Skip to content

On eagles wings: our recovery from Coronavirus (VIII) Weaknesses of On-line education

Have a beautiful Thursday. Today I will be keen to start to explain with brutal honesty which are the disadvantages when it comes to on-line education. Please this article is crucial for you to read. Thank you.

Petit bird blue edited x blog

“Twit twit twit” A petit aquarelle painted yesterday. Handmade with love in Watercolor paper Fabriano 5. Size: 5 inches x 7 inches. If you wish to buy it go to

Before proceeding further, we have to put ourselves in the shoes of the educators. They are the ones who are involved directly in the “on-line education paradigm”. The core system of education relies on the professors. The majority of them (all over the world) have experienced what is the meaning to do lectures-instructions via Internet during the Corona times, and I can relate to them because I have been a full time professor and I understand them deeply. I have experienced what is to handle 90 minute teaching sessions in courses of 50 to 100 pupils, what is the meaning to prepare each instruction “on point”, prepare examinations, and correct them. I wouldn´t write this article if I were not a professor in my past life. So, this article is not about my imagination, but about educators real life.  The first introductory premises that I wish to state before explaining the “online” model disadvantages are:

The On-line education model is not for everyone. There are at least three range levels of education by age.  (1) Pre-primary level: Maternal and Kindergarten; (2) Primary-Secondary; and (3) Tertiary levels (University, Vocational-technical education, executive education, Masters, Doctorates and Post-Doctorates). Each level has different purposes and methodologies.

Eleonora Escalante Strategy doesn´t recommend the usage of the remote on-line education at the Pre-primary levels. These are the most beautiful ages for kids to explore, to discover, to stamp in their heart everything that is outside the digital life. The on-line education model, even with all the advantages, can hurt the brain development of children for the long run at those starting ages.  On top of that, during the first enfancy years, moms and specialized pre-primary teachers understand that the development of the initial brain endless possibilities in children may be hurted for the long run because of exposure to digital screens.

During Primary and Secondary levels, Eleonora Escalante Strategy recommends the 80-20 formula. 80% traditional classroom education, and 20% using digital tools. Handwriting, critical thinking and the sciences practices can be slaughtered if educators substitute the classroom with the on-line model.

What about the tertiary education level? At the tertiary levels, I have found many Internet articles which promote the on-line model, predicating that there is no difference between remote-online video conference education and the traditional classroom model. That is not true.  Even for adults, the online model has clear drawbacks and problems. Students under both models can take an examination after a subject has been taught in both formats, and get the same A+. But ask both students about how to apply and develop those concepts a few months later, or 2 years after they passed the course. You will then understand why the traditional model is the premium system with no substitution and has no comparison at all. On-line education doesn´t trigger the right assimilation of the conceptual frameworks, because our brains are simply lazier under this methodology. The memory, attention and assimilation of contents via on-line are gone quickly in comparison of using the traditional golden model.  Given the latter observations, I recommend to don´t rush to pass to the digital on-line remote internet model of education when it comes universities. It will be a mistake. Of course, any university can decide how much digital on-line exposure will offer per each  course, so our advise is to keep at least the 80 traditional – 20 on-line digital formula. Some universities apply a 50 traditional – 50 digital. And each entity is entitled to balance what amount of time and exposure to digital instruction will be given, because each subject and program is also different. I am sure that professors will be able and delighted to use their digital tools and skills only as a “side dish”, instead of being forced to emigrate to a full time digital type of education. Students will be thankful for it, some years later.

Full time online education should be only offered as an option at adulthood and under precise specific circumstances. With that in mind, full time internet long distance education may be used ONLY at the tertiary levels and under specific circumstances, such as a pandemic, or when a University wishes to extend its frontiers and make it available to foreign students, or in specific cases in which the lecturer-professor wishes to invite other international practitioners or professors to participate in the class. The case of students with disabilities who can´t be mobile in the campus is also an exceptional circumstance. Also I recommend this system, as a temporary reinforcement to genius outlier-students with the highest IQs, who are object of bullying, or with deficient low IQ students who have a different rythm than the average class, and need some specific support outside the classroom.

The big issue with “on-line” education is cheating. The “online” examinations must be different to avoid cheating. At the moment professors can detect when students copy to each other, but when it comes to the “on-line” model is pretty hard. Students can use the computer to chat, see other platforms, and cheat to the professor in the lectures. The same applies to tests.

For adults, and only for adults, I believe the traditional old golden school model and the online one can coexist and be offered by universities. But universities will require to hire more professors, because the on-line video conference model is extremely demanding and it can´t be  rolled out to massive audiences without troubles. The pre-recorded Youtube videos or instructions offered at EDx or Khan “on line” Academy or others of similar scope, have their own limits.

