Students able to access learning materials and interact and collaborate with their tutors and peers online can enjoy flexible, engaging and motivating courses of study. Digital education can expand the reach of learning to communities who could otherwise be excluded and provides scope for rewarding, personalised and self-directed study.
10 Advantages of Digital Education
1) Personalised learning
Personalised learning tailors tuition according to the needs of each individual. This can be in terms of pace, content and delivery. It recognises that one size rarely fits all when it comes to education. After all, students will learn in different ways and at different speeds. They will have varying needs and will respond in individual ways to visual, written and spoken information.
A virtual learning environment is ideally placed to provide personal learning experiences. According to a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation study, “vast majorities” of educators believe data and digital tools are “improving teaching through differentiation and personalization.”
A modern learning platform creates a space for learning, where each student follows their own learning pathway. For example, if a student is struggling with a topic, additional resources can be triggered to help them backfill their knowledge. Another student, already competent in that area, wouldn’t need additional content; they might need to devote more time on another part of the course instead. By personalising learning, educators can aim to meet each student’s particular needs for the best results.
Take a look at this video to find out how intelligent agents and release conditions, which predetermine the content students access and when, help personalise the learning experience.
Radboud University in the Netherlands brings law to life by using release conditions in a role-playing fictional case assignment. Students can experience all the different perspectives on a fictional case by taking on the roles of defense counsel, prosecutor and judge. Information is released to students only when they meet appropriate criteria, so the ‘prosecutors’ see different material to the ‘defense counsel’, for example. This gives the scenario the dynamic feel of a real case: information builds up over time, and this interactivity is central to students’ ability to progress.
Gamification taps into models familiar to users of technology to deliver enhanced and engaging learning experiences for more successful outcomes. Easy-to-use digital tools, which many students will be familiar with from gaming, can be incorporated into course design to motivate them through rewards and real-time feedback.
By drawing on the principles of the gaming model, education can make use of a range of techniques. These include the awarding of points and badges. After all, students will make regular achievements – recognising and rewarding them motivates them to continue. Students have something to aim for when they can see a clear roadmap through their learning journey and when they’re acknowledged for reaching key milestones.
Games-based learning needn’t reward just successful test scores either, it can also give recognition for desirable learning behaviours such as participating in discussions and carrying out independent research.
3) Self-directed learning
As students progress through their education, they will need to become competent in self-directed learning. This refers to students’ capabilities to manage their own time, do their own research and take ownership of their learning.
Along the way, they will discover more about how and when they learn best. This will help them develop strategies for maximising study time to ensure they get the most out of it. For some, that might mean learning first thing in the morning; for others, later in the day.
Knowing how to take ownership of an activity, organise time to deliver it and get the best results are important career and life skills. Insights into how to plan and organise their time will stand students in good stead in the world of work.
A digital learning platform provides an ideal framework for each student’s learning journey. There, students can access their course schedules, see the range of their commitments over time and plan their course of action.
4) Easier to access
Online learning provides students, who might otherwise struggle to access education, with a way to learn. In rural communities, where travel infrastructure may be limited, being able to study remotely is ideal. Likewise, students with additional responsibilities, such as work, childcare and other caring duties, will appreciate options that enable them to fit studying into their busy lives.
Education must be for all; not everyone will be able to learn at set hours or from the same location. Through digital education, students and tutors can connect, regardless of where they are located. Materials in the learning platform provide students with all the content they need, even when they can’t go to the college, university or other site of learning.
Whether learning is fully online, or a blend of in-person and digital, levels of interactivity and collaboration can still be high with the online learning environment providing the means for discussion forums, tutorials and feedback.
5) Students can learn at their own pace
As well as being able to access learning anytime, from anywhere, digital education also enables students to learn at their own pace. They can re-read materials to gain a deeper grounding in a topic or even revisit earlier modules.
The learning platform gives students 24/7 access to a range of materials, including recorded lectures which they may wish to view again. Content is preserved, not lost, when a lecture ends.
