Digital learning is still relatively new in education. While digital tools have been used here and there throughout the past decade or so, it’s only recently that schools have really started to rethink their digital infrastructure and create a unique online learning experience for their students. However, many schools — rightfully so — have questions about just how this new educational paradigm will work and how to best harness it for the benefit of their students. In this article, we address the top questions about digital learning and provide additional resources to help teachers and administrators navigate this new space.
What is a digital learning environment?
The term “digital learning environment” refers to all the technology solutions that support learning, teaching, and studying. This includes all of the computers, software, systems, and more used to manage an academic institution and enable learning. Anything from your learning management system (LMS) to your computer lab and educational apps is part of the digital learning environment.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of digital learning?
Many schools want to know the advantages — and disadvantages — of digital learning to create a cost-benefit analysis. We’ve rounded up the top responses.
What are the advantages of digital learning?
- Increased student engagement. Studies have shown that students actually prefer digital learning, and it’s been proven to increase grades.
- Self-paced learning. Digital tools give students the ability to learn at their own pace and create a more customized learning experience.
- Automated grading and real-time data. Teachers benefit from the data and streamlined grading processes afforded by digital tools.
- Transparency for parents. Through online, digital platforms, parents have easy access to their child’s records and performance.
- Easy information sharing. Digital platforms like forums, blogs, wikis, and more enable easy sharing of information from teacher to student and vice versa.
- Up-to-date content. Textbooks and static documents aren’t able to change with new research; however, digital tools and resources can be updated regularly to ensure students have access to the newest content.
What are the disadvantages of digital learning?
- Setting up the infrastructure. The most common complaint of digital learning is getting it set up. Schools that don’t have updated infrastructure — wifi, personal laptops, etc. — might hit more snags along the way.
- Rethinking old educational models. Incorporating digital tools requires a shift in thinking — and changing old methods of teaching.Established employees might shy away from implementing larger changes.
- The cost of new technology. In addition to updating infrastructure, digital tools often require a financial investment and many schools face funding challenges. (Check out our list of STEM and technology grants for schools.)
- Learning to use these new tools. Creating a new, digital-friendly curriculum requires teaching educators how to best use these new tools, which can take time and resources. (Need to fund your professional development? Try this list of professional development grants for teachers.)
- Cybersecurity. Most platforms have embedded cybersecurity features into their product, but schools must do their due diligence to ensure they choose secure digital tools.
READ MORE: Investigate the past, present, and future of digital learning
What is a digital learning specialist?
While the role differs slightly from school to school, a digital learning specialist typically helps implement system-wide technology plans in their school. In many cases, digital learning specialists coach students on how to form digital literacy skills and provide support to classroom teachers in their technology and digital learning efforts. Other responsibilities might include:
- Supporting computer applications
- Leading digital learning and technology integrations
- Facilitating the development of technology-based, digital curricula
- Creating professional development workshops for educators
How is digital learning going to change education?
Experts assert that digital learning will broaden the scope of traditional classroom teaching. Students can now learn anytime, anywhere through online videos, tutorials, forums, apps, games, and more. Through technology, students can virtually travel the world, shadow professionals in various jobs, and be exposed to more experiences.
In short, research shows that digital learning will create more flexibility for teachers and learners. Teachers no longer need to stand at the front of the classroom conducting lectures. Instead, they can assign online assessments, take students on a virtual field trip, facilitate small discussion groups, and serve as a coach and mentor to their students. To learn more about this, check out our article about how the digital-age learning culture will change the student-teacher relationship.
What is the importance of digital learning in schools?
The most important reason to incorporate more digital learning in schools is to prepare students for an increasingly tech-centric workplace. As industries evolve toward using more automated and digital solutions, their future employees need to have the technical skills to navigate these changes. Additionally, digital tools provide a flexible learning environment that benefits both teachers and students.
READ MORE: Find out why Digital Learning Day is a country-wide event
What is the difference between e-learning and digital learning?
Digital learning is the umbrella term that encompasses any use of technology to enhance students’ education experience. In contrast, e-learning refers to courses that are entirely online and the teacher never physically meets with their students. Here are some other related terms that might be helpful to know:
- Online learning: This term refers to any learning experience that leverages tools requiring an Internet connection.
- Distance learning: Students can learn from the comfort of their home, favorite coffee shop, or office through distance learning programs.Typically, a distance learning program will comprise e-learning courses to enable interactions between the students and the teacher.
- Blended learning: Combining face-to-face learning with digital tools, blended learning is a combination of distance learning and in-person learning at a brick-and-mortar institution.
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