Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

August 16, 2010

Will online or distance learning replace classroom learning?


8-10-2010 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST 

Online, offline or both?

We are very grateful to Todd Hoffman (@ToddAHoffman) for this week’s guest summary. He is well-qualified to write about this topic with both his academic and work background. I am sure you will find it a well-rounded and insightful piece. Thank you Todd! (see bio at end of piece)

The weekly #edchat is an event I always make an effort to attend.  Those of you who regularly join in the chat know its value and have benefited from its existence.  So when I was approached to write this week’s summary to a topic very close to home for me I was thrilled.  I am a former classroom teacher who now works for an educational software company and recently finished my master’s degree online.  On top of that the company I work for is shifting its professional development model from in person to either a blended or online only solution.  These changes cause uneasy feelings in many well qualified employees and a fear that technology will replace human workers.  But can online or distance learning replace classroom learning?
As in government, change in education is like driving a barge- It’s not quick or easy.  People get set in their ways and resist change for fear it will replace them.  If technology is part of the change process the level of concern seems to heighten.  However, shying away from change can ultimately lead to ignorance and a lack of preparation for the world in which we live.  Educators have a goal of preparing students for the world of today and tomorrow, not the world of the 20th Century.  In the 21st Century our world has become more technologically adept and the desire for flexible work schedules is greater than ever.  All educators and parents want the best educational opportunities for their kids and in our world that requires some innovation.  While most edchatters seemed to agree that online learning is a valuable addition to classroom learning most agree that it will not be a replacement for more traditional learning.  The consensus seems to be a blended solution where online learning opportunities are combined with classroom learning.  Additionally, many edchatters commented on the secondary benefit to classroom learning of childcare.  Many edchatters stressed that online learning must become an integral part of the educational system to provide flexibility and extension to traditional classroom learning.  More people are working on online degrees today than ever before and the use of social media has spread to almost every industry.  A good opportunity for educators to better understand the value of online education is through developing a PLN on twitter.  Discussions such as #edchat help educators, parents, and students to discuss effective ways of integrating educational technology into the classroom.

Here are some of the main themes from the discussion: 

  •          Schools operate as childcare so parents can work
  •          Students learn differently
  •          Online learning can provide flexibility to students and families
  •          Online learning can be structured
  •          Face to face learning is important for child development
  •          Good Online learning requires skill and preparation
  •          Blended Solutions can provide excellent learning opportunities

Here is a selection of some of the comments: 
With such a vibrant discussion, it’s almost impossible to do it justice in a summary, but I’ve picked out some of the comments that caught my eye.

@TechCzech: If schooling were about learning, distance learning might replace classroom. But K-12 schools have an important childcare function

@Parantella: I think we have to be willing to think outside the classroom while also remembering some students learn best F2F #edchat

@cfanch: I’ve taken online classes post grad and loved them but I just don’t see it happening any time soon for K-12 #edchat

 @drdouggreen: Parents can be more involved with online classes #edchat

@isteconnects: I teach at the college level and find the f2f invaluable. Kids are away from home for the 1st time. They need the guidance

@shellterrell: I don’t think online learning will replace face to face but I do see the potential in a blended structure! #Edchat

@cybraryman1: I favor the combination of learning in a classroom with the ability to access great online learning as well.

 @TheNerdyTeacher: #edchat – Independent Studies would work great online for students who want a class but it doesn’t fit their schedule.

 @melanie289: In my rural state, online learning is the only opportunity many of our students have to access advanced courses in h.s. #edchat

 @jksuter: Who would replace teachers as the parent’s free babysitters if school went totally online, 4 this reason alone it will never happen. #edchat

 @RMHS_AP: Online learning should be used to enhance the traditional classroom and to differentiate instruction, not replace f2f #edchat

@1katty: We are offering online alternatives to our high school students to broaden the diversity of our curriculum. #edchat

@bethanyvsmith: I think teaching online is not only harder, it requires twice as much prep time. You can’t “wing” online teaching #edchat

@courosa: Every educator should have opportunity 2 teach AND learn online. Much is learned about f2f practice from such experiences. #edchat

@Mamacita: hybrid classes are awesome for ALL TYPES OF STUDENTS: actual contact AND own pace. #edchat

@lemino: I think online shouldn’t be just an emergency solution, it should work side by side with class, or even in-class. #edchat

@billgx Most: recent studies appear to show positives for online learning. Gains seem to be highest w/ blended (F2F + online) #edchat

To follow the complete discussion see here 
For the stats on #edchat participation see here 

As ever, there were some great links shared:

malcolmbellamy:  it is the quality of the f2f that counts see http://bit.ly/b4zndc

tony_valderrama:  No today’s topic, but interesting: 15 mind blowing facts of the internet: http://bit.ly/cr3qe0

jamesmaitland: #edchat I have just posted a video (5min) quick idea of a school social media communication system. http://bit.ly/d4V4Z2

NextGenLC:  Blended learning forum: http://ow.ly/2nBEf  Share thoughts, insights

briankotts:  College May Become Unaffordable for Most – variety of approaches include distance learning | NYTimes http://nyti.ms/cW4fQO

schoology:  Blending Online learning & F2F, check out the list of all these features: http://ht.ly/2nBF4 Brings the digital classroom alive!

