It’s the 21st century and life as we currently know it is drastically different when compared to the last few decades. Cell phones have been introduced as a necessity in everyday life, the global population is booming, a college degree no longer guarantees a career, and most importantly, the internet has revolutionized the way we do everything day-to-day. 

Because of the internet, we’ve become connected in ways that were not available to us before. This constant connection gives us the ability to share information instantly, communicate with people across the world, and learn about virtually anything at any time of day.

This shift in lifestyle has changed the way many view the world and how they interact with it. Additionally, the internet and technology as a whole have had unforeseen effects on how we participate in the core elements of our society. One recent change that we’ve encountered with the birth of the internet is the way that we treat education. Formal education, something that we’ve dealt with for thousands of years, is fundamentally the same, but as with most things, the introduction of new technology is changing the way it’s conducted.

Education’s current landscape is likely very similar to that which you’ve experienced when you were a student. Students still have teachers, lessons and assignments are given, and assessments are conducted through exams and quizzes. The key difference today is the medium in which those elements are conducted. It’s becoming more and more common to walk into a classroom in which computers are integral to daily learning activities.

As our technology advances, it becomes more accessible. This accessibility gives way to integration into daily lessons. Where 20 years ago, a classroom may have had one computer for students to share, today, each student has their own dedicated laptop which can be used for online lessons and activities. Additionally, a large majority of those students have full access to the internet through computers available in their own homes.

This integration can be seen on all levels of education ranging from elementary up to college classes. It’s incredibly uncommon to walk into a college classroom today where students aren’t participating via computers.

Increasing Use of Online Education

As we continue to pursue the ‘internet-ification’ of our education system, the reliance on physical attendance is becoming greatly reduced. Online education through personal means is commonly used by nearly everyone on a day-to-day basis. Whether you’re Googling the history of the Vietnam war or learning how long to cook a roast, the internet is an incredibly powerful tool that we use to without even thinking about it. It only seems to be the natural progression of this tool by integrating it into our formal education systems through means of online lessons, assignments, webinars, and exams. It’s no longer uncommon for college students to attend online universities full time. Plenty of people take advantage of the online system that gives them the freedom to complete classwork and lessons on their own time due to external time restrictions in their personal life. But what does this system look like when it’s scaled across other levels of education? Can high school, or even elementary students efficiently participate in this medium of learning?

Online vs Offline Education

The online landscape for education has a number of benefits when it comes to the betterment of student education. With things like accessibility anytime, anywhere, (nearly) unlimited resources, and interactive elements, students can produce more informed, higher quality products. 


With all that being said, it’s not without restrictions. The largest difference between online and offline education is interaction. Student to student and student to educator interaction creates relationships from which both can grow in a social and academic context. This can be accomplished through webinars and student discussions but doesn’t exactly achieve the same significance. So what does this say about a full transition to online education?

A Compromise of Education and Technology

As we continue our path of technological integration into formal education, it should be expected to see students spend more time behind the screen. Although a large number of students will still attend traditional classrooms for the near future, it’s likely we’ll see a continued increase in full-time online students in college, high school, and elementary. On our current trajectory, it is not out of the question to think that the physical aspect of education is no longer needed, especially as we continue to develop technology such as virtual reality.


So what does that mean for us now? Whether or not students are taught in person or online, our focus should be on the engagement of our students by taking advantage of all the tools we have available to us. Being accepting of new technologies in the classrooms helps create more educated and more robust students. Ensuring that our educators are comfortable and familiar with these new classroom additions is a necessary part of implementing new elements into the classroom. It’s crucial that new education programs give educators all the necessary tools for them to learn these new technologies as a way to improve their lessons.

Image credit: Bart Everson via flickr

About The Author

Cristian Gallegos is a current University of Utah student with a passion for all things education and communication.