Virtual School Meanderings

May 1, 2012

Guest Blogger: Successful E-Learners vs. Successful Classroom Students

This guest post is contributed by Christine Kane from internet service providers, she is a graduate of Communication and Journalism. She enjoys writing about a wide-variety of subjects for different blogs. As is the tradition at Virtual School Meandering, this will be the only entry today.

The option of online education, which at first seemed to be limited to those who were working and going to school, is now readily available everywhere these days. In fact, people of all age groups, not just those who have already been through college once or can’t afford to go to college full-time, are gravitating toward it in droves – even those in the K-12 age range. There have been many technical articles that have explored the traits that make some e-learners successful, such as this one from Pennsylvania’s Department of Instructional Technology, and it has become clear that not everyone is cut out for taking classes online. There are marked differences between those who fare well in a traditional school setting and those who are more likely to succeed with online learning.

1. Personal responsibility

With the traditional classroom setting there is a lower level of personal responsibility involved than in the e-learning setting because you have a teacher guiding you in what to do, and your work is due at certain times during the class period. E-learning, on the other hand, requires students to be in charge of completing their work in a timely manner and facilitating submitting it to their teachers, thus more personal responsibility falls on the e-learner than the traditional student.

2. The need for direction

A typical e-learner will turn to their teacher for guidance on what tasks to complete, but they will not fully rely on them for that. In a traditional setting the teacher instructs students with exactly what to do and how to complete it. There is less freedom in the traditional setting because everything follows a more rigid daily schedule than those who are learning online and have a more generalized schedule. In a study done examining successful e-learners and those who are not it has been found that having good self-direction is vital for success in the e-learning environment. This study brought varied responses in regards to K-12 learners feel about asking for direction, which demonstrates how well some people fare in a traditional setting where others do not.

3. Working with others vs. independently

A lot of traditional classroom settings, especially in the younger years, not only encourage group work but require it. In a virtual setting, however, group work may be accomplished in a discussion form online, but that’s about the extent of it because the students don’t have a set schedule each day, only a guideline for what work needs to be accomplished.

4. Discrimination

Being in a traditional classroom setting where you interact with students on a daily basis can lead to bullying and discrimination amongst those students who are different from their peers. With online education there is no discrimination because you are behind a computer screen and there is no one to judge you based on your age, weight, appearance, etc. Bullying has taken a front seat in media attention right now, and e-learning all but eliminates exposing kids to the bullying that is prevalent in the more traditional school setting.

5. Social interaction

There are many valuable social skills that are formed during adolescent school years that kids in a traditional school setting are exposed to through interactions with kids their own age and adults alike. E-learners have the potential to miss out on forming these valuable social characteristics because of a lack of interaction. If those participating in online education don’t have other ways of interacting with kids they may lack certain social skills.
The differences between traditional education and online education are vast and varied. Both settings offer many pros and cons, and the results are fully dependent on the person involved in the education. Where some thrive others will suffer, making the type of education they receive a distinctly personal choice.

This guest post is contributed by Christine Kane from internet service providers. She can be reached via email at Christine welcomes your comments below.


  1. Reblogged this on Things I grab, motley collection .

    Comment by plerudulier — May 1, 2012 @ 12:48 pm | Reply

  2. I want to leave the first comment here… To provide some background, this was the third draft that I reviewed from the author. As you’ll notice, the article referenced in the introduce is not research-based and only one of the two studies listed as support to the first difference is actually a study (the other is an opinion-based book chapter). I should also note that four of the “differences” still have no literature support provided.

    Beyond that, I think the larger issue – and something that many of these guest bloggers who are from outside of the K-12 online learning field miss – is that the characteristics that the differences listed above are solely based upon how the educational experience is delivered. For example, if you look at a program like the Connections Fusion project here in Detroit or the Westwood Cyber School or the St. Clair County RESA Virtual Learning Academy. All of these programs are online programs, but they all have physical or face-to-face requirements that would essentially negate the difference with social interaction. Similarly, the Odyssey Cyber Charter School in Las Vegas and their use of the Odyssey of the Mind social network (see Barbour & Plough [2009] for more information) would also largely negate the differences.

    By the same token, you have lots of students in traditional brick-and-mortar environments that are bullied and socially ostracized by their peers where social interaction doesn’t occur. I guess what I am saying is that this may seem like it is a difference to someone who doesn’t understand K-12 online learning, and education in general. But when you look a little closer at the issue (or for those of us involved in the field), aren’t really differences at all.

    Essentially, each of these perceived differences may not be a difference. It all depends on how the learning is designed, delivered and supported. All of the perceived differences by this author are just strawmen, created in an artificial way by those who don’t see all of the shades of gray that occur in the education of children and adolescents.

    Comment by mkbnl — May 1, 2012 @ 2:38 pm | Reply

    • I have to agree with you, Michael. Even from my limited perspective, I see my own school district using the same set of commercially designed courses in vastly different ways – the key differences being the role of the educator (physically present content area instructor/facilitator; sporadically present, rotating lab monitor; remote course manager) and instructional purpose or design (credit recovery, progress acceleration, within the traditional setting, or off-site due to special circumstances that warrant a non-traditional approach and setting), neither of which is mutually exclusive!

      There is no universally optimal fit in either the traditional, online, or blended setting (and arguably across various subjects as well) for students with particular propensities alluded to above. “Shades of gray” is an apt description – and I’d add the caveat that even tendencies that seem to bode poorly for online learning success can themselves change over time and with experience.

      Comment by Lynn Rambo — May 1, 2012 @ 5:53 pm | Reply

      • Lynn, as I said in my initial response, this is quite typical of these guest bloggers that write material for multiple sites. They aren’t actively involved in the field of K-12 online learning, so their analysis is often superficial (even artificial).

        Compare this – and other guest blogger entries on my blog from folks that write for multiple blogs – with the two entries by Lauren Wagner (see Guest Blogger – Foster Self-Directed Learning In Adolescents Through E-Learning and New Benefits Of Online Learning). Lauren will be the first to tell you that she isn’t an expert. But she is a Master’s student who has a strong interest in this field and has taken the time to become familiar with the literature and research in K-12 online learning. That’s why her guest entries have a level of depth that these kinds of entries fail to achieve.

        Comment by mkbnl — May 1, 2012 @ 9:54 pm

  3. […] } #themeHeader #titleAndDescription * { color: black; } – Today, 12:32 […]

    Pingback by Guest Blogger: Successful E-Learners vs. Successful Classroom Students | E-Learning and Online Teaching | — May 2, 2012 @ 1:32 pm | Reply

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