Self-directed learning, undertaken at students’ own pace, gives learners ownership of their own experience, which is important to maximise successful learning outcomes, keep students motivated and engaged and avoid an ‘edtech reality gap’.
6) Digital assessment tracks progress
As students progress through their studies, they are likely to be assessed a number of times. Digital assessment needn’t be confined to the marking of written work – it can include live online or pre-recorded presentations.
Students can demonstrate modern foreign language pronunciation through audio files, or video themselves completing a practical task. This is something West Bridgford School (WBS) in Nottingham, England did to great effect. WBS used the Video Assignments tool in Brightspace for students to video themselves cooking whilst describing what they were doing in the language they were learning.
For tutors, digital assessment provides the opportunity to precisely pinpoint feedback to a specific part of an assignment. This can be text-based, but can also be time-stamped on video submissions. Tags to content covered within the course can also form part of feedback so that students can link straight to topics they may need to revisit.
Digital assessment includes timesaving features that make grading and giving feedback simpler and more effective to free up tutors from repetitive marking. That way, tutors can focus time on addressing learning points instead. Quizzes with correct and incorrect answers can be automatically marked, saving tutors a huge amount of time.
Students benefit from simple access to their grades and feedback over time through the online learning platform. That way, they can clearly see their progress and are able to revisit feedback whenever they need to.
7) Blended learning
Blended learning combines some face-to-face tutoring with online learning. It’s an approach that can work very successfully because it combines the convenience and flexibility of online, with the personal touch of in-class tuition.
Each institution and educator will have their own approach to blended learning, according to the course type and needs of students. For many, blended learning enables a ‘flipped’ classroom approach, in which students access content through the learning platform to prepare for in-person lessons. In this way, knowledge acquisition occurs outside the classroom, perhaps from recorded lectures, documents, videos and other resource, and knowledge application occurs in class.
8) Competency-based learning
Competency-based learning recognises that, within a specified period of study, learners will progress at different rates. Students will need to spend more time on some topics than others. They might also need to supplement main course material with other information to plug knowledge gaps knowledge.
Digital education enables a competency-based approach to learning because it is flexible, with the capability for personalised learning journeys within a framework designed around achieving set outcomes. Built-in logic in the learning platform facilitates learners moving from one topic to the next, only when they have mastered the topic and met pre-defined criteria for progressing to the next stage.
9) Collaborative learning
Many of today’s learners are already familiar with sharing content online. As users of social media platforms, they are used to online spaces being collaborative.
Digital education needn’t be solely two-way – tutor to student and student to tutor. Students can share their work with each other as well as the tutor so that they learn from each other. They can also work on group projects using document sharing tools, video conferencing and chat forums. This type of collaboration builds teamworking and social skills.
Online, everyone is only a click away, so students can connect with their peers all over the world, broadening horizons and building diverse connections.
10) Improves digital literacy
We all need to be digitally literate in today’s technology age. Digital literacy means being able to use technology to find and share information. It’s an essential life skill, as well as a prerequisite for many jobs. Even the act of applying for a job is likely to include technology.
According to Ofcom, nearly all UK children aged 5-15 years (97 per cent) went online in 2020; over half said they posted or shared content on video-sharing platforms. However, children’s earliest experiences with technology now pre-date school: the same report reveals that 82 per cent of children aged 3-4 went online in 2020 and nearly half (48 per cent) already owned a tablet themselves.
Digital education helps learners build the skills they need to navigate technology and to get the best out of it. Students of digital education become comfortable with finding, accessing, consuming and sharing content online. They become discerning in the content they see, making judgements on what’s legitimate, safe and fact-based.
Digital education provides a range of advantages whether learning is fully online or as part of a blended teaching model. The broad scope that digital provides for a range of content types help keep students engaged. All the while, they’re building valuable digital skills that will serve them in their personal and professional lives. For educators and institutions, the digital learning platform helps connect students with tutors and each other, and the data it generates provides valuable insights into learning progress. As you embark on, or continue, your digital education journey, find out more about the modern digital learning platform.