Online education is growing like a giant weed, and the time when it would have completely replaced the brick and mortar schools is not far away. Already the signs of this shift in education system are visible in the form of extraordinary growth in the number of enrolments. There are so many questions that are raised by the people at the threshold of this new era of education. However, it appears that among education experts the debate is already over in the favor of online education. The reason is that educationists preferred constructivism over behaviorism as a philosophy of education. And there is no wonder in it that people automatically associate online education with constructivism. Every concept related to online education, the whole idea of online education, is actually based on constructivist understanding.
This concept of learning necessitates the formation of mixed ability and mixed age groups. For proper learning takes place in those situations in which one learns through interaction with elders and more capable people. Constructivism says that learning is a social activity, and it is most efficiently acquired in a less formal, mixed ability group. Furthermore, constructivism also suggests that learning takes place in one’s zone of proximal development, through peer intervention.
What is this zone of proximal development or ZPD? ZPD is a concept that signifies that learning takes place when one attempts to learn those things which one can learn with the help of his or her more able peers. If a learner already knows something, then to learn these things again cannot be called learning. If there is some content which, owing to its level of difficulty, a person cannot learn; neither through his own effort, nor through the help of those who know that content, then its teaching becomes a waste of time. So the only content that a person can learn is that which falls within his zone of proximal development; the content which one can learn with some difficulty, with the help of others, through interaction.
Since, online education, unlike traditional schools, forms mixed age groups and classes, therefore, it renders the interaction between classmates and group members more productive and effective. Students, besides their course requirements, in this type of interaction, can learn so many other things from the experiences of their seniors. Furthermore, online education being more liberal in terms of schedules and time tables is more effective in keeping the motivation of students alive. These values in online education are worthy of making it a desirable mode of education for so many people;people, who are not finding traditional education interesting.