Everyone learns new things every day - and more and more with digital media instead of in the traditional way. Tablets, smartphones and smartboards make this possible. In this article, we clarify where the opportunities and challenges of digital learning lie and what belongs to a modern digitalisation concept at school. You will also learn how digital learning takes place at school, at work or at home and what is particularly important in education with regard to the digitalisation of teaching.
What is Digital Learning?
Unlike in the past, children and young people today learn almost as a matter of course with the help of digital media support. Be it homeschooling or at school, smartboards, tablets and other technologies make education more digital and thus more varied. Not all teachers use the technologies equally effectively. However, further training is also advancing the digital transformation among teachers.
But what does digital learning actually encompass? Learning with digital media and tools takes place independently of time and space. Books or journals as well as classic blackboard notes are today often supplemented or in some cases already replaced by new forms of digital learning.
Printed or written content is presented through digital media to make the learning processes more interactive and easier to understand. This has advantages for students and teachers alike. On the one hand, the learning process takes place in a more diverse way. On the other hand, teachers benefit from the modern way of preparing lessons. Thanks to digital media, it is more time-saving and flexible.
Digital learning content can be made available in different ways:
- School cloud for sharing documents as well as communication
- Shared learning in class video chat
- Mail distribution list
- Learning apps (e.g. Anton App)
- Learning videos (e.g. YouTube)
- Online tutoring portals
- Online learning software
- and more
Shaping Education Digitally
In 2019, the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) conducted statistics on digital learning that fit the topic. The results showed that digital media for learning are mainly used in secondary schools. Almost 60 percent of 10- to 15-year-olds were already using various learning platforms before the pandemic and the introduction of homeschooling. In the over-16 age group, it was even more than 70 percent. The proportion is likely to have increased significantly again during the Corona pandemic, because the group of 6- to 10-year-olds has also experienced an introduction to digital learning in very different ways.
Digital learning opportunities have thus increased strongly - especially the use of online courses. However, not all children and young people benefit equally, as many platforms and learning opportunities are only available for payment. Moreover, modern devices such as tablets or computers are often necessary.
How well digital learning works therefore depends partly on the parents' income. However, their willingness to use digital media at home and to control their use also has an influence. Most families today own a computer. However, there is a lack of mobile devices such as tablets, which is why low-income families in the pandemic often received financial support for the purchase or borrowed devices from the school.
Schools in the Digital Transformation
The digital transformation in companies is already much further advanced than in Germany's schools. Nevertheless, teachers are increasingly being trained and equipped with digital media in order to optimally prepare pupils for the digital transformation of the professional world. It is not only digital teaching that benefits from this. Traditional teaching can also be future-proofed through the increased use of education online as well as innovative elements and technologies.
Opportunities and Challenges of Digital Learning
Digital learning not only offers pupils many advantages. Trainees, students and teachers can also benefit from digitalisation in education. However, there are also some disadvantages. Both are briefly explained here and then compared in a table.
Digital Learning - Advantages
When education is digital, it brings the advantage of self-determination in terms of time and place of learning. Pupils and students can decide for themselves when and where to learn, which demonstrably makes the whole learning process more effective. Whether at home, at school or even abroad - with digital learning methods, time and space increasingly play less of a role.
The learning process at the university is also more effective, as content can be made more interesting, interactive and thus much more varied for everyone. Even people with disabilities can actively participate digitally. Screen readers, screen magnifiers and other tools make digital learning accessible, which promotes equal opportunities.
Moreover, when education is consumed online, learning takes place through all the senses. Learning material that is heard, seen on video and then perhaps tried out in practice remains in the long-term memory much better than learning content that is taught by educators in frontal lessons.
Digital learning is also very beneficial for students who are slower or significantly faster than average. Thanks to digital learning content, they can go through the material at their own pace, repeat it several times if necessary or use additional offers to increase their level.
Digital Learning - Disadvantages
One of the disadvantages of digital learning is that the acquisition of the necessary technology should not be underestimated. In addition, there are maintenance costs and costs for necessary updates.
The daily consumption of media content can lead to digital overload. There is even a certain potential for addiction when children and young people increasingly sit in front of computers and tablets. Since not every tool is pedagogically recommendable, it is important that parents and teachers control it so that the right learning content reaches the child.
To ensure that classic handwriting does not suffer, children should also continue to work regularly with pen and paper, especially at primary school age, but also later on.
Advantages of Digital Learning
- Interactive and effective
- Learning through play is fun and varied
- Material is individually adapted to the learner's level
- Less preparation for teachers
- Knowledge transfer via different senses
- Self-determined learning at any location
Disadvantages of Digital Learning
- High acquisition costs
- Danger of digital overload
- Not every tool/software is pedagogically recommendable
- Lack of control over learning content
- Potential for addiction
- Classic handwriting suffers
- Dependence on fast internet and modern devices
Digitisation Concept for Schools - Regular Further Training for Teachers
Pupils benefit from improved teaching quality that comes from digital learning and more education online. However, this presupposes that teachers are appropriately trained and can handle digital media correctly and, above all, in a pedagogically professional manner. In addition to technical knowledge, it is important here to teach children and young people how to handle media responsibly.
Digital media should support, but by no means completely replace other learning methods. Handwriting, personal communication and alternative leisure activities remain important. Above all, the healthy use of social networks, messenger services and online games must be taught by teachers in their pedagogical work.
Digital Learning: Methods
Today, digital smartboards are increasingly used in schools for face-to-face lessons. They not only enable education to be consumed online, but also make it interactive and lively. At home, other tools are suitable for effective learning together or alone.
Commonly chosen methods for digital learning include, for example, the following:
- Online courses in the school cloud
- Video training on various learning platforms
- Virtual classrooms for homeschooling
- Various learning apps