ShellTerrell:  tony_valderrama: and a lot of learning in games, like World of Warcraft and others: http://bit.ly/9DaaCa

carlaarena:  @ShellTerrell just recorded some ideas for a friend on #blendedlearning last week http://bit.ly/bEEk3U

ryflinn:  I am still distracted trying to learn online on #edchat here is what is going on now http://tweetphoto.com/38079332

CatMoore: Why you want to use scenarios in your elearning http://bit.ly/82Eg7p

alexgfrancisco:  Online Pedagogy: Theories & Best Practices http://bit.ly/bC0iNX

Giegerich:  short video of technology in our school made spring of last year (not online learning per se) http://youtu.be/P2gqD2rayzA

ToughLoveforX:  @tellio Just one of many examples Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media http://ilnk.me/3b4d Just replace “student” for patient

anicap: @mzmacky past wiki projects http://bit.ly/aZLKwdhttp://bit.ly/bkVvychttp://bit.ly/c7SHSl  #edchat #IDEC

NextGenLC:  Blended learning forum: http://ow.ly/2nBEf  Share thoughts, insights

rgallwitz:  Teaching in the 21st Century ( http://bit.ly/bzGtvn ) This is why I dearly love the blended model. The Networked Student

vicmiclovich:  95,000 students enrolled at Tunisian Virtual University http://bit.ly/ap5L4A  via @etaalim #edchat #edtech (via @briankotts)

anicap: Look at this glogster “New classroom rules” for online learning. http://bit.ly/b1qKDx  My EFL sts like them a lot. Some more, too.

ukedchat:  #ukedchat special this week, “promoting parental engagement” Thurs 8-9pm BST. Details at http://bit.ly/dioccX hosted by @ianaddison

alexgfrancisco: Online Pedagogy: Theories & Best Practices http://bit.ly/bC0iNX

NCTI2:  Important in this discussion to remember stud w/ disabilities. online can be great way of differ instruct #edchat http://ow.ly/2nCAq

alexgfrancisco:  how to implement and customize course and specific guidelines on each learning activity #techtips #edchat http://bit.ly/aSV7d

web20education:  Free project in the clouds for teachers around the world #edtech20 and Gr8 beautiful tag clouds in education2.0 http://bit.ly/dkrCd6

alexgfrancisco:  Instructional Strategies Online http://bit.ly/97ObWV

alexgfrancisco:  The Lecture is Dead Long Live the e-Lecture http://bit.ly/aLv1Vr

Aminhotep:  Tips for teachers: What are you really teaching? Find the real message in your medium http://wp.me/ptcfd-30

briankotts:  Why Online Education Needs to Get Social http://bit.ly/9MNw4o via @mashable

ToughLoveforX:  @tomwhitby @DrAshCasey “Online teaching is in it’s infancy” [ My 2¢ rigorous evidenced based teaching also ] http://ilnk.me/3778

web20education:  Glossary to DEMYSTIFY the jargon of the online world”: A Glossary to DEMYSTIFY the jargon http://url4.eu/6p9QJ

ShellTerrell: Many of us can get a free online learning experience & compare by doing MIT Course, etc. http://bit.ly/duXKzL

OERCommons: @melanie289 There are experimental programs with Open Study to add interactivity to the MIT Courses #edchat: http://openstudy.com

OERCommons: Teachers have had success combining subjects that can be boring i.e. accounting w/ online world Second Life #edchat: http://bit.ly/6EteVw

cathig:  The best free online classes I’ve taken are at HP Learning Center. Pick one with Enroll. #edchat http://h30187.www3.hp.com/all_courses.jsp

MultiMartin:  RT new blog post – Using Twitter in the Primary Classroom (@ClassroomTweets) – http://bit.ly/bVIMuG

Todd Hoffman (@ToddAHoffman)

Bio Teacher turned Consultant working to find innovative solutions to issues in education.

New to Edchat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 1,000 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts!

More Edchat


If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat. 

What do you think? Leave a comment!




  1. This is a very interesting and important topic. Online classes have added so much to my and to my students lives. The way things appear to me is that it can certainly become the future. However, I fear that my kids won’t have that much human interaction as our generation did.

    I just found this blog, and never heard of #edchat, I’ll check it tomorrow.

    Comment by Tom — August 16, 2010 @ 11:15 pm | Reply

    • Thank you Tom. There is that danger, of course and it is probably already happening – my 16 year-old spends a lot of her ‘friend time’ online. I can’t see classrooms disappearing yet – maybe in the future? Difficult to predict how society will change. What is important now I feel is that the one-size-fits-all concept of learning can be challenged and there are other choices. Whether we blend these choices or choose one over another is up to us and dependant upon what works best for individuals.

      Comment by rliberni — August 17, 2010 @ 8:08 am | Reply

  2. I think these are great and this is a great debate – I look forward to seeing what [if anything] is entirely replaced by distance learning.

    Comment by Jill — August 17, 2010 @ 7:09 am | Reply

    • Thank you for your thoughts. Yes, I agree we are all on an interesting journey.

      Comment by rliberni — August 17, 2010 @ 8:03 am | Reply

  3. Thank you for sharing, this is a very interesting and important topic.

    Comment by anna_w — August 20, 2010 @ 1:48 pm | Reply

    • Thank you anna for your comment. I hope you will visit us again!

      Comment by rliberni — August 20, 2010 @ 9:06 pm | Reply

  4. I think the Internet with VOIP and interactive courses will help separate the repetitive tasks of teaching with the feedback/coaching aspects. A teacher’s job will split into an instructional designer or a coach. Lecturing will approach obsolescence.

    Comment by Ron — October 7, 2010 @ 9:16 pm | Reply

  5. Wonderful. I haven’t read such a useful information on this site before. Thanks.

    Comment by fernstudium — March 1, 2011 @ 9:33 am | Reply

    • Thank you for your comment and I’m happy you liked the post. These are the views of educators who meet to discuss these topics online, so they are not only a useful resource in education but also a way of keeping your finger on the pulse with how educators are feeling – in particular about matters technological. I hope you will visit again and share your own expertise in this field.

      Comment by rliberni — March 1, 2011 @ 10:06 am | Reply

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