With the last decade witnessing rapid technological advancements and the recent changes in the educational environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the popularity of virtual education has been gradually increasing. However, while providing multiple new opportunities for both students and teachers, virtual classes are thought to never be able to replace traditional ones. The academic literature on the subject studies the advantages and disadvantages of virtual education and addresses the challenges that educational institutions have to face when implementing new technologies.
As for the sources for the research, three types of scholarly articles were selected. The first type discusses the history of virtual education and the challenges that it encountered over the years. The second type addresses particular issues that modern distance education faces: higher dropout rates compared to traditional classrooms, student dissatisfaction, lower student engagement, and lower quality of education. The third type of article views virtual education from the perspective of the challenges that students, teachers, and educational institutions currently face and the ways of addressing them.
The first step towards the understanding of the disadvantages of distance learning is the knowledge of its history. The article by Kentner in the Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue (2015) provides an overview of the development of virtual education over the years and the challenges that the pioneers of distance learning had to face. The study by Li (2018) discusses the evolution of open learning towards e-learning as technology progressed. Initially, less attention has been given to the communication between teachers and students in favor of content delivery, but, as technologies developed, new types of challenges started to arise. The current distance education issues are mainly connected with the peculiarities of the online environment compared to traditional classrooms and the resulting changes in the student’s behavior and approach to education.
The primary sources for the research of the disadvantages of e-learning are scholarly articles that analyze virtual education practices from different perspectives. The study by Bettinger et al. (2017) provides evidence that students in online courses perform substantially worse than students in traditional in-person courses. The dissertation by Scharf (2015) studies the reasons behind higher dropout rates of students in distance-learning classrooms and their relation to student performance, attrition, and satisfaction. It establishes that the primary difficulties associated with distance learning are caused by a higher level of distraction compared to traditional classrooms (Scharf, 2015). The study by Dumford & Miller (2018) analyses online and traditional courses from the perspective of student engagement, concluding that traditional face-to-face environments seem more likely to promote collaborative learning and effective teaching practices. The research by Ratliff (2016) examines the differences in the sense of community between students in a middle school virtual class versus a traditional class-based on quantitative and causal-comparative data. These four studies provide quantitative data based on mathematical models that illustrate the disadvantages of virtual education.
A number of studies discuss virtual education from the perspective of advantages, disadvantages, and challenges that it poses for students, teachers, and educational institutions (Oliveira, 2018; Capay et al., 2016; Sahoo et al., 2020). The article by Capay et al. (2016) analyzes the students’ opinions on the implementation of e-learning practices in the Ukrainian and Slovakian education systems and the difficulties that they face. The study by Sadeghi (2019) explores the history of distance learning practice and theory and offers a list of limitations for students choosing to study online together with the list of suggestions for improving distance learning. The research by Sahoo (2020) discusses the opportunities and challenges that the use of virtual learning environments provides for universities based on empirical data. The study by de Oliveira et al. (2018) analyzes the advantages and disadvantages of distance education from the point of view of education and society based on qualitative research. All three articles focus on challenges that virtual education currently faces and that need to be overcome in order to facilitate its development.
The most recent advancements in virtual education are connected with the COVID-19 pandemic that had a serious impact on educational organizations around the globe, causing most of them to switch to distance learning. The article by Adnan & Anwar (2020) addresses the question of the effectiveness of online versus traditional classes for students of higher education based on the study of Pakistani students during the pandemic. The study by Iivari (2020) discusses the digital transformation of children’s basic education in China during the pandemic and offers possible future improvements. It can be concluded that the COVID-19 crisis highlighted the disadvantages of distance education while bringing forward new opportunities for digital education platforms development.
Overall, the scholarly articles on the subject of distance education generally view it as a positive tendency that is undergoing a period of active development. A new environment emerges that has its own problems, advantages, and disadvantages that are different from the old school system. Virtual education can never replace traditional classrooms, but it can be improved to address new types of challenges the whole world is currently facing.
Adnan, M., & Anwar, K. (2020). Online learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic: Students’ perspectives. Journal of Pedagogical Sociology and Psychology, 2(1), 45-51. Web.
Bettinger, E., Fox, L., Loeb, S., & Taylor, E. (2017). Virtual classrooms: How online college courses affect student success. American Economic Review, 107(9), 2855-2875. Web.
Capay, M., Drlik, M., Svec, P., & Tomanova, J. (2016). Attitudes and expectations on virtual environments of the universities [PDF document]. Web.
Dumford, A., & Miller, A. (2018). Online learning in higher education: Exploring advantages and disadvantages for engagement. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 30(3), 452-465. Web.
Iivari, N., Sharma, S., & Venta-Olkkonen, L. (2020). Digital transformation of everyday life – How COVID-19 pandemic transformed the basic education of the young generation and why information management research should care? International Journal of Information Management. 1-6. Web.
Kentnor, H. (2015). Distance education and the evolution of online learning in the United States. In D. J. Flinders & C. M. Moroye (Eds.), Curriculum and teaching dialogues (pp. 21-34). IAP.
Li, K. (2018). The evolution of open learning: A review of the transition from pre e-learning to the era of e-learning. Knowledge Management & E-Learning, 10(4), 408-425. Web.
Oliveira, M., Penedo, A., & Pereira, V. (2017). Distance education: advantages and disadvantages of the point of view of education and society. Dialogia, 29, 139-152. Web.
Ratliff, B. D. (2016). Differences in sense of community between students in a middle school virtual class versus a traditional class [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Liberty University.
Sadeghi, M. (2018). A shift from classroom to distance learning: Advantages and limitations. International Journal of Research in English Education, 4(1), 80-88. Web.
Sahoo, M., & Swain, R. (2020). Accounting education in virtual environment [PDF document]. Web.
Scharf, M. (2015). Comparing student cumulative course grades, attrition, and satisfaction in traditional and virtual classroom environments (Publication No. 3719463) [Doctoral dissertation, Northcentral University]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.