The main on-line education disadvantages that I have observed during the last 20 years (applied only to adults) are:

  1. When the Internet fails, everything fails. Many developed economies don´t have Internet issues. The service has evolved to build a solid IT infrastructure and networks that allows not just excellent internet velocities, but also the Internet is basically free in many public places. But when you live in a developing economy, the lack of a good internet service from is something that you have to deal with daily. In addition, cyber insecurity is and will continue to be omnipresent. The Internet still has not been able to “hack the hackers”, and that is one of the main defects of the Internet. The Internet is not clean either: Would you mind to consider that the Internet has been growing exponentially and ubiquituously to the point that 90% of its content is dubious or fake or it lacks of robust accuracy? In our consulting company we have been writing about this issue in several of our past sagas.
  2. Too much mobility is dangerous. Since I started to utilize a mobile phone in Zurich (1999), I have lost my mobile once, Mea culpa. But in El Salvador, my smartphone has been stolen twice with all my personal data, information, photos and documents inside. Even if you are extremely careful, accidents or burglaries happen, and all your precious education toolkit is gone. The robbery opens your privacy and all your own content to anyone, and cyberthreats are real. No student wants to lose its cherished digital device, or his-her USB with all the homeworks, and detailed information inside. In addition the lack of a fixed location school in which our brains can build different building knowledge blocks is a strong limitation for children who don´t have at least a decent space and ergonomics to study. Once we are adults, the situation changes, but still I do not know of anyone who may have a sense of adequacy by doing things “on the go”.
  3. Why do we want to shut down school and university facilities? To this day, I don´t know of any excellent university that wishes to lose its own infrastructure buildings and facility schools. Even those universities with beautiful online programs know that school facilities are there to be used by students integral learning. These entities have started to offer the “online” model but keeping both formats, and they provide options of swapping from one model to another one.School-Closings
  4. It is expensive if you wish excellent and reliable quality content. Many radical populists want to push for the on-line education format in their quest to reach poorest communities otherwise not served by the elite top premium schools. But that will not happen. Indeed if the on-line education model wishes to provide a tool to decrease inequality; the inequality learning will continue. The quality of the content depends on the professor, and the excellent schoolmasters are hired by the most expensive universities, who will build boundaries to keep it only for those who pay for it. In consequence, even if the “online model” will be ubiquituos and cheaper,  we will continue producing top, average and mediocre on-line programs, and the deficiency programs will be abundant (particularly if there is no regulation to it). We will end up with thousands of on-line programs offered by mediocre institutions and low-quality professors who will probably twist the heads of its pupils too.
  5. If the course content is not good, “online format” won´t make it either. Before thinking to pass to  an on-line massive program, the content of the traditional education has to be updated with new integral frameworks. Don´t fall into the fallacy that bypassing the bad mediocre programs from bad schools to digital, we are doing any better.
  6. Cheating in testing. Lack of good examination – the measurement of learning performance is limited. This is something that I have observed in several internet on line platforms. Let me explain. The traditional classroom education model includes different assessment purposes (preassessment, formative-to monitor the learning process and summative-mid term or final exams). Traditional current test formats are written, oral and practice-experiential. When it comes to the on-line program, particularly in massive amount of students, professors avoid to use open questions, essays or oral exams, employing only the closed Q&A (such as multiple choice, true-false, matching, filling blanks, or short answers). The use of digital tools help professors to apply programming and algorithms to automatize the review and qualification of exams, and the computer program  gives the test results immediately to the students. I also have seen that professors are fostering the habit of requesting pre-recorded videos which students make at home, and then are sent to the professors through platforms or attachments. All these nouveau tools are helping students to become audiovisual producers, but if you ask them about what their video content, just three months later, they do not remember anything, because they cheated, did not retain the content but read it to make the video. There is something about the traditional old model that helps the professor to create critical thinking and that comes through the real-life interaction in class. Real life professors can´t be paused, neither cheated by students in the course. In summary: The easiest method to examine through the on-line models makes the professor happy (less time consuming and it may be automatized) but it demerit the critical thinking that only comes through open questions, essays and oral spontaneous real-live presentations. Any pre-recorded video can be adjusted and modified, meanwhile a real-live presentation reflects the reality.

  7. Tired Professors don´t yield. The on-line model represents over-working to their ultimate capacity.  Educators are required to establish a one to one audience of multiple users through a single screen. That is not easy.  It is extremely time consuming if you wish to do it with top excellent quality. In addition educators have double of work on their hands, because the video conferencing demands different capabilities. It is stressful to try to manage so many students in a or similar platforms. Little group of adult students are quite manageable on-line (let´s say no more than 15 pupils per  video conference class),  but if universities wish to expand to more students they will need to hire more professors.
  8. No boundaries for personal life. It is a draining happening. There is no time to replenish our humankind with others. Educators and Pupils are forced to make extra-efforts to focus and deliver. Teachers can´t build boundaries of activities. Each instruction requires many hours of preparation in front of a computer, and the class is just an extension of the same type of work. Educators drain all their energies as if they were in a prison.  And the screens drain all human energy. When educators have no possibilities to be recharged outside their own computers, they adopt an “empty low battery” mode. After a few days of “online” video conferencing instructions, class preparations, testing using screens, chats and video calls with students, depression and anxiety are the norm. Even Harvard professors and teaching assistants are worried of potential workplace abuse that may happen. And many educators have had difficulties with this lifestyle. When it comes to students, they miss human interaction. They miss friends and the possibility to feel the instruction in real life is irreplaceable. It can´t compare.

I will stop here. This is a enormous article. I will come back tomorrow with the last 4 “on-line education” disadvantages. Stay tuned.bald-eagle-flying-overhead

Some sources of reference utilized today:

Disclaimer: Illustrations in Watercolor are painted by Eleonora Escalante. Other types of illustrations or videos (which are not mine) are used for educational purposes ONLY.  Nevertheless, the majority of the pictures, images, or videos shown on this blog are not mine.  I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s