Distance education is already part of the daily life of students around the world. Last spring, the pandemic forced schools to rethink their way of educating in record time. This year, the majority of schools and universities have opted for a hybrid model, promoting online education but without completely renouncing face-to-face courses. What are the advantages of this educational format?

Yancy Vaillant, TBS Professor of Strategy, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, explains that he sees this format as an opportunity for students to gain autonomy. “With the changes to a much more ‘action-based’ training, we will be able to offer opportunities for experiences through which many lessons can be learned,” argues Vaillant, although he emphasizes that the students the ones who must exploit the experience to the fullest.

According to the professor, the good use of digital tools- in combination with traditional ones- if done properly, increases the possibilities in terms of types of learning. “Training today can be much more adapted to the needs of both the student, with more personalized training, and the job market, with the growing importance of soft skills. He adds that greater digitalization opens the doors for schools like TBS to achieve the previously inaccessible challenge of teaching not only ‘knowledge’, but also ‘know-how’ and, above all, ‘how to take action’.

Many researches highlight that students tend to improve their learning results through online training. Some authors consider that distance education is born to overcome different gaps, either social, economic or geographical. If there is something that all the students agree on, is that working from home saves them a lot of time in displacements, a time that they used to spend in trains and buses and that now they can dedicate to other activities.

Even so, not everything is an advantage, the main disadvantages of online teaching derive from the lack of physical contact between students and teachers. The sensations and emotions that are transmitted face to face are very difficult to establish at a distance. That is why most educational centers try to maintain, as much as possible, the seminars or the face-to-face lessons, in order not to lose contact with students. The main disadvantages that can be caused by online learning are impersonality of communication, lack of motivation or loneliness.

Despite these advantages, online education is still stigmatized and still has the image of being ‘worse quality’ than face-to-face learning, even though academic research says otherwise. Charles Hodges, Stephanie Moore, Barb Lockee, Torrey Trust and Aaron Bond in The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning, explain that there is also a need to differentiate well-organized online learning experiences from online classes offered in times of crisis or disaster. While many institutions in March had to adapt as best they could to the circumstances, in a few months they have had to completely reorganize and change their educational model to take full advantage of the online format.

Similarly, Vailland explains that the change is significant and that getting the maximum benefit requires a change in culture, both on the part of higher education institutions, their administrations, their professors and researchers, as well as on the part of the students. “The urgency and rush in which the current transition has occurred leaves much to speculation that few will optimize the possibilities that this unique opportunity offers,” he concludes.

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