Worksheets or Online-Learning?

New PictureWhy do teachers use a worksheet? What is the need to replace them?

Is online-learning really a better solution?

Before we address these questions, it is important for us to realize that teaching isn’t as simple as it used to be.

Most teachers have to spend hours at night grading papers, planning for the next day, and looking for ideas. They have to adapt their instructions as per strengths and weaknesses of each student. There is an ever-widening gap between what teachers’ want to do and what is possible for them to do.

To ease up this burden, several teachers use worksheets to support textbook studies. By a worksheet, we mean a series of activities designed to give students work to do in the class.

In this article, we will talk about worksheets and the limitations they have; in addition, we will introduce online-learning and their benefits that make them a better teaching-aid as compared to worksheets.

Why do teachers prefer worksheets?

1.   To increase focus on the underlying idea:

The trick used with such a worksheet is to give students questions, which are based on thecore concept. It works fine for a few questions, but soon children grow weary of the repetition, thus lose their interest.

2.   To bridge the gap between watching and doing:

For such a worksheet to be effective, it has to be accompanied with a synopsis of the chapter. Once you do that, students stop paying attention to the teacher and start solving the worksheet. The lecture gets reduced to a practice session. Completing worksheets becomes the primary objective and everything else worthless.

New Picture (1)3.   To force students to pay attention in the class:

By forcing students to fill worksheets, teachers attempt to make a student concentrate on the topic. However, students soon learn to scan through the book to find answers. Classes become silent and boring.

4.   To teach students to deliver and summarize content efficiently:

For a lower grade-student, it is more important to writedetailed answers as it teaches them to explore the topic. Learning summarization skills in junior-grades can harm their development.

5.   To teach students to refer textbooks and find answers to the questions:

Most of the worksheets are based on the essence of the topic. Answers are accessible to the students as easily as are the worksheets. Children using worksheets rarely refer books.

6.   To develop students’ connections with previously-taught material:

If students have worksheets available for the previous sessions, there are strong chances; they will refer only to those. The convenience of reference sheets hinders building such connections.

New Picture (2)Another unpleasant outcome of worksheets is that the teacher could use them to judge and analyze a student’s performance. Such a shift can further isolate the at-risk students (as they are slower to respond to written instructions) and force them to avoid worksheets.

“Teachers who use worksheets believe they are demonstrating a child’s learning progress to parents. Unfortunately, worksheet activities are not developmentally appropriate and can cause many problems.” Dr. Sue Grossman.

What problems can worksheets cause?

 1.   Student performance can deteriorate:

Worksheets are monotonous in nature.  They teach one concept to all students using a single method. However, every student has a unique learning path. Thus, regular use of worksheets can single-handedly hamper performance.

2.  Inadequate analysis of a student’s performance:  

Worksheets do not measure performance. They only show if the student has written the correct answer or not. The student may have understood the concept, but misjudged the question. Worksheets are not the appropriate tools to analyze students.

3.   Students could lose interest in school:

Worksheets are designed to match the level of an average student. Brilliant students are left searching for more challenging tasks, while the weaker ones start feeling inadequate. In both the cases, they lose interest in school.

4.   Students’ reading skills could weaken:

Once a teacher has provided worksheet students immediately start scanning the text for answers. The book is reduced to an answer guide. It is necessary for junior-grade students to develop interest in reading as the reading skills are acquired only in the junior grades.

New Picture (3)5.   Students don’t develop the skills they should:

Once students get used to worksheet culture, they become dependent on a set of instructions. They wait for instructions before attempting a task. Such a dreary environment hampers exploration. Students miss several skills critical for high school success.

“The use of abstract numerals and letters, rather than concrete materials, puts too many young children at risk of school failure. This has implications for years to come. Worksheets and workbooks should be used in schools only when children are older and developmentally ready to profit from them” (Bredekamp, S. & Rosegrant, T., 1992).

A shift away from the worksheet-culture is desperately needed. But can online-learning replace worksheets as the preferred teaching aid? And what are the benefits of using online-learning?

Online-learning programs were developed as an alternative to classroom teaching;

  • To assist with home-schooling;
  • To help working professionals continue their studies.

Introduction of common-core standards and PARCC assessment has fueled the development of fresh online-resources. Some of these can easily replace worksheets.

Why is online-learning a better tool?

1.   Prompt results of tests and assignments:

Online-assignments can provide quick results. Teachers don’t have to spend time checking them. This grants them a lot of time to spend it with students and to design fresh study-materials.

2.   Audio-video options:

The accessibility options provide fair and equal opportunity for students to show what they know and are able to do. Students can revisit previous classes.

3.   Real-time analysis of learning:

The reports can be generated for all the students of every assignment and every question that has been attempted. This allows the teacher to understand the strengths and weaknesses of a student.

New Picture (4)4.   Personalized learning:

Based on analysis, teachers can design individual learning paths. Teachers can even group students and assign tasks as per the assessments, and upload special assignments for at-risk students.

 5.   Gaming Environment:

Rewarding game-based-learning features keep students occupied and interested. When rewards are associated with learning, they encourage exploration of the curriculum.

The primary task for a teacher is to develop skills of the students. Correction of assignments is a tiresome activity; it hinders effective teaching. Online-learning has the potential to relieve their schedules and mind; encourage efficient teaching.

“Every hour not spent correcting assignments, is an hour available for teaching.”

How is Online-learning better than Worksheets?

1.   Online-learning can boost student performance:

Children can be taught as per their learning path. Online-learning makes it possible to give separate assignments to children. Teachers can easily assign challenging task to the brilliant ones and assign a practice exercise to the at-risk student.

New Picture (5)2.   Robust analysis of a student’s learning:

Teachers can keep a track of the progress of each student; it can be done for each test and each question with a detailed analysis. Teachers can design better intervention.

3.   Students can regain interest in school:

Online resources change the rigor of questions as per student’s last response. They also suggest and provide reading material as per their assignment results.  An aptly challenging classroom helps students to regain confidence and interest in studies.

4.   Students’ reading skills can be improved:

These tools can judge the Lexile-score of the students, and suggest reading comprehension accordingly. The teachers, now aware of the student’s abilities can attend to their learning needs.

5.   Students can improve their skill sets: 

Interactive online-learning challenges the students with every question. They are also equipped with video and graphical tutorials. An evenly-paced learning can facilitate skill developments.

To summarize, we can conclude that usage of worksheets has severe limitations. They are useful tools to manage a class, but the effects of an inadequate-designed worksheet can be disastrous. It can make a class dull and boring.

Online-learning ensures that children enjoy their learning experience. They equip teachers with knowledge about the class and their individual performances. Online-learning allows every student, weak or brilliant, to climb a step above their current level.

Most importantly, online resources, reduce the excessive workload away from teachers; allowing them to pay more attention on the student’s progress.

    Mike Perry has been active in search engine marketing for over eight years. Having worked on many online marketing projects for clients across the world, he's able to share some great insights.