The current Covid-19 pandemic has brought about an extensive rethink as to how we organise our daily lives both individually and collectively. Where, when and how we work, travel and socialise have been subject to severe enforced restrictions which have curtailed many daily activities which we previously took for granted. This is no more the case than in the world of education at all levels with the closure of schools, colleges and universities potentially curtailing learning opportunities and detracting from the educational experience.
The response of educational providers to the challenge presented by the pandemic has been to offer various versions of online learning. This is hardly new: the Open University has been successfully delivering its distinctive form of blended learning (television lectures and textbooks supported by summer schools) for more than half-a-century while correspondence courses had a proud tradition of extending educational opportunities in the pre-digital age. There was a marked expansion in the private provision of online leaning in the years immediately preceding 2020. However, the degree of success achieved by providers in maintaining continuity of learning during the Covid-19 crisis has differed markedly and been subject to much adverse criticism. At school level it has been pointed out that pupils do not have equal access to home computers or have sufficient domestic space to engage in uninterrupted learning while university students feel ‘short changed’ by being excluded from campus while still being charged substantial fees . Some of these various deficiencies have been exacerbated by inept or unsympathetic implementation of revised modes of delivery and lack of union cooperation, but the realities of the current situation invites an objective appraisal of the benefits and shortcomings of Face-to-face teaching compared with Online delivery.
Traditional Face-to-face teaching whether in the classroom ,lecture hall or tutorial room continues to be the predominant mode of delivery under normal circumstances and students continue to enjoy the chance to interact with their peers and teachers. Immediate feedback on their progress can be obtained and many students value the opportunity to engage in learning in a distinctive place away from home: they identify with their learning community. However, for mature and part-time students in particular traditional teaching is increasingly an unattractive option. The costs, time and sheer difficulty of travel to a specific location often acts as a powerful disincentive to those seeking new or additional qualifications while the reality of juggling employment with domestic and family responsibilities makes attendance at a set class at a set time an impossibility. It is here where the online delivery of courses can provide a viable opportunity for such potential students to upskill or gain qualifications.
Digital educational technology has made great advances during the present century and can now offer an exciting and effective learning environment. Its immense flexibility allows online students to study at a time and place of their choosing and enable them to make valuable savings in time and travel costs. Regular interaction with tutors and other students facilitates the creation of a virtual learning community which can mitigate the sense of isolation which can sometimes be experienced by individual online students. Of course, not all students will be familiar with online access and the associated technology but responsible providers, such as The School of Dental Nursing, will make available the necessary support to ensure that students do not feel isolated or that they are on their own in their learning quest.
It is already becoming apparent that the current period of adversity will lead to a long term re-evaluation of how we live and work and crystallise trends that were already present such as the rise of online shopping and the decline of the high street. Liberation from the tyranny of the daily commute can be expected to yield tangible benefits to the work/life balance of many .In education traditional classroom delivery seems likely to continue but with increasing elements of blended learning while the effectiveness and advantages of online delivery will become increasingly recognised. Perhaps Face-to-face teaching v online delivery poses a false dichotomy: different learners have different needs and what is suitable for one may not be appropriate for another. Many university and college students will continue to value their association with a physical entity and its community which is an essential component of their educational experience. For many others, particularly those with family or work commitments, online delivery will increasingly open up high quality educational opportunities that were hitherto not available to them.
At the School of Dental Nursing we provide both Dental Nursing Course Face-to-face classes at our Acton Headquarters and regional centres and the option of Dental Nursing Course online delivery to meet the needs of our diverse students some of which are starting their working life while others are looking for a mid-career change of direction. They are all fully supported by academic tutors and support staff and achieve excellent results whatever the mode of delivery of our Dental Nursing course.