence, tapes and radio programs, slides, films and videos, real-time moving images graphics, educational television and video recordings, teleconferencing, audio / video conferencing and computer conferencing.
Multimedia has a number of benefits for language learning:
- a more authentic language learning environment is created because listening is combined with viewing, just like in the real world;
- skills are easily integrated because the diversity of the media allows naturally
combining reading, writing, speaking and listening into one activity;
- Students have great control over learning as they can choose for themselves the
appropriate level, as well as going back or going forward to different parts of the lesson;
- the main advantage of multimedia is that it facilitates the initial concentration of attention on content, without wasting attention on language forms or learning strategies. For example, while the main lesson is in the foreground, students can have access to a variety of links in the background allowing them quick access to grammar explanations, or exercises, vocabulary, glossary, pronunciation, questions which encourage them to choose the appropriate learning strategy.
Online education is a reality whether we like it or not. It has both advantages and disadvatages and although at the moment, the focus is mainly on technology and tools, ultimately humanity and compassion are the most important factors.