Should e-learning replace conventional education?

Updated: Aug 28, 2018


Nanya Osamor



The proliferation of the digital age has raised questions about the significance of online learning in the world of education especially amongst remote, adult and special-needs students. While some use e-learning only for extra help and a further boost, some e-learners rely solely on the virtual classroom for their education. This revolutionary industry has seen a 900% market growth rate since 2000, highlighting its power and demand. However, is the efficacy and influence of e-learning enough to suggest that it could replace conventional education? To some, e-learning as the sole form of education might never be a feasible concept but let’s explore the pros and cons of this idea.



The benefits of e-learning are undeniable. Most importantly, it’s convenient for both students and teachers. With e-learning, there is no structured timetable which requires 8am-3pm attendance. The flexible nature of e-learning allows students and teachers to learn and teach based upon their availability. The creation of a flexible learning landscape promotes more enthusiastic learning, customised to fit their individual lives. A study has shown that 92% of students worldwide are interested in personalised support. Individuality is an important component to success in education.


Linked to this is the notion of active independence thus creating quality results. With the independence to study and learn when they want, students are subsequently more committed and motivated to do well. A study by the Research Institute of America highlighted the increase in retention rates of e-learning from 25% to 60%. However, conventional education retention rates are severely low from only 8% to 10%. Empowering students through independent learning gives them control and the motivation to produce better work.


E-learning is a more cost-effective form of education. As many platforms charge per session, students save money by learning when they want and need to instead of paying for a whole semester or a year of conventional education. A report published in 2012 noted that courses and sessions given through e-learning platforms were around £4,167 cheaper than classroom-based modules per person, on average. Not to mention, the reduction in energy and paper costs means that e-learning is good for the environment as well.


On the other hand, the reliance on pre-recorded tutoring does not allow the essential interactivity of in-classroom learning. Studies have found that interaction creates important relationships between teachers and students. In this way, it can be said that e-learning is rather limited if the sessions are pre-recorded only. Furthermore, the independence students are given through the pre-recorded virtual classroom opens up the possibility of laziness as there is a lack of control and discipline which justifies the high drop out rates.


The verdict:

E-learning is a beneficial means of extended learning or other education courses. However, the real evaluation lies in the difference between pre-recorded sessions and live tutoring. With pre-recorded sessions, students have the ability to pause, play and stop; this may be convenient in the short-term. However, the long-term evidence shows that there is a 90% drop out rate for pre-recorded sessions. Meantime, the emergence of live tutoring sessions allows the interactivity a conventional classroom would have. With real-time interaction, there is no doubt that e-learning has the potential to replace conventional learning.


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