It’s no secret – and no wonder – that the start of the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools, colleges and even pre-schools to move to hybrid or even online-only education. With the end of the pandemic now finally in sight, you might think that online education will take a back seat again. However, that is probably not going to happen, here’s why.
In an interesting New York Times article examining the reasons behind the current labor shortage in the United States, Professor David Autor argued that “the U.S. doesn’t have a job quantity problem; instead, it has a job quality problem”. Whatever measure of workers’ welfare and security you adopt, Autor points out, US workers (especially those without a college degree) have it much worse than their counterparts in most other countries of similar economic and industrial status. It’s likely, therefore, that more and more workers will want to gain a college degree in order to improve their chances of landing a better paying job. Studying online makes it much easier to continue earning a living while working towards that degree and gives everyone access to higher education wherever they are, with no need to pay for transportation or move to a more expensive area.
It’s flexible and (kind of) accessible
Making course materials, lectures or any other kind of online environment accessible to all is hard, given that different students in the same class might have competing requirements. However, online education is often more accessible than in-person education to those with limited mobility, chronic pain or fatigue, as well as to those who have caring responsibilities for children or other family members. For instance, Adrienne Villareal, a graduate of one of the nursing practitioner online programs offered by the University of Texas at Arlington, recalls how much she valued having the ability to study after putting her kids to bed, which she wouldn’t have had in most in-person programs, which take place during the daytime. The importance of “online, open and flexible higher education” for achieving educational equality was even recognized by UNESCO, the United Nations’ Education, Science and Culture Organization, in a call to action published in 2015. To make online education as accessible as possible, lecturers should make sure that they use alt text on images and subtitles on videos, that they give their students plenty of breaks to avoid digital eye strain and that they remain as flexible as possible in accommodating students’ needs.
It can help those with social anxiety
The National Alliance on Mental Illness collated data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Mental Health and other sources and found that an alarming one in three U.S. young adults (aged between 18 and 25) have experienced a mental illness. Social anxiety has been made more common by the pandemic, and attending college online could help students with social anxiety gain an education. Of course, students need good support systems in place to ensure that they don’t become isolated during their degree.
Read also: Social Life In Online Education