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In the past, many students in smaller communities were limited to small schools where they would spend most weekdays of their lives until they turned 18 years old. However in the current era high quality educational materials are easier to access than ever through the Internet, no matter whether students are located in a village in Kenya or in the heart of New York City. Furthermore, online education makes the idea of lifelong learning no longer just a pipe-dream, but a very achievable reality.
One of the most easily recognizable limitations of traditional education is the lack of physical space. In traditional brick-and-mortar teachers and students have to be present in the same location at the same time in order for learning to take place. However online learning is already beginning to remove some of these limits by allowing teachers and students to interact virtually, as they do at Virtual Music School where students play and receive feedback from instructors via Skype.
More generally, online education is changing the way students and teachers interact. Many initially feared that online classeswould lead to an environment where students and teachers would have less and less interactions, yet the opposite is actually true. For instance, video conferencing allows for students and teachers to have one-on-one tutoring sessions that are convenient for both parties. Online classrooms also remove some of the more distracting social elements of learning at a brick-and-mortar school, which allows the teacher to focus on teaching instead of managing student behavior.
While much online education is interactive, the Internet also allows people to more freely access non-interactive educational materials, such as books and lectures. For example, many universities, such as Princeton offer lectures by professors in all fields free of charge on their websites. While viewers do not get college credit for viewing them, these lectures allow anyone with Internet access the chance to be taught by some of the greatest minds of our generation. The Internet also provides teachers with access to educational materials like lesson plans and written works, and allows them to more easily collaborate with each other in order to develop the best curriculum for their students.
Although the means of education may have begun to shift toward the online spectrum, the aim is the same -- to help people learn. For teachers, it makes the educational experience more manageable and creates more opportunities for one-on-one teaching, which is particularly useful for helping struggling students. For students, it makes learning easier to access and allows for continuing education as long as the desire to learn remains. Better yet, online education makes people across all sections of society better able to understand the world and advance in it regardless of the conditions into which they were born.
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