2 Pros, 2 Cons of Online Lessons

If you were to name a topic that is ‘most discussed’ these days, some keywords would probably be: ‘quarantine’, ‘stay at home’, or ‘COVID-19’. Considering the fact that most of you are well-acquainted with washing your hands, wearing a mask, or trying not to leave your house, I will not discuss any of these issues in this article. Another trend that is proliferating these days due to the COVID-19 pandemic is taking or teaching online lessons. We will be the first group of experimenters for taking courses online as Waseda University or graduate school students, and some of you might even consider teaching courses online as a teacher. From my personal viewpoint as an online English teacher, here are two pros and two cons that I came up with when it comes to teaching or taking online lessons.

MacBook Air on white desk beside gold-colored study lamp and spiral books

Pros #1: You Don’t Have to Rush to the Classroom

Strictly speaking, this statement is ‘half true’, as you will still have to be online during the specific class times that you have registered for. I am sure most of you have experienced the insanely crowded Tokyo train commute — whether it be heading to Waseda for the 9 am class or leaving Waseda after your 5th-period class (ends at 6 pm) at least once. It is definitely not a very pleasant experience, isn’t it?

For online lessons, you don’t have to rush out to take that last-minute train or worry about putting on your favorite outfit. Now, you are simply sitting in front of your laptop screen, and you don’t even need to leave your house. This is truly bliss, especially for those who prefer staying home.

Pros #2: Incorporate Interesting Teaching Props

From a teacher’s point of view, it is your time to prepare some fun teaching props when prepping for teaching a class online. Depending on the theme that you are teaching on the day, you can prepare some pictures or games beforehand. It is true that teachers will face some difficulties when coming up with props as traditional classroom courses are now replaced with the alternative online courses, but it is also true that students might find your hard work and preparation enjoyable and fun for them.​

Besides using fun props during online lessons, another advantage for students taking online courses is feeling less pressure. Remember when a professor asked you a question in class, and you didn’t know what to answer due to nervousness? Since taking online courses is meeting professors and classmates through your laptop screen, you would probably feel more at ease when asked to answer a question or make a presentation.

Cons #1: How to Fight Distraction

I don’t even need to explain this when it comes to the Internet, haha. For some courses, it is probably not necessary for students to turn on his or her webcam during the online course time. Because you are not seen on screen, you could easily open another tab on Chrome and do things that you would rather do than taking the course (of course, I am definitely not encouraging you to do so).

Distraction is undoubtedly a serious issue worldwide, and I am also someone who is easily distracted by the Internet. Perhaps when you sit in the classroom with other classmates or friends, you are more willing to take notes and listen intently to the professor. However, you are now merely sitting comfortably in front of your laptop. When it comes to taking online courses that do not require opening your webcam, combating distraction could be a difficult one.

Cons #2: Lack the face-to-face, real-time classroom vibe

Again, this depends on each individual. Just as I’ve mentioned above, you might start to lack motivation when you are not sitting in a real classroom with other peers. Despite the fact that taking online courses still counts as ‘taking courses’, it is still different from the face-to-face, real-time classroom lectures that we are familiar with.

For online courses, you are basically on your own, seeing the professors and classmates via a laptop screen. This reduces the warmth and vibe of face-to-face communication. Moreover, technical difficulties can be annoying, and I am sure many of you are familiar with this when making presentations during lecture time. The system may respond slowly or crash, and live-time online lectures involving Zoom may lag at times due to unstable or poor Internet connection.

Online lessons are definitely another issue that is widely discussed at the moment as it is considered to be a good alternative (neglecting the technical difficulties part) of traditional classes carried out in classrooms. I hope you find these pros and cons useful and enjoy your online lesson experience!