Benefits of Online Learning for Students

E-learning Online Virtual Remote Education Speedometer 3d Illustration
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ESL teachers and students alike had a hard time transitioning online when COVID-19 hit.

Those with access to computers, smartphones, iPads, and reliable internet service,  found themselves signing up on Zoom and accessing services such as ESL Library. As they navigated their way through the features of the different platforms, they learned new ways to keep track of emails and assignments. For them the transition was not too bad.

For students with very little experience using technology prior to COVID-19 using technology was not intuitive.

A lot of writing and videos on the Internet are for proficient English-language users. I wish there were a program that demonstrated how the Internet may look to someone who does not speak or read English well. How does it look to someone who has little experience with the English alphabet, let alone words and sentences?

With all those hardships in mind, once students got the hang of things, they seemed to enjoy it, even prefer it. Sure, there were students eager to get back to class, but there was also an increasing number of students who, when asked whether they would like to continue learning online, said yes.

Why is that? Well, there are lots of benefits to learning online. First and foremost, it is more convenient than going to class and fits better into students’ lives. I had many students comment that they looked forward to getting home from work, having something to eat, and then attending class online. They did not have to commute anywhere after a long day of work. They would be in a more relaxed setting. They could even wear something more comfortable.

Many of my students said they looked forward to seeing everyone. They would otherwise have been cooped up inside and isolated due to COVID-19. Class was a place to go and do what they liked; a place to socialize and see other people. Not to mention practice their language skills, which would help them fit into Canadian society better. Moreover, the program provided a sense of stability, maybe even escape or distraction, in these uncertain times.

Online learning can also help students to study at their own pace. Usually there is in-class work and independent work. In class, there is less pressure to participate. A student can relax and listen, and not feel like they are in the spotlight.

When students work independently, for example, doing some research, they have more choices. They can make their project as simple or complex as they want. Plus, using learning tools such as ESL Library or other interactive resources on the Internet can be fun, sometimes like playing a game.

The Internet opens up a whole new world to students. They can pick a wide range of videos, sites, articles, and information, to show what they can do and express their personalities.

I felt like I got to know my students better because they could choose what kind of recipe video or set of “how-to” instructions to use. Many of my students were keen to present material which was of more personal interest to them.

Furthermore, in my lesson planning, I got to present my teaching material more visually. We could learn vocabulary more readily by exploring images or video. We could also look things up in the moment. I was able to demonstrate things more clearly, rather than just telling them about it.

Finally, I was glad to see my students’ families pop in and out. It would get noisy sometimes, but I liked to see grandchildren practice English sounds with the class. It humanized the whole setting. My students have families just like I do.

What are some of the benefits you’ve seen using online learning? How do the benefits balance out with the drawbacks? Do your students prefer learning online? Do you prefer teaching online?




My name is Svjetlana Vrbanic—Lana—and I am a newly certified adult ESL teacher. I completed a degree in English and worked as a teacher and newspaper reporter/editor. Work has allowed me to travel from Labrador to Alberta and enjoy many great experiences. I was born in the former-Yugoslavia, but lived in Toronto most of my life. I can speak Serbo-Croatian, but primarily use English and love sharing what I know with students from all over the world. I like to have a good time and enjoy pursuing interests like cooking, running, volunteering, learning about health and psychology, and spending time with my niece, two rambunctious Jack Russell terriers, and a shy, but loveable cat. I am excited to blog about my experiences which will hopefully inform and entertain, as well as help support a vibrant teaching community. Wishing my colleagues many happy adventures in teaching.


6 thoughts on “Benefits of Online Learning for Students”

  1. Just last month (though it feels like a year ago) the American news magazine, 60 Minutes, did a program on Florida’s approx. 240,000 “missing” students. The journalist was astonished that a teen, keen on learning but limited by low income, would routinely go to an open public space to try to get WIFI and try to follow her online classes on an itty bitty Smart phone screen. Hmm… sounded familiar to me!
    Technology is here to stay BUT… there are so many issues to address first before it can be more than an alternative way to learn, for the majority… students’ “preferences” aside. Incidentally, I have been using visual images on tap with a computer and projector in the classroom for a few years, in a literacy class. It’s not a change for me. And I’ve had a blog for my higher level students for a few years where I could “park” digitized resources. I cannot wait for face to face and more structure again. Don’t even get me started on those blurred boundaries, especially when the teaching is home-to-home. That’s my 2 cents!

    1. Thanks for your comment Heidi. Teachers and students had to adjust. All to often we talk with an all or nothing mentality. There are always benefits and downsides to teaching online, as there are in the classroom. I just try to bolster our collective spirits, no matter where you fall on the divide.

  2. Svjetlana,
    Thank you for you thoughts about online teaching. Although, there are many benefits to online teaching, I have found that for lower learners it is and will continue to be a struggle. It’s certainly been a huge learning curve for me and for my students, and what we’ve learned about how to use technology is often useful. However, the majority of my students indicated that they are anxious to get back to the physical classroom. I have used online resources in my classroom quite a bit, previous to Covid-19 and will continue to do so. I believe that face- to- face learning meets the need of many students more effectively, especially those who are reluctant to express themselves online, and for those who need just a bit of extra help or encouragement. One thing students have learned is to navigate online resources. Unfortunately, some have taken the opportunity to learn how to cheat by using programs that do the work for them, or they get family members to “help”. This will not serve them while in the long run. There are pros and cons to online learning, but my students and I prefer in classroom instruction.

    1. Hello Susan, thank you for your comment. I have heard the same from many of my fellow teachers. They too are anxious to get back in the classroom. I’ve heard different responses from learners. I teach lower levels, too. There are those who enjoy being in a classroom, and others who have expressed that they would prefer learning online. Especially, those with other commitment during the day and who like the convenience of joining a class from home. Many of my students have expressed reluctance to return to class during COVID-19. I think this has been a learning experience for everyone. Perhaps they will offer classes in schools and online depending on student interests.

  3. I can’t help but agreeing with Heidi Karow And Susan Stitt: All my students want to go back into the classroom. At the moment, I am looking for evidence which shows that online teaching enhances students’ achievement. I can’t find any empirical study that supports that. I would appreciate appreciate any evidence that says that online learning enhances students’ achievement.

    1. Thanks Sridatt for your comment. I am not sure about empirical studies. I know from personal experience that some students prefer learning in class, while others online, for various reasons. I think demand will lead the way. If students are interested in learning online, programs will take that into account. Also, if they prefer to go back to class. Just look at how far we’ve come.

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