Online School vs Traditional School
About 25 years ago, a unique generation of kids were born into a world that offered a new kind of technology capable of providing people with vast amounts of information instantly–computer technology. During the 90s and early years of the 21st century, this “Generation Y” demographic–the young adults of today–readily assimilated video game consoles, high-speed internet, cell phones, iPods and other digital devices into their lives as though they had been been born with a “high-tech gene” enabling them to instinctively integrate them into every aspect of their lives.
Cultural sociologists studying the characteristics of Generation Y, or “Millennials”, have found that these 20-somethings remain plugged into their devices 24 hours a day and would rather communicate with others using their cell phones or computers than physically confronting them face-to-face. This inclination to rely on digital devices as a way of instantly conveying thoughts and ideas to others as well as accessing a wealth of information is currently having a powerful impact on traditional classroom learning vs. the growth of online school education.
The Rise of the Digital Natives
In reference to their inherent sophistication regarding modern technology, Generation Y members have also been called “digital natives” due to their effortless fluency in the language of digital and computerized devices. In addition, psychologists studying millenials have noted their intolerance to delays of any kind and a disturbing but increasingly accepted addiction to staying “connected” at all times. As a result of multitasking with a variety of digital devices and being exposed from birth to the instant gratification provided by cell phones, laptops and video/computer games, Millennials are effecting profound changes to the paradigms that once constructed traditional education.
Over the past decade, millions of people worldwide have chosen to earn degrees through an accredited online college or university rather than enroll in a “brick and mortar” higher learning institution. Because the majority of these students electing to participate in an online school education belong to the “digital native” generation, researchers investigating the steep growth in online education are projecting the continued popularity of taking online classes due to evolving learning styles adopted by Millennials.
Plugged In and Rewired
Neuroscientists are now well aware of the brain’s ability to reorganize and even grow new neural pathways when consistently exposed to novel experiences. Technically referred to as neuroplasticity, this capacity of the brain to change and adapt to a profound redesign of the way information was once presented may actually be “rewiring” the brains of Millennials and necessitating the need for online classroom instruction that is totally dependent on digital technology.
Why Generation Y Individuals Need Online School Opportunities
Teachers working in traditional schools have reported how easily Millennials grow bored and distracted when accessing information via lecturing and written notes on a chalkboard. In addition, the urge to multitask, i.e. text others, surf the internet and “Google” questions for immediate answers exacerbates the irritation they feel at being restricted from using devices they have always depended on for communicating and interacting with the world.
A distinct preference for visual learning aids (videos, powerpoints, flash apps) has also been noted by education researchers studying the evolving learning styles of Generation Y. In addition, Millennials are much more social than their parents and grandparents, who often studied by themselves in libraries, looking up information in encyclopedias and spending hours writing reports and essays–alone. Accustomed to having the ability to communicate with hundreds of other young adults like themselves by using cell phones and instant messaging services at any time, Millennials have acquired the need to work in groups or at least be capable of accessing a “group” of people via their digital devices in order to engage in a productive sort of “active” learning process.
Generation Y Students Prefer
- Group Projects
- Instant Gratification
What cultural sociologists and educational psychologists are finding, much to the discomfiture of traditional-minded instructors, is that the twenty-somethings comprising Generation Y are simply not able to learn as well in traditional classroom settings as the cyber-classrooms of online school education platforms. In fact, some analysts attribute the somewhat high national average of college dropouts could be attributed to the fact that Millennials experience difficulty assimilating information in a traditional classroom setting.
From Chalkboard to Computer Screen
This shift from long-established learning styles once embraced by the Baby Boomer parents of Millennials to one based on a more visual, immediate and group-oriented style of learning may also be what is fueling the accelerated growth of online school education. An article recently posted on MSNBC’s website (Online Student Enrollment) reports that nearly 14 percent of college students are currently enrolled full-time in an online degree course.
Additionally, as the increasing acceptance and reputation of online degrees continues to progress and more people choose the convenience and affordability of online school education, the disappearance of traditional classrooms and “brick and mortar” learning institutions will no doubt prove to establish the Millennials as the generation having the most influence on the public educational system.