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Student mobility in a time of online education

COVID-19 radically impacted human ways of living, learning, and working around the world. Many educational institutions have shifted their lessons to the virtual classroom due to travel bans and campus closures. We don’t have to look far for stories of canceled visas, deferred admissions, and suspended programs — all resulting in a dependence on online learning. This comes with an array of benefits including affordable and accessible education, but it also impedes the integral element of student mobility.

A survey conducted by a UK-based education company revealed that 1 of 2 participants felt that the pandemic had impacted their decision to travel abroad for higher education. 47% deferred admissions and 8% decided to abandon their plans altogether. Similar trends are seen in research from Europe, North America, and beyond. Student mobility has taken a hit worldwide; a reality some believe will continue post-pandemic.

However, there are aspects of an education abroad that cannot be replaced by virtual tools, which makes it impossible for in-person classes or student mobility to be phased out. To understand this better, let’s take a look at some irreplaceable contributions of traditional courses abroad.

Learning from travel

It cannot be denied that there is a lot to learn through travel, wherever and for however long it may be. From an educational perspective, traveling abroad for higher learning is a fantastic way to bask in new cultures, build global networks, and discover international career opportunities. Studying in another country teaches students about independence while strengthening empathy and interpersonal skills for the future.

Classroom interaction

The shift from traditional to online learning is a difficult one to adjust to and some students have reported a sense of loss and isolation in the current situation of studying from home. This stems from feeling less challenged by online lessons and the lack of open discussion in the virtual system; a good percentage of students require regular interaction to thrive. Their experiences remind us of the important role human exchange plays in the classroom.

Focused study

Virtual learning comes with endless distractions. When placed in front of a computer, students are presented with the opportunity to game, shop, and socialize. Many find it difficult to focus on the video lesson without an educator present to guide the learning process. In this regard, online education poses a serious problem when it comes to accountability. Traditional classes, on the other hand, provide students with personal mentorship and a structured schedule for which they are accountable.

Student participation

In some cases of online learning, lectures are pre-recorded and an assignment at the end of the video is used for evaluation. Here, there is absolutely no student participation and the class is not given the chance to learn from each other or clarify doubts during the lesson. Peer learning and review have their own set of advantages and are essential for the all-round development of the intellect. While a student can watch a video lesson and comprehend the information easily enough, this learning needs to be backed by healthy engagement with professors and fellow students alike.

And that’s what classrooms with a personal touch offer — supplementary catalysts for learning that are vital to a student’s education. It is evident that both online classes and in-person learning environments undoubtedly add value to education systems. The most effective solution would be to bring the positives together.

In fact, a handful of forward-thinking universities saw the merit of a hybrid education system even before the outbreak of COVID-19. It has already been tried and tested by top-tier universities such as Stanford, Harvard, and Duke. More educational institutions are now seeing the pros of blended learning and it is likely to soon be the preferred option for higher education. In any case, online learning will not be a red light for student mobility. The day will soon come when bags are packed, tickets are booked, and cultures are shared just as they were before.



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