The Impact of Online Learning on College Students

“You don’t have to be a genius or a visionary or even a college graduate to be successful. You just need a framework and a dream.”

Michael Dell 

Rapid development of technology has brought a lot of interesting and useful innovations into different spheres of our life. Education has also seen a range of various technological advancements, eLearning being one of them. In fact, it has been practiced long ago by some college students, who specifically opted for such a mode of gaining knowledge due to a variety of factors preventing them from attending in-person classes.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic that broke out in March 2020 has made online learning the common mode of life. With all the restrictions, banns, and demands of social distancing imposed by the governments worldwide to protect people’s lives and prevent the spread of the virus, students around the world just had no choice. All the educational institutions were forced to switch to eLearning, facing certain obstacles and limitations, struggling with inconveniences, learning to overcome them, and finally defeating all those hindrances, which resulted in a smooth, tried and tested process we all have already got used to.

Indeed, the “no-other-way-out” situation urged IT specialists, educationalists, and other relevant stakeholders to devise new ways of doing things, improve the technological capacities, develop new software, programs, and curriculums, and design novel methodologies. As a result, the educational sector nowadays is entirely adjusted to solely online teaching and learning, with many people not seeing any reason for getting back to traditional in-person interactions.

Nevertheless, the time has come to assess the impact of eLearning on college students and calculate all the possible losses and gains.

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Virtual vs Online Learning

To start with, let’s get it straight with the definitions. eLearning is often called “virtual.” However, the concept is not really accurate when it refers to online educational interactions, and a lot of professionals get offended and demand differentiation between the two since their interchangeability often leads to serious confusions.

In fact, the term “virtual” means something that is not “actual” or not real. In contrast, when we talk about “online learning,” we oppose it to in-person classes and engagement. Nevertheless, it IS real and actual, taking place in real time. Therefore, it is important to distinguish the terms and stop saying that eLearning is virtual.

Now, let’s evaluate the effect of online learning on college students’ personal and academic lives after more than two-year-long lockdown.


The Impact of Online Learning on College Students

In fact, the issue has been vastly studied and researched from various perspectives and under different angles. Frankly speaking, the results are quite varied. While this mode of learning is generally beneficial for young people’s technological proficiency and readiness for the unexpected, a considerable unfavorable effect is noticed in academic and social aspects of their lives, which may serve as an alarm bell for concern.


Positive Impacts of Online Learning


Technological Proficiency

In a world that is becoming more and more dependent on technology, skills of using it are undeniably some of the most important ones. While today’s youth is gadget-reliant anyway, the majority of their skills mostly revolve around posting and messaging on social media platforms or googling.

During the prolonged period of being locked in their homes with only a computer, a laptop, or a tablet to gain knowledge, students had no other choice but get acquainted with and master the use of a myriad of useful tools like Zoom, Moodle, Trello, Mural, Momentum, Canva, Adobe Captivate, Quora, and a whole lot of other databases, communication channels, research and sharing platforms, and apps. There is no need to explain how valuable these skills will be in their further studies as well as the future career.


Preparedness for the Unexpected

When COVID-19 broke out, the life of the entire planet has come to a halt. No one knew what to do with that sudden and strict order to stay home and stop all the interactions with the outside world. The educational sector got literally paralyzed for several days until the first attempts to adjust the learning process were made.

Today’s students will not panic and wonder what to do and how to act in case of a sudden interruption since they already know it. Instead, they will reach out for the familiar tools and set their environment to study mode again. The situation has also taught them to be more stress-resistant, which is another valuable characteristic that will come in handy in their future life. The pandemic outbreak as it was as well as all the possible technological interruptions and hindrances that they could experience at the onset have prepared college students to any unexpected situation that can occur.


Negative Impacts of Online Learning


Declined Performance

Since 2021, about a year into the pandemic and the worldwide lockdown, a lot of scholars have tried to assess how online learning affects students. Numerous studies focused on the academic performance in the first place, and the results are generally far from being encouraging. Findings from different countries suggest that eLearning results in lower student overall performance, final exams results (about 0.2 standard deviation), and course completion.

Of course, such a decline could be explained by personal characteristics when less disciplined students select online courses instead of in-person classes and fail to try their best or differences in instructions, assignments, and lecture content. However, there are several examples of experiments when professors divided students into online and in-person groups randomly at their own discretion, without considering specific personal characteristics, and provided absolutely identical materials, assignments, and exams to both. Under the same circumstances, students from online classes demonstrated much lower results and attained lower final grades than the ones from the in-person classes.


Overreliance on Technology

While being tech-savvy is beneficial for any student, overreliance on technology can also have a rather detrimental effect, especially in extreme cases. As can be seen from the situation in different corners of the world, wars, natural disasters, and other calamities cause substantial disruptions and can even lead to massive blackouts, which means nonworking electronics, the absence of internet connectivity, and inability to charge any gadget.

Unfortunately, today’s youth has become too technology-dependent and totally unadapted to life without it. Very often, they lack any skills of survival in the wilderness, having some slight idea about using brick-and-mortar libraries and print books or working in the field. So, in case of any calamity, they can literally find themselves in the middle of nowhere, not knowing how to resume the study process.


Declined Socialization Skills

Another drawback of technological dependence is the declined ability to socialize in real-life situations. Today’s young generation has reached the top-level mastery in finding people online, getting acquainted, posting, commenting, and replying to these comments on social media platforms, and typing with lightning speed. However, the need to interact with someone face-to-face often poses a considerable challenge. Even after the forced lockdown, the life will hardly get totally restricted to online operations and activities (hopefully!). Students need to get a real-life experience of approaching someone on an important question, negotiating, resolving disputes, and solving other issues, a skill they, unfortunately, often lack.


What’s in the Impact?

The paper writing service specialists also list some other benefits of eLearning for students like the improved attendance, availability of study materials, or the opportunity to become more self-disciplined. At the same time, a sense of isolation, increased screen time, and self-reliance are among the main drawbacks. However, all these are mostly advantageous and disadvantageous factors that contribute to the overall effect on students. But while the general impact of online learning on college student is two-sided, the negative effects can be much deeper, more serious, more numerous, and more far-reaching than the positive.



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Hi, I’m Anna, a travel loving wife to Tristan and Mother to 6 year old twins Poppy and Tabitha, their 3 year old sister Matilda, and together we are Twins and Travels.

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