By mid-April 2020, more than 14 million school and university students in South Africa, and over 90% of the world’s students, were confined to their homes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this period, online courses have been widely used to help these students stay on track and continue learning.

With both schools and public libraries closed across South Africa, the internet has become the learning resource of choice for many students.

Many schools and other learning institutions have created special distance learning programmes and are offering learning materials online. Teachers are also offering online courses to ensure that their students don’t lose any ground, despite the difficult circumstances.

There are free resources a mouse click away, and available for all levels, from primary school to university level. Before using these online resources, however, it is wise to ask a few questions, such as:

What are the advantages of taking online lessons?

Can children really learn online?

Are online courses as good as face-to-face lessons?

The Advantages of Online Academic Support

There are many good reasons for taking online lessons. Here are our top 5:

1. Online Study Will Keep You on Track

The most obvious advantage of taking online lessons right now is that you can continue to learn from the comfort of your own home. This is vital during lockdown, as schools and universities are closed and students do not have the option to leave home to attend private lessons, go to the library, or even meet up with their regular study groups.

If you're not attending classes or revising regularly, you can quickly forget key concepts that were taught to you. There are weeks or even months of isolation ahead for some. Can you imagine how much knowledge could be lost in a month?

This is where the benefit of online lessons really becomes apparent. Consolidating your knowledge with the help of a private online tutor will ensure that you don’t lose any ground.

2. Online Courses Tend to Be Less Expensive

Since lessons take place online, your online tutor does not have to travel to meet you. They save both time and money, and pass these savings on to you.

Online lessons are therefore generally cheaper than face-to-face lessons, although prices will vary depending on the subject, the tutor’s experience, and the level being taught, etc.

3. Online Learning Material is Accessible at Any Time

Sometimes you will struggle with a particular concept. The great thing about online courses is that you can access the material again tomorrow, or the next day, when you have more energy and time to devote to your studies. Simply save the web address to your Favourites bar, and go back to it when you’re ready.

The wealth of learning resources and revision tools available online can be accessed 24/7.

This means that you can listen to podcasts, review lesson materials, complete quizzes, and watch videos at any time that suits you.

Whether you use a computer, tablet, or smartphone, all you need is a stable Internet connection.

Even after lockdown, you can continue to do something constructive when you’re on a long journey, or waiting for your friend to show up for lunch, for example.

In just a few clicks, you can find English spelling and grammar exercises, French lessons, Maths worksheets, or learn more about Renaissance art.

girl with arms in air, using laptop
More enjoyment = greater motivation to learn. | Source: Unsplash

Using online learning resources is an easy way to improve your knowledge, and grades, at any time of the year.

4. Online Lessons Can Increase Your Motivation to Learn

To compensate for the physical distance between the student and the tutor, online lessons tend to prioritise having fun while you learn and are more interactive.

When you enjoy an activity, you’re more committed to it, and by participating actively in your lessons, you will reap greater benefits.

As it turns out, Calculus and Physics can be fun!

5. Experts at the Ready to Offer New Perspectives and Target Areas of Difficulty

We all have difficulty staying focused at times. This is especially true when we’re having difficulty with a particular topic or subject.  By connecting with a private tutor who can accompany you on your journey, you will have someone available to help and offer guidance. They may suggest some new and creative ways to approach a particular problem and can tailor lessons to suit your learning style and focus on your problem areas.  

The Limitations of Online Courses

Everything has pros and cons. Since we’ve already reviewed the main advantages of online lesson, let’s shift our focus to some of the disadvantages:

Human Intelligence vs Artificial Intelligence

It is easier for a child to learn when they have the help of a dedicated teacher. Any child who struggles to work on their own is not likely to benefit from doing their homework or studying online.

If a student has difficulty concentrating or isn’t motivated to learn, no website or online quiz can fix that.

girl working on laptop
Young children should be supervised when using the Internet. | Source: Unsplash

The Danger of the Internet

Children run the risk of accessing online content that’s not suitable for them. Parents should therefore ensure that parental controls are activated on all connected devices.

In addition, young children should always be supervised when using the Internet.

High school students can be granted more autonomy when using the Internet; however, parents should still check that they are actually working online. It is very easy for teenagers to get distracted by memes and YouTube videos.

Too Many Options to Choose From

There are countless resources available online. This is great in that it means that anyone should be able to the help they’re looking for in Maths, English, Spanish or Accounting.

However, with so many options available, it becomes harder to identify which resources are useful and which are not.  Perhaps take some time at the beginning of your child’s online learning journey to do some research on the best resources together.

Free Online Resources

Not only can you access free entertainment on the web, but also free educational content.

There are many free sites that can help students prepare for their Matric finals or university exams.

For example, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) offers the OpenCourseWare online platform where the materials from its undergraduate- and graduate-level courses are published online. There are over 2 000 courses available for free, some of which include homework problems, exam questions, and even video lectures.

Whilst online resources cannot fully replace traditional classes, they are a great supplement.

young children completing worksheets
Useful and effective homework help, such as printable worksheets, can be found online. | Source: Unsplash

A Special Word on MOOCs

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course, and these courses are freely available to all.

All you need to do is sign up.

With the help of video conferencing technology, lessons are broadcast to internet users who can interact with the lecturer and ask questions.

While MOOCs are usually aimed at university-level students, there are MOOCs popping up for high school and primary school learners too.

In fact, one of the most popular MOOCs, Khan Academy, offers video courses on Maths and Science at primary school and high school levels.

MOOCs can be a formidable support tool for matric and university students.

In addition to Khan Academy, you may wish to check out the following offerings:

  • Coursera
  • Udacity
  • EdX
  • Udemy

Combining Online and Traditional Learning

Online academic support can never fully replace an actual teacher. Remember that using online learning resources is a great way to supplement the instruction received from teachers and lecturers.

For students who are struggling, it would be a good idea for their parents to assist them with their revision, and possibly to enlist the help of a qualified private tutor to help them identify and conquer their areas of difficulty.

Whether you’re looking for a Maths tutor, a Chemistry specialist, or a native Spanish teacher, you could easily start your search on the Internet, where there are many dedicated sites and tutoring platforms available.

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A South African in France who loves to travel and discover new cultures, is passionate about photography, and who is happiest near the ocean.